Chandrayaan-2 pics from cyberspace, not outer space

Chandrayaan-2 pics from cyberspace, not outer space

Faking it

Forty-two days before Chandrayaan-2’s scheduled moon landing, WhatsApp and Facebook were awash on Saturday with breathtaking shots of the earth taken by the spacecraft from the lunar surface! The images went viral, as fake news superstars went ballistic with their photoshopped wizadry.

The tricksters ensured their virtual Chandrayaan-2 would reach the moon in a jiffy, point its cameras earthwards and start clicking. Fakery scored big on social media as thousands fell for the tricks, before fact check specialists intervened.

It took digital gymnastics of a colossal order to unleash the bizarre play of fake pictures and fantasy. But as the hoaxsters juggled 12-year-old Nasa illustrations with shots from the International Space Station, Chandrayaan addicts fell for the hoax, sharing them in droves.

The fantastic imagery stumped even the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) as salivating fans went on a forwarding spree on every social media platform.

“The first photograph of earth, sent by Chandrayaan 2… What an eye-catching visual it is,” gushed one fan on social media, awestruck.

But seriously, it was all about zero percent fact and 100% fantasy. Fake photo busters got busy, verifying the photos and came back impressed.

First, they checked how in the world could Chandrayaan-2 take an earth shot from the moon’s surface, when it was still in an orbit around the planet.

A Google reverse image search was all it took to prove that the image was actually an illustration by Hana Garstein, hosted on Nasa’s website as the ‘Astronomy Picture of the Day’ in March 2007.

Another electric image shot by the spacecraft had the earth gloriously enveloped by brilliantly lit cloud cover. Shared, liked, favourited and reshared by thousands of WhatsApp groups and Facebook pages, the picture had a timely tag designed for virality: Shot by Chandrayaan-2.

Fact-checkers got busy again. Another Google reverse image search pointed to an article in The Telegraph published on February 26, 2017. The Fact: It was a photo shot by ISS astronauts as the Space Station passed over a mighty plume of smoke, steam and ash, that had erupted from the Sarychev volcano on Russia’s Kuril Islands.

Online fact-checker, dug deeper to find a poster of the 2009 Nicholas Cage movie ‘Knowing’ passed off as another edgy Chandrayaan capture. Donning the researcher’s mantle, the tricksters had even used a 2014 book cover image to prove how superbly the spacecraft’s camera had composed a juxtaposed image of the moon and earth.

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