New Delhi: For the last few years a satellite image purportedly showing an illuminated India on Diwali night unfailingly does the rounds on social media websites. But the fact is the image put up by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Geophysical Data Centre has nothing to do with Diwali, the festival of lights. While not exactly a hoax, it is something shown out of context.
The image in question is actually an overlay of different photos taken by NASA satellites over the years to highlight India's increasing population via night illumination. "The white lights were the only illumination visible before 1992. The blue lights appeared in 1992. The green lights in 1998. And the red lights appeared in 2003," explains a post by Robert Johnson on Business Insider. Many bloggers have pointed out that the image isn't what it claims to be, but many Internet users continue to fall for it.
The image presenting a brightly lit India in different colours made it more believable as a Diwali night satellite image. Diwali being the festival of lights when much of the country is brightly and colourfully illuminated and fireworks light up the moonless sky.
Hoax or misrepresented images have a huge potential of going viral on the Internet. Soon after Osama Bin Laden's death a gruesome image, purportedly of the body of al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden spread like a wildfire, with many mainstream news outlets also falling for it. The fake image was based on a Reuters photograph of bin Laden taken in 1998.
A high resolution version of the overlay image showing India at night is available here.