Hoaxes & Rumors

Are These Images of Earth in 1978 and 2012 Accurate?

Are These Images of Earth in 1978 and 2012 Accurate?

A graphic shows two images of our planet, one dated 1978 and the other dated 2012. The 1978 photo shows a much greener United States, while the 2012 image appears to be devoid of vegetation. The caption reads, “The same planet just 34 years after. Kinda sad, right?” How accurate is this comparison?

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The images are real, but they have been altered, and the caption is wrong.

Let’s take a look at these images a little closer. The graphic in circulation looks like this:

The “1978” Image

The image on the left, dated 1978, is actually a composite of images taken in 2001 and published on on February 8, 2002. You can find the original photo here, and the NASA page including a discussion of it here.

Below we have compared the alleged 1978 image (which we’ll now refer to as the 2001 image) with the original NASA photo. The original NASA image is on the left and the 2001 photo in circulation (mis-labeled as 1978) is on the right. It is clear that the colors have been altered from the original to appear more vibrant, and the subtle greens of the original are much brighter in the altered version.

The “2012” Image

The photo dated 2012 in the circulated image was taken on January 24, 2012. The original can be found on the NASA website, here. The description of the image reads:

A ‘Blue Marble’ image of the Earth taken from the VIIRS instrument aboard NASA’s most recently launched Earth-observing satellite – Suomi NPP. This composite image uses a number of swaths of the Earth’s surface taken on January 4, 2012. The NPP satellite was renamed ‘Suomi NPP’ on January 24, 2012 to honor the late Verner E. Suomi of the University of Wisconsin.

If we compare the original with the photo in circulation, we see that the two are similar with only slight color variation between them.

This leads us to the original comparison, of what are photographs taken in 2001 and 2012 – only 11 years apart. How can we account for the discrepancy that does exist between the two images?

Color Variation

Comparing the colors of these photos, we see that the unaltered 2001 image has much more vibrant colors, perhaps altered after the fact, or due to other processes. Comparing the blue in the oceans in the two images reveals that the oceans in the 2001 image have a nearly purple tint. This alone could account for much of the color differences.


The 2001 image is clearly a different angle of North America than the 2012 image. This angle makes the continent appear significantly larger in the 2012 image.


It has been argued that the 2012 image has a “deforested” look because it was taken in the middle of winter when trees are likely to be bare, and the 2001 image was compiled from images taken in the summer. It’s unclear whether the seasons in 2001 and 2012 were as different as the colors in these images may imply.

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In short, the image being circulated does not show a comparison of North America in 1978 and 2012, but two very different images taken only 11 years apart.

Comparison of unaltered images

Below we have recreated the comparison, using the original unaltered images:

Bottom Line

The photos in circulation were taken only 11 years apart and have been altered. A comparison of the two unaltered photos reveals stark differences in all colors – not just of vegetation, but of the oceans as well. The photos were taken by different satellites from different angles at different times of the year, using different color enhancements after the fact.

Updated August 7, 2015
Originally published July 2012

  • disqus_ZTJxGjMaUL

    Those photos are clearly fake. If North America takes up that much of the glove, there isn’t room for much else lol

  • Desirée Jaeqx

    just comparris the two foto’s and look at the clouds.They are the same,FRAUD!

  • Jason

    I’ve found quite a few photos of the Earth, non- composite. The most notable being taken by apollo astronauts from and back to earth. ……. Oh wait I forgot the moon landing was faked too. Geez there is just no way to win with you people.

  • kracker

    Neither picture is even real so the whole article is irrelevant. When they take an actual picture of flat earth let me know.

  • Bryan Taylor

    Regarding the size of the North American continent: Angle does not explain such massive differences in size. It is preposterous to believe neither of these images are faked: Either one or both must be by definition. “Because it is a composite” isn’t an explanation, it’s just an excuse, and a poor one at that. How does stitching individual images together render an image that is completely inconsistent with reality? Why publish such grandiose failures then?

  • Sally Jessie

    These photos are not even of the same continents…

  • Thomas Jefferson

    You think this stuff is fake check out this video from the NASA website

    Video: From a Million Miles Away, NASA Camera Shows Moon Crossing Face of Earth


    • kracker

      LOL that is funny fake stuff. Clouds don’t move the moon doesn’t have any shadows etc etc. it’s sad how stupid our government knows the majority of people are

  • Chris Winkley

    Fake earth pictures. Why? Why are there no photographs showing the 700,000 plus satellites, space junk etc ? Where are they ? NASA released a new earth shot from the Luna rover and again no satellites, no solid fuel reckets ? Just an amazing shot of a round earth.
    Antarctica no one is allowed to check out all of it, its covered by a 50 country agreement, you can only go to designated areas with a guide and no one can fly over it ….why ?
    Idk but the flat earth is a good bet ..

    • Droidzilla

      Take the area of the Earth and understand that the area encompassed by the swath of space occupied by satellites is much larger as it is a greater radius. It’s pretty simple math.

      • kracker

        LOL no oh great mathematician this so called image is showing well over 50% of space around earth yet no space junk or satellites etc

  • Garrett Harrison

    My concern is this…I can not find a single picture of Earth that is not composite. THAT is my concern.

    • kracker

      Exactly because you can’t take a picture of a flat earth.

    • Jason

      I’ve found quite a few. The most notable being taken by apollo astronauts from and back to earth. ……. Oh wait I forgot the moon landing was faked too. Geez there is just no way to win with you people.

      • Sean Hillery

        Take a look at Apollo 11 earth rise and compare it to Apollo 14 earth rise, same earth, cloud formations, and even continental positions. What are the odds?

  • Parker Mitchell

    It’s not a hoax. Both images are composite images and NASA has claimed that since they were released. There are many real photos of Earth, but you don’t see conspiracy theorists talking about them because they are all consistent.

    • David Libich

      Where can I see the real Earth pictures?

      • Astro

        The silence to your question is deafening. I’ll answer: It’s scary but there are no real earth pictures. Given what we’ve been told, there should be thousands. This tells me we have been lied to and told a false narrative regarding our home.

  • Oiram Oicruc

    NOBODY NOTICED that in the 2012 “picture” the US is occupying a much larger percentage of the “GLOBE”? That CANNOT possibly be explained by the angle. It can only be explained by fake “pictures”!

    • Parker Mitchell

      Indeed you are right, both of these images are fake composite images and NASA has claimed that from the start. If look at images that are actual photos according to NASA then discrepancies like this don’t exist. Many people noticed, it’s just that most people looked into it more instead of jumping to conclusions.

      • Stu McCormick

        Perhaps the problem you fail to recognize comes before any conclusions are to be drawn…if we need to track down the origin and test the veracity of official images released by NASA, then THAT is itself a problem. And how could you trust any image under that standard? Any discrepancy could then be explained away as the ‘mislabeling’ of a fake composite as real/original.

    • Micaiah James Fonken

      Or it could be explained by a difference in not only camera angle but distance from the earth. Next time you take a photo of a large object with a regular camera lens I recommend you first take a straight forward shot, and then a closer shot from a low angle and compare the two.

      The differences probably won’t be as exaggerated as it would be compared to the scale of a freaking planet which has so much mass that the gravity resulting from it bends light, space, and time… But the short answer is yes, it can be explained by a difference in angle and probably a few other things.

  • Dane

    Most pictures of the earth are pictures and not photos. NASA lies about everything else why would this be real. NASA pay artist and have been doing so for years. propoganda machine.

    • Parker Mitchell

      You are right about most pictures of Earth being fake, the problem is that NASA has claimed that those images were composites from the beginning and there there are still thousands of photos of Earth often used for climate research and weather prediction that anyone can see. Whoever paints them must have a supernatural knack for knowing where the clouds are.

      • kracker

        You sir are a gullible little science nerd. You solve your own question they are artists they just make crap up and draw it. No rocket science here. I’ve traveled to mars and back wanna see the pictures.

  • Goatlips

    92.7% of ‘facts’ you read on the internet are made up.

  • Luan Pessanha

    The second picture is largest, try to compare the american west coast size.

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