Observing Geostationary Satellites

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Geostationary satellites orbit the Earth with the same rate as Earth’s rotation, 35786 km (22236 miles) above the equator. They are too far and too dim for the naked eye. However, we can observe them using a mounted telescope and a camera.

We can observe many of them by:

  • using an equatorial mount,
  • aiming the telescope at a star that lies in the orbit’s path, and
  • use a camera with a long exposure setting.

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Telephoto Lenses and the Appearance of Earth’s Curvature

A telephoto lens is a type of lens in which the physical length is shorter than the focal length. A telephoto lens has a narrow field of view, and as a result, the curvature of the Earth is less pronounced if taken using a telephoto lens compared to another lens with a wider field of view.

Flat-Earthers like to bring up pictures taken from the ISS that show a practically flat horizon, and use them as evidence of inconsistency. In reality, the images were taken using a telephoto lens with a narrow field of view.

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Infinity Focus

To an optical device, like a camera, there is little difference between an airplane at 20000 ft and the Moon at 384400 km (238855 mi). The aperture of the lens is far too small compared to the distance of either object. Focusing on either object will make the other object in focus, too.

Flat-Earthers claim that because both objects appear in focus in a photograph, then the Moon must be close to the airplane. In reality, both can be considered at infinity. And it will be easy to make both objects to be in focus simultaneously.

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Magnifying Images Vertically to Reveal Earth’s Curvature

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The horizon appears flat because the curvature is too small when observed from near the Earth’s surface. However, in some cases, we can exaggerate the curve by taking photographs of the horizon and then magnifying the results vertically.

Magnifying in such a way will also magnify the distortions introduced by the camera lens. We will need to control these distortions using proper photography techniques, or by placing a known straight object as a control object in the frame, close to the horizon. If successful, then the remaining curvature in the photograph can only come from the curvature of the Earth.

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Fisheye Videos

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In images taken using a fisheye lens, a straight line will remain straight if it crosses the center of the image. We can use this attribute to determine if a line is straight in reality.

In any fisheye videos taken from a high altitude, there should be plenty of moments where the horizon crosses the center of the image, and we can use those to determine that the horizon line is curved in the real world.

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Zooming In On Distant Boats Does Not Disprove Earth’s Curvature

If a distant boat is not visible, then it is because of at least one of these reasons:

  • Our eyes have limited angular resolution and are unable to resolve the ship at that distance.
  • The atmospheric condition is limiting our visibility.
  • The curvature of the Earth obscures the ship.

Flat-Earthers like to demonstrate that a previously invisible ship at a distance can be made visible by zooming in. They would use it to disprove Earth’s curvature. They are wrong. There are reasons other than Earth’s curvature that can obscure a distant boat.

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Sunset with a Solar Filter

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The apparent size of the Sun is constant throughout the day, from sunrise to sunset, seen from anywhere on Earth. This fact disproves the flat Earth model and is only consistent with the spherical Earth model.

Flat-Earthers like to show us videos of the Sun that appears shrinking during a sunset. They merely failed to control the exposure. Using a solar filter or the in-camera exposure settings, the size of the Sun will appear constant during a sunset.

The apparent size of the Sun is constant throughout the day, seen from anywhere on Earth, from sunrise to sunset. This fact is only possible if the Sun is very far compared to the distance between any two observers on Earth.

Observation of Earth’s Curvature from Near the Surface

Observing Earth’s curvature is more difficult when we are too close to Earth’s surface. The highest place within reach of the general public is a commercial passenger flight. Even then, it is still difficult to casually discern the curvature of the Earth from an airplane. With some effort, it is possible to observe the curve of the Earth from a location closer to the surface, as long as we are willing to do some planning and careful observation.

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The Moon and Stars in a Single Picture

Stars are not visible in photos of the Moon –including those taken from the lunar surface— because the Moon is sunlit. The exposure needed to take a photograph of the Moon is not that much different from that used to take a photo in daylight on Earth’s surface.

To demonstrate this, we can try taking a picture of the Moon with stars visible, on the conditions: 1. The lunar features, like the craters, are correctly exposed, not overexposed. 2. Taken in a single exposure, not HDR, and not the result of editing. Even if we are using the best camera available today, the stars can’t show up in large enough quantity.

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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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JPEG Compression

JPEG is a method of lossy compression of digital images. When a photograph is saved in the JPEG format, some details imperceptible to our vision are discarded. The JPEG compression reduces the file size at the expense of perfect image reproduction.

Flat-Earthers like to perform “investigations” by adjusting brightness, contrast, levels or curve of an image to find evidence of tampering. If they find irregularities, they will proclaim the picture has been faked. In most cases, these are only JPEG compression artifacts and do not prove anything.

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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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The Amount of Curvature that Appears in Photographs of the Horizon

The amount of horizon curvature that appears in a photograph of the horizon depends on several factors:

  1. The altitude of the observer.
  2. The field of view of the camera.
  3. Lens distortions of the camera.

Some flat-Earthers assume that we should see the same amount of Earth’s curvature everywhere. And when they see the different amount of curvature in the different picture of Earth’s curvature, they wrongly took it as “proof” of some sort of misconduct.

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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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The Varying Earth-Moon Proportions in Different Pictures

How an object appears in a photograph depends on perspective —the position of the camera relative to the object—, and field of view of the camera. The farther the object, the smaller the object will appear in the resulting image; and conversely, the closer the object, the larger it will appear. The narrower the field of view, the larger the object will appear in the image; and conversely the wider the field of view, the smaller the object will appear.

Flat-Earthers take the varying proportions of the Earth & Moon in different pictures as a glaring inconsistency. They are wrong. The pictures were simply taken from a different perspective and field of view.

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How They Try to Deceive Us Using Footage From High-Altitude Balloons

A large amount of flat Earth memes present an image taken from a high-altitude balloon, showing the appearance of a flat horizon. Such images evidently cannot be regarded as “proof” of a flat Earth. The horizon appears flat only because of the barrel distortion from the fisheye lens.

The following is how any unscrupulous flat-Earther try to deceive us using footages from high-altitude balloons.

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Composite Photos of the Earth

NASA has published several pictures of the Earth that are composites. It means the pictures were the result of combining many images into a single picture. In most cases, the source pictures were taken from low-orbiting satellites to obtain higher resolution pictures of the Earth.

Flat-Earthers discovered the photos are composites and claimed to have exposed “yet another evidence” of wrongdoing. They would publish this “findings” everywhere to turn us emotional. They are wrong. Nobody is covering the fact the pictures are composites, and there is no intention to deceive. Information that the photos are composites can be readily found in NASA’s website, far before the claimed “discovery” by flat-Earthers.

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Photographic Exposure

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In photography, exposure is the amount of light reaching the camera film or sensor, as determined by shutter speed, lens aperture, and scene luminance. By adjusting the exposure and sensor/film sensitivity (ISO), it is possible to get a bright or dark result.

It is quite apparent that photography has never been any flat-Earthers’ strongest point. There are many misconceptions in flat-Earth circles that arise from their ignorance about photography. One of such misconceptions is exposure.

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