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Blackout 2003 Satellite Photo


Netlore Archive: Emailed image purports to show a satellite view of the 2003 east coast blackout (power outage) in North America.

Description:Viral image / Hoax
Circulating since: Aug. 2003
Status: Fake (see details below)

Email contributed by D. Goodwin, Aug. 21, 2003:

Analysis This bogus image began circulating within days of the northeast blackout of August 14, 2003. It doesn't stand up to scrutiny.

1. There is no imaging satellite named "GeoStar."

2. The timestamp shows "23:15 EST" (Eastern Standard Time), but satellite images are usually marked "UT" (Universal Time) — in any case, the U.S. is currently on Daylight Saving Time, not Standard Time.

3. The "blackout" portion of the image extends too far south and not far enough west.

4. The "blackout" portion of the image is too dark — on close examination, darker even than the pitch-black shade of the ocean and waterways — as compared to the dark blue of the less-inhabited land areas visible elsewhere in the picture.

5. Compare the faux image to actual satellite photographs of the event, which cover a much smaller area and are considerably less dramatic.

The photo is, in fact, a cropped, doctored version of a well-known composite image created from satellite photos taken between 1994 and 1995 by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program.

2012 update: In Oct. 2012, this image circulated again in postings purporting to show the magnitude of east coast power outages caused by Hurricane Sandy.

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Sources and further reading:

NOAA Images of Northeast Blackout
Actual satellite images of northeastern U.S. before and after the August 14, 2003 blackout. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Last updated: 11/01/12

Current Hoaxes / Netlore
The Urban Legends Top 25

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