How to Prove Satellite Images are Real - Ground Truth

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
20170605-130904-dn7wy.jpg

The above image was taken by the GOES-15 (West) satellite at 11AM (PDT) today, Jun 5, 2017. At least that's what NASA would have you believe. But we don't have to take their word for it, we can check for yourself.

Verifying that satellite images are real is done by comparing them against the "ground truth" - i.e. the actual situation on the ground. Here I'm going to focus on the GOES satellites, Particularly GOES-East and GOES-West. The process is:

  1. Pick a Satellite with the best view of your region
  2. Find out when it will take full-disk photos
  3. Pick a day when there's some interesting clouds or contrails in the sky
  4. At that time go outside and take lots of photos in every direction (over five minutes or so)
  5. Wait for the full disk photo to be downloaded from the satellite and appear on the web site (about 35 to 40 minutes for GOES images)
  6. Compare your photos with the satellite image.
#1 - Pick a satellite. Here's a variety of satellites that give high resolution full-disk images:
Since I'm in California I'm going to use the GOES-West satellite, and get the images from the "Raw West" link, which goes to: https://goo.gl/zZu2Gh (I've shortened the link, as it's an FTP site, the direct link is: ftp://goes.gsfc.nasa.gov/pub/goeswest/fulldisk/fullres/vis/). This gives a list of files like:
upload_2017-6-5_13-40-13.png

The latest file should be at the bottom. The filenames are in the date format YYMMDDHHMM then G15 for GOES-15 and I01 for the image type (visible). So 1706051800 is 2017-June-05 1800 UTC. Where 18:00 UTC is the time in UTC, and you will want to convert it to your local time. I use google for this, like:
20170605-134431-c66d4.jpg
(Note both times say Monday, UTC might be a day ahead or behind the local date, depending on what time it is)

So, I took lots of images at around 11AM, then waited and download the 1800 UTC image. This is a TIF file, and not all programs can open it, so try different ones. Then you will probably want to increase the brightness if you can.

There's a variety of things you can compare, but probably the simples is the cloud cover - and more specifically the airplane contrails that appear in the image. Here's a closer look at a region of California with some landmarks identified. This is simply a part of the above image.

20170605-131523-8khis.jpg

You can see there's a a few contrails there. Notably there's four that form a trapezoid shape around my location. Here I've color coded them:
20170605-152104-xk7d3.jpg

If you are lucky you will also be able to get a MODIS image from about the same time. This can be helpful in interpreting what you are seeing, but is not strictly necessary:
https://worldview.earthdata.nasa.go...2127974,-118.69043176234946,39.81650961815474
20170605-152625-ncggd.jpg
Then we just need to compare against the photos. It's best to use a wide angle lens, or if not, you can use the panorama mode on your camera/phone. Ideally you would capture a high resolution 360 degree image of the sky.

This is one I took, unfortunately a few minutes early:

20170605-143529-fngov.jpg


This makes the contrails look curved, but they are actually straight

Here's the view looking west at 17:56. I've indicated the blue and yellow contrails:

20170605-154339-pc5tf.jpg

The images being a few minutes off means the contrails have moved. This shows the importance of getting the images as close as possible to the actual imaging time of the satellite.

[To be continued]


Original TIF file: https://www.metabunk.org/sk/1706051800G15I01.tif
High Resolution JPG: https://www.metabunk.org/sk/1706051800G15I01.jpg
 
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0x90

Closed Account
I have to assume that a likely response to this would be to say "nobody would claim these photos aren't real, or taken in real time; as you've pointlessly proved here, they obviously are -- but as everyone knows, they're taken from weather balloons, and photoshopped onto the fake sphere."

Other similar images, from LEO satellites, are stitched together, which makes it easy for a believer to say the same of these, and I'd guess that to be a likely response, even if you could offer them a real-time video of themselves standing on their front lawn and waving at the satellite.

Though... I'd sure like to be told that there's some angle I'm missing, which is not so easily waved away.
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
Though... I'd sure like to be told that there's some angle I'm missing, which is not so easily waved away.
An interesting angle might be an actual angle. Namely the view angle of the GOES satellite. It's overhead the equator, but it's at about 40° to me. Is that angle detectable based on things like a towering cumulonimbus? Or even a mountain?

To fake the angle perfectly you'd need either a 3D reconstruction, or an astonishingly dense array of weather balloons.
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
Actually, you can probably use the cloud or contrail shadows to prove the angle. You could even show the same shadow from GOES-East and GOES-West at the same time (actually 15 minutes apart, but should be sufficient)
 

0x90

Closed Account
No doubt, but I think it would be waved away just the same. If you try to use too much math, they will start to tell you how Pythagoras was an eleventy-degree mason and so forth... I once personally observed an individual drawing triangles on the floor with ruler and pencil, trying to show how the Pythagorean theorem "doesn't actually work."
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
No doubt, but I think it would be waved away just the same. If you try to use too much math, they will start to tell you how Pythagoras was an eleventy-degree mason and so forth... I once personally observed an individual drawing triangles on the floor with ruler and pencil, trying to show how the Pythagorean theorem "doesn't actually work."
You can only go so far. Like with all debunking there's going to be some unreachable - but you have to consider the wider audience.
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
20170611-183909-hql6p.jpg

Experimenting with a different way of lining things up, from the 0000 UTC (+1day) (17:00 PDT) image. I took a panorama (again unfortunately about 7 minutes off), then converted it to a polar projection, so in theory all the features should line up. I think this would work much better with contrails though.

Process:
  1. Get a full 360 panorama wrapping. You might need to clip it
  2. Load into Photoshop
  3. Unlock background
  4. Increase canvas size vertically by 100% (this give the relative size of the radius of the hole
  5. Increase image size vertically to match image width (making it square)
  6. Rotate 180°
  7. Filter, Distort, Polar Coordinates, Rectangular to Polar
  8. Position over your viewpoint
  9. Scale so the "eye" is about 100 miles radius
  10. Find the sun direction (using features in the image, or Suncalc and time)
  11. Rotate image so the sun is in the right place.
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
Metabunk 2018-01-21 10-14-49.jpg

A brief large scale set of roll clouds allowed me to match up the GOES-16 image with what I saw over my house.
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
Aren't those too thin, flat, and high for a roll cloud?
I suppose they are more like row clouds, kind of lenticular. Interesting though as they have ripples at right angles, parallel to the direction of travel. If I just saw those clouds alone I might say they were row clouds themselves. The larger clouds are on a different scale.
Metabunk 2018-01-22 13-48-32.jpg

Timelapse video of the above:
Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pT25N0yt2dY&
 

Laser

Member
I was thinking about using a powerful spotlight or parking a car with headlights pointing a little upwards towards the space station as it approached with the live video being transmitted. You could locate in a dark area like the mountains, and turn the lights on and off about once a second in order to be able to pick yourself out in the space station video. If NASA knew you were going to do it then it might be possible for them to fake it, but if you didn't tell anybody you were about to do it then they wouldn't even know to try faking it. I think it would show up, but I'm not sure.
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
I was thinking about using a powerful spotlight or parking a car with headlights pointing a little upwards towards the space station as it approached with the live video being transmitted. You could locate in a dark area like the mountains, and turn the lights on and off about once a second in order to be able to pick yourself out in the space station video. If NASA knew you were going to do it then it might be possible for them to fake it, but if you didn't tell anybody you were about to do it then they wouldn't even know to try faking it. I think it would show up, but I'm not sure.
I think it's possible to do, but you'd need more than a car. A spotlight might do it, but aiming it would be hard. You need something like a parking lot with a bunch of lights, in the middle of nowhere.

The things that are visible from the ISS are fairly large. For example here's a dot of light in Florida. It's quite large farm depot of some sort, with many lights.
Metabunk 2018-01-22 22-05-52.jpg
 

Rory

Senior Member
I was looking for a good colour image of the Volcan de Fuego in Guatemala. Tried GOES-West (visible) but they're black and white.

This article has images from the Suomi NPP satellite:



Volcano erupted around 1800UTC on June 3rd.
 
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Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
I was thinking about using a powerful spotlight or parking a car with headlights pointing a little upwards towards the space station as it approached with the live video being transmitted. You could locate in a dark area like the mountains, and turn the lights on and off about once a second in order to be able to pick yourself out in the space station video. If NASA knew you were going to do it then it might be possible for them to fake it, but if you didn't tell anybody you were about to do it then they wouldn't even know to try faking it. I think it would show up, but I'm not sure.
I just found out this has actually been done!
Source: https://youtu.be/2UoY15WDuHQ

Video shows San Antonio & Austin Astronomical Associations out in a dark area with some spotlights and a laser. Both were observed from the ISS - but only recorded with photos. Still very cool.
 

StarGazer

Member
I love this thread and I'm planning to do the tests myself by filming cloud patterns and verifying them with satellite imagery, but I still have to explain in detail the technical difficulties to obtain real time images of Earth from space starting from low Earth orbit satellites which only take portions of the Earth, geostationary satellites which take full disk images of the Earth and ending with Dscovr which is solar satellite located 1 million miles away and which also takes full disc images of the Earth.

I'm aware that there are many factors such as: camera exposure time, distance from Earth, data processing, time required for the uploading of an image to the satellite's webpage in order for us to download it, etc. and all of these to obtain a single image frame at the fastest time-interval, so it would be great to have everything summarised and explained in a few diagrams at least for the most known satellites.
 
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Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
Actually, you can probably use the cloud or contrail shadows to prove the angle. You could even show the same shadow from GOES-East and GOES-West at the same time (actually 15 minutes apart, but should be sufficient)
Now that GOES-17 (The new GOES-WEST) is up and running we can do this with satellite images taken a few seconds apart

Metabunk 2018-12-16 10-54-28.jpg Metabunk 2018-12-16 10-55-00.jpg
Metabunk 2018-12-16 10-58-42.jpg Metabunk 2018-12-16 10-59-10.jpg
 
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