Does This Satellite Photo Prove MH17 Was Shot Down By A Jet?

A Russian news channel showed what appears to be a satellite photo of the moment that MH17 was shot down by a fighter jet!

So, does the photo prove it?

Well, there is no identifiable source for the photo to start with, so really the only option is to look at it and see if it seems plausible…

"Satellite Photo" of MH17 Shoot DownI’m no expert of satellite imagery, but that just doesn’t look plausible to me.

My first thought is that they scale doesn’t seem quite right – so let’s look at that… In the large version of the satellite photo the fighter jet (which appears to be an SU-27 not the MIG-29 that some article claim) is approximately 82 pixels nose-to-tail, while the alleged MH17 is 386 pixels nose-to-tail.

mh17-shotdown-scale

That is a ratio of 1:4.7 – the jetliner is 4.7x longer than the fighter jet. Or put another way, if the aircraft is a Boeing 777-200ER (63.7m length) then each pixel is 16.5cm, which means that the fighter jet is 13.5m long.

An SU-27 is 21.9m long, while a MIG-29 is 17.4m long. Immediately that seems to suggest the image is fake.

Another thing that occurred to me was that the image appeared to be perfectly aligned to North, something I don’t think would typically be the case with military satellite photos necessarily. It basically looks like a Google Maps image.

Indeed, a Twitter user observed that one of the clouds visible in the photograph appears also in Google Earth imagery of the same location. I was able to verify this myself.

mh17-shotdown-google

So my next question was where did the source photos come from?

And Reddit user /u/putupyourdukes seems to have solved at least part of that, finding what seems to be the origin of the MH17 image at least – it’s actually a 767, not even a 777.

mh17-shotdown-b767

So… Does this “satellite photo” prove that MH17 was shot down by a fighter jet? Nope, it’s fake.

The following information has been added since the first publication of this post… 

It has been pointed out by another Reddit user that the timestamp on the image is “UTC 1:19:47” which would be the middle of the night, 12 hours before the incident occurred.

Here is a great breakdown of some of the same issues, and more: https://www.bellingcat.com/news/2014/11/14/russian-state-television-shares-fake-images-of-mh17-being-attacked

And another great article on the fakery: http://www.whathappenedtoflightmh17.com/proof-the-russian-tv-satellite-photo-of-mh17-is-fake/

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14 thoughts on “Does This Satellite Photo Prove MH17 Was Shot Down By A Jet?

  1. You did quite a good job there actually….
    The other thing i would add is the distance between the Boeing and the fighter jet, it is to close, the fighter pilot would see visually from this distance that this is a passenger flight. Also he would never shoot from this angle. Unless he was aiming for something else.

    • I think the implication is that it was a deliberate act.

      The email in the Russian TV report from “George Bilt” suggests that the fighter first killed the crew with canon fire before firing a missile to destroy the airliner. All from 400m apparently.

      Although the distance between the aircraft in the picture is either about 700m (if you use the scale of “MH17” to measure) or 50km (if you use ground features). Both a lot more than 400m and a stark example of how mismatched the scale of this image is.

  2. Excellent work, thank you.
    The proplem still is: Some people will believe every propaganda. I read an article on the russian propaganda channel RT-Germany, who started its german channel the last days: “Ukrainian chief of general staff gave order to annihilate all russian speaking residents in Donezk and Luhansk. ”

    But many Ukrainian soldiers speak russian . Polls show that there are no conflicts between russian and ukrainian speaking Ukrainians.

    in german:
    “Nach Ermittlungsangaben erteilten Muschenko (Generalstabschef der Ukraine) und Mikas sowie Kommandeure der 93. Armeebrigade innerhalb des Zeitraums vom 3. bis zum 5. September Befehle, die russischsprachige Bevölkerung der Städte Donetsk und Lugansk vollständig auszulöschen.”
    http://www.rtdeutsch.com/3543/international/russische-regierung-ukrainische-nationalisten-verantwortlich-fur-massenmord-an-zivilisten/

  3. Your ‘clouds’ argument is strong of course, and I think will proof your point for many. The other arguments are weaker and I would have left them out. The fact that the fighter jet seems too small can be explained by assuming it was flying at a lower altitude. I would think satellite images are always aligned north, for obvious reasons, and it is also obvious that two pictures of an identical airplane look similar.

    But good to see that people think before jumping to conclusions.

    • The difference in altitude would have to be pretty significant.

      Another point made by others is that the scale of the aircraft relative to the ground is impossible. The airliner covers a ground area of more than 4,000m — to appear in that scale would require that the camera was very close – much lower than any satellite.

      • Not only the distance between the planes and the satellites determines the scale of the planes with respect to the ground, but also the focal length of the camera lens at the moment the picture was taken. So as long as you don’t have a reliable source for that number, those arguments are too speculative. But you don’t need them. You have the cloud picture, and anyone with a PC and Internet can verify your story. That argument alone is sufficient.

      • Actually not true what I just wrote. Forget it. It would be nice if you added a few satellite photograph examples of other commercial airplanes and compare the scale. If I find any, I’ll let you know.

      • I was going to say – a great focal length would compress the relative scale, not expand it. To get the effect visible in the photo would require a fairly wide angle lens.

        As for real examples of aircraft in satellite photos – they are surprisingly hard to find. It might be because they are barely visible in the satellite photos to start with, and when we’re seeing greater detail in services like Google Earth we’re actually typically looking at photographs from aircraft, usually flying lower than typical commercial aircraft… So they won’t get any.

  4. Do you realize that the two air planes are not necessarily flying at the exact same elevation and are thence possibly affected by the camera lens in different degrees of magnification? The lower the satellite the bigger this effect could be.

    • “The 777’s 60m wingspan covers 4300m of ground. If the plane was flying around 33,000ft then the camera would have to be about 150m above it for that geometry to work out.”
      There, you have it. And no, it has nothing to do with the camera lens focal length, which would have the exact same effect on the plane, and the ground.

  5. Pingback: Debunker vs. Truther | Aron Sperber

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