Fact Check: Time-Lapse Video Of Alaskan Midnight Sun Does NOT Prove The Earth Is Flat -- Digitally Altered

Fact Check

  • by: Sarah Thompson
Fact Check: Time-Lapse Video Of Alaskan Midnight Sun Does NOT Prove The Earth Is Flat -- Digitally Altered Altered Video

Does a time-lapse video of the midnight sun in Alaska show that the sun appears to get smaller as it approaches the horizon -- thus proving that this is a "local sun" that is very close to Earth in a closed environment, part of the firmament? No, that's not true: The footage of slightly more than one full day has been altered and misrepresented as a five-day time lapse of the Alaskan 24-hour sun. The video has been looped, cropped and had color filters and special effects lens flares added.

The video was posted on Instagram on February 14, 2023, by @247conspiracytheories. It opened:

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This is how the post appeared at the time of writing:

(Image source: Instagram screenshot taken on Wed Feb 15 23:37:25 2023 UTC)

Captioning on the video reads:


The narrator says:

I had to scour the internet to find a five day time-lapse of the Alaskan 24-hour sun, and you'll see right here ... This is up near the Arctic Circle right? And you'll see the sun goes up, this is high noon. And it's going to come back down again. As it comes back down, you'll see the sun gets smaller, each time, with each day.

In the second half of the video he offers the "Flat Earth Model" from the FE Clock app to provide a false explanation for the shrinking sun seen in the deceptively edited video. The clock face shows a flat Earth depiction of Earth (pictured below), with the North Pole in the center of the clock face and 24 hours marked around the edge. In the animation, the "Local Sun" is depicted on the hour hand circling over the continents once per day. The narrator says:

The sun is just simply moving around in a circle and it never really gets dark in Alaska in this model. The Flat Earth model is what's up!


(Image source: Instagram screenshot taken on Wed Feb 15 23:37:25 2023 UTC)

Origins of the footage

The 247conspiracytheories video begins with several seconds of time-lapse footage taken from educator and researcher David Walker, who did field research with Polartrek at the Toolik Field Station in the Alaskan Arctic. His blog post "Midnight Sun in the Arctic" has two illustrations that show how the tilt of the Earth's axis results in long summer days in the Arctic Circle when the sun doesn't set, and long winter nights when it doesn't rise.

The rest of the time-lapse footage appearing in the edited video came originally from the 2007 TV series, "Planet Earth," narrated by David Attenborough. The illusion that the sun is shrinking, or receding into the distance, as it approaches the horizon, seen in the Instagram video, is not present in the original TV footage.

The original "Planet Earth" time-lapse footage appears from the 0:41 mark to the 1:08 mark on YouTube. The "Planet Earth" camera pans more than 360 degrees, following the sun over a period of slightly more than one full day. The landscape seems to rotate around the camera from right to left. For most of the filming, the sky was clear, but wispy clouds clear at the start of the video and move in again near the end of the clip.

Video editing and special effects

The illusion of the shrinking sun in the Instagram video comes from video special effects. For example, as the sun rises, the added lens flares make it appear larger.

In this 247conspiracytheories video, the narrator says this is a five-day time lapse. As presented, including Walker's footage, it shows the sun dipping to the horizon seven times. The original "Planet Earth" time-lapse footage has been looped, and the same wispy clouds pass over each "day."

The Lead Stories composite image below shows a frame from the "Planet Earth" time lapse with some distinctive clouds in the right of the frame. Below that are screenshots of six moments from the 247conspiracytheories video when those same clouds appear. Variations in the color tone, the frame cropping and the lens flares can be seen.

To obscure the looping, a color filter was added to each repetition, tinting the sky appear green, aqua, purple, yellow, orange and red. The framing of the video has also been altered, with some segments cropped so the horizon doesn't show. Although there are some lens flares that appear in the original video, even more have been added in post-production to the 247conspiracytheories video.


(Image source: Lead Stories composite image from YouTube and Instagram screenshots taken on Thu Feb 16 16:07:15 2023 UTC)

In the Lead Stories composite image below, two screenshots from the "Planet Earth" footage on YouTube, at the 0:48 mark and the 1:05 mark, are presented to compare the relative size of the sun in the frame. The size of the sun does not appear to change in the frame, regardless of its proximity to the horizon.


(Image source: Lead Stories composite image from YouTube screenshots taken on Thu Feb 16 16:07:15 2023 UTC)

The Instagram video claims the sun is in the local firmament. This doesn't exist. The local firmament was an ancient belief. In reality, the average distance from the Earth to the sun is 93 million miles. Earth orbits the sun once every 365.25 days. Earth rotates on its axis once every 23.9 hours.

The side of the planet that is illuminated and facing the sun at any given time has daylight, and the side of the planet in shadow has night. Where the sun's light and Earth's shadow meet on the rotating planet is experienced as dawn or dusk, when the sun appears to rise or sink below the horizon. An overview of the solar system at nasa.gov explains how the tilt of Earth's axis as it orbits the sun causes seasonal changes.

Other Lead Stories articles about flat Earth claims can be found here.

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  Sarah Thompson

Sarah Thompson lives with her family and pets on a small farm in Indiana. She founded a Facebook page and a blog called “Exploiting the Niche” in 2017 to help others learn about manipulative tactics and avoid scams on social media. Since then she has collaborated with journalists in the USA, Canada and Australia and since December 2019 she works as a Social Media Authenticity Analyst at Lead Stories.


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