13 Amazing Viral Nature Pictures That Are Actually Fake

Think before you retweet.


If there’s one thing that Twitter likes, in addition to arguments and snarky jokes, it’s awe-inspiring images of our planet. And there’s a huge number of accounts trying to serve that need.

You can’t miss them on Twitter — especially since image previews came in, making their retweet-bait increasingly unavoidable. You might not even have realiz,ed that they’re all different accounts. @Earth_Pics is probably the leader of the pack, with almost 1.5 million followers, but there’s plenty of competition for the crown, most with hundreds of thousands of followers. There’s @EarthPix, @earthposts, @ThatsEarth, @EarthBeauties, @ItsEarthPics, and the creatively named @EaarthPics. Then you’ve got @FascinatingPics and @FascinatingPix, which aren’t the same thing. And @Natgeopix, which has nothing to do with National Geographic, and @GoogleEarthPics, which is nothing to do with Google.

The thing about all these accounts is that most of them tweet the exact same content — the same images as one other, with word-for-word identical descriptions — over and over again. They’re like visual spam. Mostly they just tweet massively oversaturated pictures of landscapes with no photographer attribution. But the other thing about them is that they never bother to check if the pictures are actually real…

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1. “Lenticular clouds over Mount Fuji, Japan.”

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Sorry — it’s photoshopped.

Here’s the original.

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Also photoshopped, sad to say.

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3. “Solar Eclipse and Milky Way seen from ISS”

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That’s actually a computer-generated artwork made by deviantART member A4size-ska.

But the above video, via Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy, shows what an eclipse actually looks like from the ISS. Spoiler: still awesome.

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4. “Spectacular View of The Stars in Alaska”

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This one seems to originate from an art forum, under the category “Fantasy/Landscape.”

More of the artist’s work here.

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5. “Difference between day and night!”

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It’s a computer-generated composite. As NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day site says:

No single spacecraft or astronaut took this picture. It is a digital composite of archived images taken by several Earth-orbiting satellites and ocean-faring ships… This image is different from what an astronaut would see for reasons including a complete lack of clouds and an unrealistic exaggeration of lights and contrasts. The image has become both an internet wave in that it continues to circulate as an attachment to digital correspondence, and a modern urban legend.

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6. “They shot a 7m (+- 23ft), 1200kg crocodile…”

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The picture’s probably real — but the description’s wrong.

As Snopes says, the crocodile hadn’t eaten any people, wasn’t killed by villagers, was around 15 feet long, not 23 feet, and was in Zimbabwe, not Niger.

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8. “Smeared skies, Lake Ontario, Canada”

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Brilliant image — but it’s not one picture. It’s hundreds of pictures layered over one other.

It’s one of a series by photographer Matt Molloy. His “timestack” technique uses timelapse video footage to create a single still where the clouds look like brushstrokes.

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9. “Europe at Night”

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Those aren’t lights, and that’s not a photo. It’s a computer-generated visualization of social media activity. Look, here’s North America:

The maps were created by data visualization expert Eric Fischer for his project “See something or say something”. They show activity on two social platforms: Twitter (shown in blue) and photo site Flickr (shown in orange).

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10. “Frozen Tidal Wave In Antarctica”

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Nah. Actually ice deposits smoothed out by many years of melting and refreezing.

The pictures were taken by Antarctic scientist Tony Travouillon.

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11. “Mystic Forest in The Netherlands”

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No. Look. It’s just a normal patch of land that’s had the “Hue” setting in Photoshop changed. See, you can change it back really easily:

The picture was posted to Flickr by Dutch photographer Sander Copier. It’s a shot of the grounds of Soestdijk Palace in Baarn, Utrecht (so it’s not a forest, never mind being mystical). A quick check proves that the grass and trees there are, in fact, normal grass and tree color.

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13. “Baby Dragon”

Yeah, OK, seems legit.

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Tom Phillips is the UK editorial director for BuzzFeed and is based in London.
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