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This image has been widely shared on Facebook and other social media platforms:

Is this a satellite image of Australia, taken recently to show the currently burning bushfires, or is it a computer render to demonstrate the extent?

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    Can you link to someone claiming it is a real image? – Oddthinking Jan 9 at 2:13
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    @Oddthinking first revision has a screenshot of that. I’ll try to find the link later. – Tim Jan 9 at 7:49
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    @Dancrumb - I'm not sure where you live, but here in Australia, this has been doing the rounds, albeit mostly on social media, noted as a "picture of the bushfires". The only mentions of it now appear to be ones clarifying that it is NOT. – Jeremy Davis Jan 10 at 6:55
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    @Dancrumb see first revision. I found a post shared 10k+ times claiming it to be a satellite image. – Tim Jan 10 at 9:51
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    Still waiting on that link. – Oddthinking Jan 12 at 18:20
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No, this is not a real satellite image of Australia. This is a heatmap of the areas affected by Australia's brushfires compiled using composite satellite images from NASA between December and January 5th by artist Anthony Hearsey.

As explained in a BBC article:

It is actually artist Anthony Hearsey's visualisation of one month of data of locations where fire was detected, collected by Nasa's Fire Information for Resource Management System.

"The scale is a little exaggerated due to the render's glow, but it is generally true to the info from the Nasa website.

Also note that not all the areas are still burning, and this is a compilation," Mr Hearsey wrote on Instagram in response to criticism by viewers that the image was misleading.


Anthony has also released a statement after the viral spread of the image:

  • Didn’t realise this would go viral 👀 PLEASE READ BELOW. *

Regarding False Information. This has occurred NOT because of this post, or my information being inaccurate. It has been Zucc'd because other people have shared this image with the caption "This is a NASA photograph". This image has been flagged as a result.

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

https://firms.modaps.eosdis.nasa.gov/map/…

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.

This image is copyrighted by Anthony Hearsey. Please contact for usage.


There is also a Snopes Article for this image.

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    Also in this Big Think article – CGCampbell Jan 8 at 18:47
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    I think the moral may be, that when you are generating a false-colour-map, make the colours false! – nigel222 Jan 9 at 15:13
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    If you look at the data from the NASA link, it would appear that southern China and the clump of Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and friends are one giant fire. Knowing what data you're visualizing is super important. – JPhi1618 Jan 9 at 15:40
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    For a bit more context, look at satellite vegetation data: neo.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov/servlet/… There just isn't enough vegetation in a lot of the areas shown in the original image to support the kind of huge fires seen in the southeast that people would be thinking of – llama Jan 9 at 16:57
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    So if someone shares an image on Facebook with an accurate description, and someone else reposts it with false information, Facebook will flag the original image as false information? Interesting... – StackOverthrow Jan 9 at 17:13
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BBC Report on recent Australian fire maps

One image shared widely by Twitter users, including by singer Rihanna, was interpreted as a map showing the live extent of fire spread, with large sections of the Australian coastline molten-red and fiery.

But it is actually artist Anthony Hearsey's visualisation of one month of data of locations where fire was detected, collected by Nasa's Fire Information for Resource Management System.

FIRMS - Actual Australia Fire Map

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