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Supposed image of Earth, Venus and Jupiter from Mars is computer generated

February 24, 2021 GMT

CLAIM: Photo captured on the surface of Mars shows Earth, Venus and Jupiter lined up in a row in space.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. A computer created this image. It was not captured on Mars, a NASA spokesperson confirmed.

THE FACTS: Social media users this week are sharing an image that appears to show a hazy, orange Mars skyline with Earth, Venus and Jupiter visible as white dots in the distance.

“Earth, Venus and Jupiter as seen from Mars,” a Facebook page for astronomy hobbyists wrote in a post viewed more than 5 million times.

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However, the picture is not real, a NASA spokesperson confirmed. 

A reverse-image search reveals the image has appeared hundreds of times on online message boards and photo-sharing websites over the years, and was proven false by the astronomer and blogger Phil Plait in 2012.

In the lower left-hand corner of the image, Plait points out, the letters NE are visible, a sign that the image was created in planetarium software that allows users to orient themselves using cardinal directions and visualize a scene in space.

In June 2020, NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover captured a real image showing Earth and Venus in the Martian sky, according to the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Fake and digitally altered posts claiming to show Mars have spread rapidly on social media since NASA’s Perseverance rover landed safely on the planet last Thursday. Real images and video from the mission are available on NASA’s website.

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This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform. 

Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: https://www.facebook.com/help/1952307158131536