Fact Check-Image of Earth’s sunset line is not authentic

A computer-generated image of Earth that shows the transition from day to night over Western Europe and West Africa has been mistaken by social media users to be real.

Online posts misleading fellow users are visible  here and here , and are captioned: "The rare image showing both day and night on Earth. Amazing!"

The Earth image appears to be shot from a satellite position in space and shows a large shadow known as a “terminator line”, the sunset line that separates day from night (here). 

But based on an archived 2003 National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) article, seen  here , the image is software generated. The organization cites the absence of clouds, the unusual color of objects, and the odd shaping of the terminator line - inconsistent with its typical arc or straight appearance in photos - as giveaways to the fabricated origin of the image.

Another NASA report, also from 2003, says the image is a digital composite that uses pictures from multiple satellites and ships (here). It is credited to The Living Earth Inc, an organization that uses a variety of data to create an Earth surface map (here).

Actual NASA images taken from space that capture the terminator line are viewable  here   and  here  .


Miscaptioned. The photo does not show the transition from day to night on Earth; the image is a digital composite.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here .