This blog is for nonprofit, educational purposes - media is incorporated for educational purposes as outlined in § 107 of the U.S. Copyright Act.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Flat Earth Follies: GoFast July 14, 2014 Rocket Launch

Flat Earth Claim

The Earth is Flat! 100% Video Proof. Globe Earth Debunked

GoFast July 14, 2014 Rocket Launch Proves the Earth is Flat because you can see the moon.

Figure 1. The Claim

Also here and Reffi made a video about it.


Prediction - this will consist of more (hopefully well-intentioned) Flat Earth misrepresentations, misunderstandings, and conclusion jumping, as evidenced in the title of Reffi's video:

The Earth is Flat! 100% Video Proof. Globe Earth Debunked

This implies they have the necessary skills and have taken the necessary care in evaluating the evidence and I think it becomes evident that they do not have the necessary skills and have not taken the necessary care in evaluating the evidence here.  I hope I have done a better job, but it is foolish to call ANY analysis "100% Proof" of anything.  So I simply offer my refutation with as much detail as I can.

The Scene

Somewhere in the Black Rock Desert, Nevada
Morning July 14, 2014
14:32 UTC / 07:32AM Pacific 

Figure 2. Location

Ky Michaelson and the Civilian Space eXploration Team (CSXT) launch the fastest amateur rocket ever launched.  In well under two minutes from launch it would hit 3,580 mph and reach 385,800 feet above mean sea level (about 73.1 miles or 117.59km) before falling back to Earth.

In the posted CSXT video, the moon is first visible approximately 1 min 22 seconds into launch, very near apex, so that puts us at roughly 14:34 UTC time (a few minutes either side of the exact time does not make a perceptible change in the astronomical positions) and at roughly 117.59km above the Earth.

I do not know their exact GPS launch coordinates, nor exactly where the rocket was at the time of observation but we know the position well enough and we know the times and altitudes well enough that we can check the view from that area and see if it comports with the Globe model or the Flat Earth model.

Astronomical Data

Black Rock Desert
Latitude: N 40°56'10.82'' / 40.93634°
Longitude: W 119°5'30.48'' / -119.09180°
Ground Elevation: 1190m
Rocket Altitude: 385,800' / 73.1 miles / 117.59 km

Lunar Position from Black Rock Desert ( at 07:34 UTC-7 (localtime)
Altitude: 8.83°
Azimuth: 248.27°
Figure 3. Moon position from Black Rock Desert

So the moon would have appeared 8.83° over the horizon at this point from the ground view.  But our rocket is 73.1 miles up so we get to see a little more room between the Moon and our Horizon (about 10.9° between level and where the Horizon falls ~764.13 miles away from our rocket).

I also found the sub-lunar point at the time of observation, which is the point on Earth where the moon would have appeared directly overhead.

Sub-lunar Point
Latitude: S 9°44'0.31'' / -9.73342°
Longitude: E 172°27'38.31'' / 172.46064°

Figure 4. Sub-lunar point at time of observation

Now the claim was that the moon was "over Australia" but this is actually some 1700 miles off the coast at an azimuth/direction of about 65.5° (North-East), or due north of New Zealand.

You can see in this map that the moonlight is easily reaching western Nevada from this point.

So I'm not sure even on what basis these people then claim that you couldn't see the moon at this time "on a Globe model".  But, please, tell me exactly where the moon "should be" on the Globe model to result in this view - because based on my analysis here it is exactly where it should be.


Now, let's use Celestia to see if this view comports with our Globe model.

For this exercise I urge the read to review my notes on Curvilinear (fish-eye) lens distortion in my post on High Altitude observations.  But for a very quick review... if you took a perfect grid of lines and took a picture of it with a GoPro (which has a curvilinear lens) it would look like this, with the lines bowed out from the middle:

Figure 5. Effect of Curvilinear lens distortion on a grid

This distortion is VERY easy to correct, you just have to bend the lines back to straight which kinds of compresses the view in the middle a bit.  To make a long story short, the fact that they used a GoPro will not present only the slightest difficulty to our evaluation in that the image we will see in Celestia will be perfectly rectilinear and we will have to apply some correction to the GoPro image to compare them.  Maybe the Celestia team will add curvilinear projection at some point.

Once you have Celestia (which is a free download) running here is how to setup your view to (roughly) match that of the rocket.  I like to turn on orbits and a grid for better orientation, you can set it up however you wish and then proceed.

The first thing we want to do is stop the timer.  Hit [space] and you'll see 'Paused' appear in the upper-right corner.

Next, select menu option Time > Set Time - leave the TimeZone as Universal Time and enter Julian Date as 2456853.10696 and hit Tab.  This should set the Date and Time to 14 Jul 2014 17:34:01 without all the fiddling with the entry fields.  Then click [OK]

Next, let's find our latitude and longitude position over the Earth, use Navigation > Go to Objection, make sure the object is Earth and enter the decimal latitude and longitude values:
Latitude: 40.93634
Longitude: -119.09180
Distance: 117.59 km
Then click [Go To]

You should see a very blurry view of the ground, way too close unless you have installed higher resolution Earth images.

Next use Navigation > Select Object and enter 'Moon' and click [OK]

Now type the letter 'c' (for center).

You should be seeing something like this.  We can already see the ocean just about where it appears in the video and the moon at about the same height over the horizon.

Figure 6. Finding the Moon in Celestia

If you have enabled Celestia URLs you can click on this link to match the view.

The next things we need to adjust require trial and error.  Go to Help > Controls for information about how to control the view but the key controls we need are just the following:

Left-Button + Drag will Orient the Camera.
Left/Right Arrow will Roll the View
Shift-Left-Button + Drag will change the Field of View (FOV)

So go head and practice using these controls to position the Earth in the right orientation and use the FOV adjustment to make the moon the right size to match the image from the video.

We can already see that the view comports pretty well with the video.  The Earth appears more curved in Celestia because it doesn't have atmosphere, glare, exposure, and lens distortion to worry about - but we will get to that...

Here is the image I ended up with after rotating around and tweaking my view.  I scaled both the original and Celestia to fullscreen and tried to 'roughly' align everything.  I'm not worried here about being a few pixels off.

Figure 7. Orient and set Field of View to match photo

The CSXT Video

Now I want to compare our information to the images we see in the video itself.  Of course, they use a GoPro which has a wide-angle lens and to keep things cheap they use a "fish-eye" or curvilinear lens instead of a much bulkier and expensive rectilinear lens (a good wide-angle rectilinear lens will cost you around $2000-$3000 and is fairly large and heavy due to all the corrective elements required) which means we will need to deal with that.  However... we can easily convert between rectilinear and curvilinear with software.  For our purposes here I'm going to use a free, online correction tool called Kako so that you can replicate this yourself.  Photoshop has a whole lens database and can correct all kinds of lens defects.

So here is my raw image from the video at 1:23 when the horizon is fairly level with the camera.  Of note here is that the horizon is still showing positive curvature even with the horizon is well below the center of the lens.  Flat Earthers love to complain about fish-eye lens but in the next image we will see that the fish-eye effect is hiding the true curvature here.

Figure 8: Raw Capture From CSXT Video circa 1:23

So now we can go into Kako and upload this image and correct the fish-eye distortion (upload your image, select Lens 18, and click [Config] button), giving us our roughly rectilinear image (and we can see that correcting for the GoPro Lens we have significantly more apparent curvature):

Figure 9. Frame capture from CSXT Video corrected for GoPro curvilinear lens distortion

And finally we can overlay this image with the Celestia image above and see that we have a very good match between the shape of the horizon and the position of the moon and the ocean.  My Celestia moon was a few pixels too small in the end so I probably need to slightly zoom in to get a slightly better alignment.

Figure 10. Celestia and corrected CSXT images overlayed

When you make a Flat Earth model that is this accurate I'll worry about getting it perfect.  But WOW - We took a rough latitude, longitude, time (from TWO years ago), and altitude and we very closely matched a photograph from space all using "Globe Math".  I love it when a plan comes together.

Flat Earth Model?

Now let's look at this data on the favorite 'flat map' of the Flat Earth community, the Gleason map.  If you have some other 'flat map' you would like to use please share with the rest of us.  Of course, the ugly truth of the Flat Earth movement is that they have NO working map that is both Area and Distance accurate and they have no working model that is based on a FLAT geometry which can predict sunrise/sunset times, azimuths, and elevations - much less one for lunar observations.  So this is the best I can do for them but it shows the absurdity of the Gleason map, and all similarly conceived maps quite well.

I made a white spot with red outline 'about' where the moon should be and I marked out 248.22° from the Black Rock Desert area and it ISN'T EVEN CLOSE.   It's pointing thousands of miles away from the direction of the moon.  How is this "100% Proof"?

Figure 10. Lunar position and view doesn't work on Gleason Flat Map

To me this should be an embarrassment to the Flat Earth community.  If you want to be taken seriously you should take your evaluations more seriously.

The Flat Earth community rails about how "NASA Lies" but their own community is the one repeatedly busted for faking their data, faking photographs, and even faking that 'Moon Hoaxer' film about Kuberik.

Additional Information

Figure 11. CSXT Team - Flickr

Figure 12. Lunar Position chart aligns with mooncalc
Ky's response on the video:

Figure 13. Ky's post on video with launch time & timezone


  1. I hate to say it but you had me believing you until you had to bring in all the computer applications to prove math. in my mind that only tells me that the apps have been created to correlate with scientific theories and math that coincidentally is always just a bit too advanced for my evolved brain to handle. Good thing I have so many smart scientists to stand around and tell me what is right and wrong. Oh wait even Tyson Degasse says it's an oblate spheroid shape not a perfect circle. Why does he still show me perfectly sphere images without even questioning their aunthenticity?!? And Bill Nye said something different than that even. You people should stop listening to scientists tell you the math adds up and start opening your eyes and asking yourself what the senses you were born with are telling you. Do research for yourselves, don't rely on an app, that is absolutely ridiculous!

    1. LOL Flat Earthers are such dishonest pieces of shit.

      How about this -- YOU ***PROVE*** to me the Moon was where they LIED and said it was and then YOU PROVE to me that you couldn't possibly see it from where the rocket was on a Globe. Try doing that instead of just asserting it.

      When you can do that THEN AND ONLY THEN will you have a valid objection.

      What I *SHOWED* is that it fits exactly to the standard heliocentric model as implemented in Celestia. BTW: Celestia is OPEN SOURCE so you can go verify the calculations (well, maybe you could if you weren't such a dumbass)...

      And if you think Celestia is wrong then PROVE it -- prove that it shows the Moon in the wrong location. Nevermind that people all around the Globe use it to PLAN and execute observations all the time.

      But you see NO value in the fact that this program can take some fairly RANDOM time & date and get EXACTLY the same view as the Rocket? Riiiiiiight...

      "says it's an oblate spheroid shape not a perfect circle. Why does he still show me perfectly sphere images"

      Another ignorant lie from an ignorant flat earther -- what a shocker.

      Let's put your ignorance to the test...

      How oblate is the Earth exactly? How many miles wider is it exactly? How many PIXELS is that in one of the EPIC or Himawari 8 images? Show me your calculations and then show me your source image and exact data where you determined this.


      Because when I count the pixels it's oblate. Now show me YOUR research which you did right? because you said "Do research for yourselves" so you MUST have done this right? So tell me, genius, how many pixels wide and high is the Earth in the EPIC/DSCOVR images?

      And you also FAILED to notice I already had a post on this...

      But you know you didn't do any research -- you lied, you don't actually do any research, you don't have a clue what you are talking about, you don't even know HOW to check these things. You didn't bother to find out that Celestia is open source, you didn't bother to check the calculations it does, you didn't bother to post ANYTHING AT ALL that actually calls the results into question.

      You just ignorantly posted random assertions like a typical Flat Earther.

      Here try something simple:

      Distance from North Pole to Equator is impossible on Flat Earth given the distance around Equator:

      This Sunset is impossible on a Flat Earth as the Sun could NEVER be in that direction:

      The angle of Polaris equals your latitude is impossible on a Flat Earth:


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.