North Korea likely Photoshopped some of the images the secretive state released last week showing the country’s latest missile launch, analyst says.
The North released the images showing Hwasong-15, a new intercontinental ballistic missile it claims can reach any target in the continental United States, last Wednesday. At least two of the photos show the missile launching into the night sky against a starry backdrop.
Marco Langbroek, a sky tracker and astronomy researcher, spotted some inconsistencies with star patterns in the photos.
“Two images from clearly same viewpoint, but dramatically different star backgrounds! Orion (Southeast) versus Andromeda (Northwest)!” tweeted Monday, along with photos of the launch.
Langbroek tweeted a second set of images showing “opposite viewpoints” of the launch, with the same background, but with one star missing.
“More evidence of tampered #Hwasong15 imagery: two images, mirrors of each other (look at exhaust plume, lack of number on missile body 2nd image) so opposite viewpoints. Yet starfield in background both south-southeast, Orion and Canis major (but with Sirius missing!)” Langbroek tweeted.
Essentially, Langbroek suggested the stars in the background don’t match up with the viewpoints from which the photos were taken.
“There certainly were photographs made from different angles, but they added (wrong) star backgrounds to them,” Langbroek tweeted.
Another indication the image may have been altered is that to capture images of stars, a photographer would have to use a longer exposure, which would result in a blurry (or not sharp) image of the actual rocket liftoff. The initial engine blast would also be bright enough to wash out any star lights.
Langbroek said he’s not suggesting the launch was staged, just some of images were altered for “aesthetics.”
“An ICBM soaring into the stars makes for good propaganda images. They apparently just didn’t care enough to do it correctly,” Langbroek noted in a blog post Tuesday. “Aesthetics seem to be important in North Korean propaganda pictures. They frequently Photoshop the ears of Kim Jung Un in pictures, for example.”
In June, Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, explained to Motherboard the North was frequently Photoshopping Kim’s ears.
“Over the past few years, we noticed that Kim Jong-un’s ears often appear to have been altered along with other aspects of his appearance,” Lewis explained. We think these are just cosmetic alterations—changes to help Kim look a bit more handsome than he is in real life, much like a wedding photographer might make. He doesn’t like his ears, or so it seems.”
Langbroek went on to suggest that perhaps the images were altered to deceive the West.