An image showing a jet firing at MH17 in the Ukraine has surfaced recently and was broadcast by the official Russian state news channel, Channel One Russia.

enter image description here

Could this image be real?

There's an analysis that claims the image is "geometrically impossible" but I'm finding the argument hard to follow.

enter image description here

Is it really impossible that this image was taken by a drone? the whole business about the lens type, distance or zoom not mattering seems suspicious.

P.S. Theres also a russian version of this image: link.

  • Could you add a link to where you found the analysis? Commented Nov 19, 2014 at 20:12
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    Reminder: Answers consisting solely of your opinions about how planes/missiles/satellites/lenses/photoshop work are NOT WELCOME HERE, even if (especially if) you invoke "common sense" or "obviously". You may post those answers on conspiracy theory forums. Here, you need to link to empirical evidence. Don't post your own analysis. Post (preferably peer-reviewed) analysis by people with relevant expertise.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Nov 20, 2014 at 23:46
  • For those wondering about photoshop analysis, the closest I could come to commentary on that is skeptics.meta.stackexchange.com/a/2897/104
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented Dec 6, 2018 at 9:02

1 Answer 1


Here's the BBC, one of the many news outlets reporting on this:

Several commentators pointed out that the "Malaysia" logo on the plane from the photograph was in the wrong place. Maksim Kats, a Russian blogger, said the plane in the picture looked like a slightly altered version of the one that tops the search results if you Google "Boeing view from above" in Russian. It also happens to be a publicity photo of a Boeing 767, not a 777, which was shot down over Ukraine in July.

Others noted that the fighter jet looked different from an Su-25 - the type which the Russian media had consistently claimed shot down MH17.

There were also claims that the shape of clouds in the satellite image proved that it actually came from a Google Earth photo of the area taken on 28 August 2012.

The consensus is that the image seems to be fake. You can also find a detailed report in English on the investigative site bellingcat, which also talks about the maps being stitched together:

Overlaying the image with known data points about the MH17 flight path and debris gives the following results, showing the aircraft in the picture off the reported course.

It is clear that the satellite map imagery is created from a composite of different satellite map imagery. Part of imagery is from historical Google Earth imagery, ... Other imagery is from Yandex maps.

To explain the geometry in the OP.

The plane is much bigger than the ground behind it: therefore the plane is much closer to the camera than the ground is.

  • If you look at something distant through the magnifying lens, that magnifies what you're looking at and magnifies the background behind it. The so-called "perspective" is "flattened".

  • If you look at something close (using less magnification, because it's closer) it's bigger than the background behind it.

Something that's half-way between the camera and the background will appear to be twice as big as the background. In the case of this picture the plane is about 60 times bigger than the city, so it's relatively very close.

If the camera and the plane are close to each other, and we know the distance of the plane to the ground, then we know the distance of the camera to the ground.

Also we know how wide the plane is. If a big plane occupies only 25% of the picture when the camera is very close to the plane, that would imply that the picture had a huge field of view (315 degrees). For example, imagine an object that's one meter wide. Stand one meter in front of it. Now imagine taking a picture where the object only occupies 20% of the photo: to do that it would need to be panoramic.

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    @Malcolm The blog claims that the plane looks big because the sputnik uses a optically-magnifying lens. It doesn't explain why or how the alleged lens would magnify the plane without also magnifying the ground beneath it. If you think it's understandable and credible I'd suggest you use it in an answer to the question.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Nov 18, 2014 at 21:01
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    @Malcolm The "RQ-4 Global Hawk" which is suggested in that 'additional post, as being perhaps the platform which took the picture from a hundred or so meters above the plane has, a published cruise speed of about 300 knots, compared with 500 knots (i.e. Mach 0.85) for a 777. How could it be there? It is a far-fetched claim: a claim which IMO does not introduce "reasonable doubt" about the arguments.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Nov 18, 2014 at 21:26
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    A plane similar, eh? He doesn't address the claim in the OP, that that photo would imply a 315 degree field of view (except by patronizing the "young geometer"). The blog entry also suggests that American Intelligence could have prevailed on Google to alter their map imagery post-facto so that the pictures now look faked. "Права она или нет, это моя страна", he says, I don't know why; he says that the people who call the photos fake are "soldiers in the information war".
    – ChrisW
    Commented Nov 18, 2014 at 22:34
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    It's largely irrelevant that the plane looks different from an Su-25, since it's essentially impossible that an Su-25 could have shot down MH17, as explained over at Aviation SE. Commented Nov 18, 2014 at 22:55
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    @Malcolm: The math is actually a very simple scaling function. We know the runway length in real life and we can measure its length in the picture. We know the airplane length in real life and we can measure its length in the picture. Therefore, if we scale the plane to the runway given that we know the altitude of the plane we can get the relative altitude of the camera.
    – slebetman
    Commented Nov 19, 2014 at 8:47

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