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No, photo of plane, sky and solar eclipse manipulated

An image of a plane flying above clouds with a spectacular solar eclipse in the dark sky above it has been shared on Facebook in South Africa.

“A British Airways pilot clicked this photo of solar eclipse when his plane was crossing over Atlantic Ocean,” its description reads. “You can see another plane on the same path. It's an awesome click.”

A solar eclipse happens when the moon, as it orbits our planet, moves between the sun and the Earth. This blocks the light of the sun.

But does the photo really show a plane flying beneath a solar eclipse?

Shutterstock image

Using Google’s reverse image search, we found the original image of the eclipse, sky and clouds on Shutterstock, a stock photo site.

It’s described as: “Solar Eclipse ‘Elements of this image furnished by Nasa’”. Nasa is the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

The image is not a real photo, but a composite of photos by Nasa. And it doesn’t show a plane.

The aircraft has been added to an already manipulated image.

Planes and altitude

And it’s highly unlikely that a pilot would be able to take a photo of another plane at the same altitude.

BAA Training, an independent aviation training centre in Europe, says that because planes may cause turbulence that affects other planes flying in the same space at the same altitude, “horizontal separation is much greater than vertical”. 

In controlled airspace, planes flying at the same altitude must be at least 9 kilometres apart, the centre says.

The plane must also “maintain a vertical separation of 1,000 feet”, or about 305 metres. So the odds of a pilot being able to take a photo of a plane right beside them are slim. – Taryn Willows


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