Inferior Mirage

An inferior mirage is a phenomenon in which atmospheric refraction bends light rays to produce a mirrored image below a real object. It occurs when a hot surface heats the layer of air above it, placing it below a colder & denser layer of air.

Flat-Earthers like to use inferior mirages to “explain” how a distant object can appear partly obstructed if the Earth is flat. In reality, an inferior mirage cannot produce an appearance similar to an object partially obscured by Earth’s curvature.

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Refraction: Only a Baseless Technobabble in Flat Earth Community

Flat-Earthers use the phenomenon of refraction as a catch-all “explanation” every time they observe something not appearing in the expected position if the Earth is flat. They use the term “refraction” as mere technobabble without any underlying explanation.

The following are how we can distinguish real-world, scientific refraction from the technobabble used by flat-Earthers:

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Earth’s Shadow and the Belt of Venus

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Earth’s shadow is the shadow that Earth casts into its atmosphere, toward the opposite point from the sun. Above Earth’s shadow is the Belt of Venus, a pink band from the scattering of sunlight through the atmosphere.

Earth’s shadow lies at the antisolar point —the point opposite the sun. It rises when the sun sets and sets when the sun rises. The phenomenon shows us that the sun really goes below the horizon and disproves the flat Earth model.

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Distance to the Horizon & the Black Swan Observation

The distance to the horizon depends on the height of the observer and atmospheric refraction. The variability in atmospheric refraction can make the horizon appear in front of a distant object sometimes, and behind it in other times.

Some flat-Earthers raised a case —dubbed the “black swan” case— in which the horizon appears to be behind a distant object which is farther than the distance to the horizon according to calculation, and they use the fact to “disprove” Earth’s curvature. In reality, they did not account for atmospheric refraction, and that the amount of refraction varies.

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The Appearance of Sunset and Atmospheric Refraction

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The appearance of sunset depends on atmospheric conditions. Thermal inversion can irregularly refract light coming from the sun and distort the image of the Sun seen from an observer.

Some flat-Earthers observed a specific appearance of sunset and presented the fact as if it “proves” a receding sun in the flat-Earth model. They are wrong. The appearances of the sunsets are the results of atmospheric refraction.

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Lighthouses and the Loom of the Light

Lighthouses are equipped with powerful lights. In a dark night, even if Earth’s curvature obscures the entire structure of the lighthouse, the phenomenon of the loom of the light allows their lights to be visible beyond the horizon; not unlike how the beam of a green laser is visible to our eyes.

Flat-Earthers like to point out the cases where the light from a lighthouse is visible even if the lighthouse should be completely obscured by Earth’s curvature. They would claim it as “proof” that the Earth is flat. They are wrong. The loom of the light lets us see the light even when the lighthouse itself is below the horizon.

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Zooming-In on the Setting Sun

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Camera zoom works by enlarging the center portion of the image, or in other words, by making its field-of-view narrower. Zooming in on the setting sun will not reveal more of the sun, and will only enlarge the size of the sun in the resulting image.

Flat-Earthers are claiming that zooming in on a setting sun will reveal the entire sun, and somehow lift it out of the water. They are wrong. They simply used the incorrect exposure settings. In reality, zooming on the setting sun will never reveal the sun that is already obstructed by Earth’s curvature.

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Sun Dog

A sun dog is an atmospheric optical phenomenon that consists of a bright spot separated by 22° from the Sun to one or both sides of the Sun. It is caused by the refraction of sunlight by ice crystals in the atmosphere.

Flat-Earthers claim that a sun dog is caused by the reflection of sunlight by the mythical dome enclosing the flat Earth, that there are multiple suns, or other equally implausible reasons. They are wrong. A sun dog is simply an optical phenomenon that occurs in cold locations where ice crystals can accumulate in the atmosphere.

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Visual Albedo of the Moon and the Earth

Visual albedo is the measure of the reflection of solar radiation out of the total solar radiation received by an astronomical body, taking into account only the visible light. The visual albedo of the Earth is 0.37, and the Moon’s is 0.12.

The Moon appears darker if the Earth also appears in the same photograph. Flat Earthers use the fact to “prove” that the picture is fake. They are wrong. The Moon appears darker because it reflects less sunlight than the Earth.

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Solar Filter

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A solar filter is utilized to reduce the intensity of sunlight and enable a camera to capture the image of the sun with the correct exposure, even under bright daylight. Without a solar filter, sunlight can be too bright to be correctly exposed by a camera.

Some flat-Earthers made their observation of the sun using a camera without a solar filter. As a result, in some of their images, the sun appears much larger due to the fact the camera cannot distinguish the sun and the sun glare around it.

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Specular Reflection and Diffuse Reflection

An object is visible if it is either reflecting light or a light source itself. Furthermore, a reflecting object can have specular reflection (glossy finish, mirror-like), diffuse reflection (matte), or the combination of both.

Some flat-Earthers like to compare the appearance of the Moon to a glossy, metallic ball. Then, the difference in how the two objects look is taken as “proof” that the Moon is not reflecting light. They are wrong. A shiny metallic ball reflects almost all incoming light in mirror-like fashion, or that it has predominantly specular reflection. On the other hand, the Moon reflects incoming light to every direction, or that it has only the diffuse reflection.

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Bokeh

In photography, bokeh is the way a camera lens renders out-of-focus points of lights. The shape of bokeh depends on the camera lens more than the out-of-focus objects themselves.

Some flat-Earthers do not know how to take correctly focused pictures of distant planets and stars due to their lack of knowledge and the unsuitability of their camera for the purpose. All they are getting are bokeh, which does not tell us much about the intended objects.

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Rayleigh Scattering

Earth’s atmosphere glows in blue because of Rayleigh scattering. It scatters sunlight to every direction. Bluish colors are scattered more than reddish colors. This results in the bright blue color of the sky in the daytime.

There are many misconceptions in the flat Earth community that arise from the lack of understanding of Rayleigh scattering.

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Sun Glitter

Sun glitter is a bright, sparkling light formed when sunlight reflects from water waves. A rippled by a locally smooth surface such as water with waves will reflect the sun at different angles at each point on the surface of the waves. As a result, a viewer in the right position will see many small images of the sun, formed by portions of waves that are oriented correctly to reflect the sun’s light to the viewer.

Flat-Earthers take the long shape of the reflection of a sunset on an ocean surface as ‘proof’ that Earth is flat. They are wrong. Sun glitter is the result of rippling water. The difference in curvature between the flat and spherical Earth model is not that far to cause the difference in the shape of sun glitter.

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Variability of Atmospheric Refraction

In most situations, atmospheric refraction bends light downwards and causes objects to appear higher than they actually are. The strength of atmospheric refraction is not constant. It depends on weather condition and varies on the different seasons, different days, and even different times of the day.

Because of the variability of atmospheric refraction, a distant object that is usually obstructed by Earth’s curvature can sometimes be visible. Some flat-Earthers would cherry-pick moments when the object is visible. They would show such specific moments to everyone and use them to “disprove” Earth’s curvature; happily ignoring the cases where Earth’s curvature partly or entirely obstructs the object.

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The Dark Sky on the Lunar Daytime

On Earth, daylight sky is glowing in bright blue due to Rayleigh scattering. Sunlight is scattered in every direction by the oxygen and nitrogen molecules in Earth’s atmosphere.

Such the phenomenon does not happen on the Moon, causing the dark sky of the Moon. Flat-Earthers claim that the dark sky of the Moon captured by photos and videos taken from the Moon are “proof” there is misconduct. They are wrong. Just because Earth’s sky is bright blue, it does not mean it will be like that on the Moon and other planets.

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Infrared Vision

When we are unable to see a distant object, then it is due to one of these reasons:

  • Our eyes lack the sufficient angular resolution to recognize the object.
  • Atmospheric condition limits visibility.
  • The object is far enough and obscured by Earth’s curvature.

Some flat-Earthers like to show that a previously unseen distant object can be brought into view using infrared vision. They would take that as ‘evidence’ of the non-existence of Earth’s curvature. They are wrong. Infrared vision can reveal hidden objects caused by visibility limitations, but not ones obscured by Earth’s curvature.

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Sunglint

Sunglint is a phenomenon that occurs when sunlight reflects off the surface of a water body —like the ocean— at the same angle as an observer is viewing the surface. In the affected area, relatively smooth ocean water becomes a silvery mirror.

In the flat-Earth model, the Sun is assumed to be a ‘local light source.’ They like to use a spotlight or a flashlight as an analogy. They present the sunglint phenomenon as ‘evidence’ of the fact that sunlight is local. They are wrong.

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The Moon in Daytime and the ‘Transparent Moon’ Misconception

Earth’s atmosphere scatters sunlight in every direction. Bluish colors are scattered stronger than reddish tones. As a result, the sky is glowing in bright blue during the day. The phenomenon is called the Rayleigh scattering.

Sometimes the Moon is visible during the day. The bright part of the Moon is bright because it is lit by the sunlight. On the other hand, its dark part does not receive sunlight, and thus barely emit any light. Because of these reasons, the dark part of the Moon is dominated by the blue color of the sky.

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