Fact Check

Is This a Photo of Australian Fires Taken from the Space Station?

Composite images created from multiple data inputs are often mistaken for literal photographs.

Published Jan 5, 2020

 (Anthony Hearsey)
Image Via Anthony Hearsey
Claim:
A photograph taken by the International Space Station shows bushfires raging across Australia.

In January 2020, as record-breaking temperatures and months of severe drought fueled a series of massive bushfires across Australia, a spectacular photograph was posted to social media purporting to show the scope of those across the continent as viewed from the International Space Station (ISS):

However, this striking image did not originate with the ISS, nor was it actually a photograph. Rather, it was a "3D visualization" of the Australian fires by Anthony Hearsey, "an image maker who specialises in photography, retouching and creative imaging," which was compiled from NASA satellite data collected across the span of a month.

Many postings of this image included a disclaimer noting that the visualization encompassed "all the areas which have been affected" by fires in Australia, but that "not all the areas are still burning":

https://imgur.com/gallery/9oiePhO

Anthony Hearsey himself offered a clarification of what this image represents:

This is a 3D visualisation of the fires in Australia. NOT A PHOTO. Think of this as prettier looking graph.

This is made from data from NASA’s FIRMS (Satellite data regarding fires) between 05/12/19 - 05/01/20. These are all the areas which have been affected by bushfires.

Scale is a little exaggerated due to the render’s glow, but generally true to the info from the NASA website. Also note that NOT all the areas are still burning, and this is a compilation.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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