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Here’s How That Photo of Statue of Unity ‘From Space’ Was Taken

Is the statue of unity really visible to the naked eye? Let us try and understand.

Updated
India
2 min read
The image, tweeted by Planet Labs is supposedly a ‘Oblique SkySat image’, and shows the 597-feet Statue of Unity standing tall along the Narmada river.
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An image of the Statue of Unity taken from space by US-based earth imaging company Planet Labs has created a flutter on social media, with the accompanying tweet claiming the world’s tallest statue can be ‘clearly seen’ from space.

The image, tweeted by Planet Labs is supposedly a ‘Oblique SkySat image’, and shows the 597-foot structure.

The tweet and the photo have led many to believe that the statue can be seen with the naked eye from space, but is that true? Let’s look at what is being claimed.

STEP 1: WHAT IS A SKYSAT IMAGE?

SkySat is a cluster of earth observation satellites developed by Planet Labs which provide high-definition imagery, video and analytics for commercial purposes. The data from SkySat help analyse movement of goods and people, industrial activity, shipping and even humanitarian relief work.

According to Ars Technica, Planet Labs’ 13 SkySats orbit at a height of 450 kms above the surface of the earth and have a resolution of 80 cm per pixel, which explains the distance from which the image of the statue appears to have been captured, and the clear magnification.

At this magnification, a number of cars and small structures can also be seen along with the Statue of Unity, but it would stretch credulity to assert, based on just this photo, that they are all ‘visible from space’. 
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STEP 2: NOW, WHAT IS AN OBLIQUE SKYSAT IMAGE?

While traditional satellite images show a flat surface of the earth, an oblique satellite image is taken from (you guessed it) an oblique angle — thereby giving a 60-70 percent difference in the view as compared to a directly overhead image, reported Ars Technica.

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BACKGROUND

The towering structure, built at a cost of Rs 2,989 crore, is nearly twice the height of Statue of Liberty in United States and also bigger than the Spring Temple Buddha in China (153 metres) and Japan’s Ushiku Daibustum (120 metres).

Along with the Statue of Unity, Gujarat Tourism has added many attractions nearby for sight-seeing. Two tent cities have been created along the backwater lakes of the Narmada dam reservoir for tourists who want to stay there.

(This story has been updated for clarity.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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