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Friday, September 29, 2017

Analysis: RotaFlight - Near Space Weather Balloon With Gopro To 109 000 Feet Full 4 Hour Video

RotaFlight - Near Space Weather Balloon With Gopro To 109 000 Feet Full 4 Hour Video
The full 4 hour RotaFlight footage is available on YouTube, as well as an edited version with just the highlights.  The edited video is posted by user sivrot (short for Sivert Rotabakk I believe).

Flat Earthers use this footage to claim the Earth is Flat and I use this video to show the Earth is curved.  So I thought I would take a little time to dig into more details about this video so we can use it for more accurate analysis.

Launch Time (approximate, based on YouTube comment and video analysis, +/- 30 minutes):

24 July 2014, circa 4pm (12 minutes, 57 seconds into the video)

The date July 24th is given in the details.  At 1:46:56 in the '4 hour' video we can see Trondheimsfjord, from around 63°27'N /  10°28'E looking West towards the Sun so that is getting towards evening, maybe 5:30pm.  Which would put launch time around 3:45pm.  This was my estimate until I found Sivert's comment which says 4pm (which is likely just a close estimate as well).  We can also see fairly significant shadows being cast eastward which further helps to establish this time as fairly accurate.

Launch Location (approximate, based on video analysis, +/- 100m):

63°43'47.77" N  11°34'44.04" E

Just north of the small Tømmersjøen pond in Verdal, Norway (NOT Tømmersjøen Lake).


Near the end of the short video they give the flight map as (launch is upper right):

Figure 1. Flight Data Map

The Trondheimsfjord was fairly easy to identify.  I worked backwards from that location looking for large features that matched the earlier parts of the video.  I located the Quarry first and from there everything else lines up.

In the 4 hour 'full' video the balloon release occurs at 12:57, and at 13:09 (about 12 seconds into the flight) we can see Tømmersjøen pond fairly clearly:

Figure 2. Tømmersjøen Pond
The launch location is further justified by the identification of several other landmarks at the 14:35 mark:

Figure 3. Looking East

Here is a Google Earth capture showing these features - we see them repeatedly and from higher altitudes, in combination this confirms the launch location with a high degree of accuracy.

Figure 4. Google Earth view looking East

Overhead view of the area:

Figure 5. Google Earth overhead view

This gives us a fairly accurate idea of the launch location, date, and time -- which also tells us the launch elevation was from about 700' MSL and the Sun would be about 38.5° above the horizon.

As previously determined the camera was a GoPro Hero3 White Edition in 1080p mode with a horizontal Field of View of ~94.4°

Celestia CEL Link

At the 1:56:32 mark we get what is possibly the most iconic view of the horizon from this video and is most referenced by Flat Earthers but is not the best curvature by a long shot and this is only 1/3 of the altitude attained.

The horizon is level and nearly dead center of the lens so we have the least amount of distortion and no distortion bending the horizon convex -- in fact, any lens distortion below lens center would bend the convex horizon straight and then would bow it concave (as shown here).

In the shorter, edited video we can see that at 1 hour 30 minutes into the flight we're only at about 13520 meters (Short Video at 4:05), or about 1/3 of our maximum altitude.

Figure 6. 1:56:32 mark, looking out over the Trondheimsfjord
Once you get up closer to the maximum altitude (33124 meters) we are treated with much greater visible curvature:

Figure 7. 3:33:50 mark, near maximum altitude
If this curvature was CAUSED by the lens distortion then it would be consistent when we place the horizon in the same place -- but what we see is increasing curvature of the Horizon with altitude and that curvature matches the curvature we expect if the Earth is a Globe of about 3959 miles radius.

And down lower there is magically no "distortion" through lens center, leaving the horizon very flat.

Figure 7b. Horizon at lower-altitude is flat through lens center

The other thing I would like to take a look at is where the Sun at the 1:56:32 point and how does that play out on a Flat Earth map.  If the launch is at 4pm, and we're 1 hour 56 minutes into the video that puts the time around 17:56 Norway time (15:56 UTC) and we find the Subsolar point for that time is around 19° 47' / 57° 22' W - near San Juan.


Figure 8. subsolar point

And here lies a huge problem for Flat Earth.

That puts the sun some 4300 miles away while showing a "hot spot" way up in Norway?

Figure 9. Google Earth showing where Sun was relative to the "hotspot"
I don't think so Tim.

Other Common Tropes

Add more in comments...

Balloon should travel thousands of miles

This is a strawman of the actual model.  In the real world objects have Inertia, which means that an object in motion will remain in motion until a force acts upon it - the balloon and the air are both already moving with the Earth due to the properties of Fluid Dynamics.

I know that Flat Earthers have a hard time with analogies but for the rest of you, imagine that you fill a bowl with water and put the bowl on an old turn-table and rotate it evenly for a few minutes.  What you will observe is that through forces interacting with the walls of the bowl the water will quickly begin to rotate with the bowl.  As time goes forward more of the water will rotate until it's pretty much all rotating around.   With the Earth, gravity is pulling the air towards the surface all 360 degrees around the Earth and the air interacting with Earth's surface exhibits the same effects.

Any deviation from this is felt as wind since you also are moving along with the Earth.

All of what we observe here fits the standard scientific model of how the world actually works.

And no, you wouldn't fly off into space due to Earth's spin either.

Combined Graphic for quick debunking:

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