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Katelyn Ferral
By Katelyn Ferral February 23, 2024

NASA is not altering pictures of Canada and passing them off as Mars images

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  • No, NASA is not editing images from Canada and passing them off as photos of Mars. Similar claims have been debunked numerous times.

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NASA satellites have made it easy to find authentic photos of Mars, but some social media claims say these aren’t actually images of the red planet. 

A Feb. 21 Instagram video claims NASA is altering photos of Earth’s landscapes to make them look like Mars. 

The video shows two identical, side-by-side photos, one labeled "Mars" and the other labeled "Devon Island," the world’s largest uninhabited island located in the Arctic Archipelago.

"The photos have a little bit of Photoshop … allegedly this is Columbia Hills, Mars," he said. "Clicking auto-tone in Photoshop, looks identical, the landscape does."

This Instagram post was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

NASA has said in prior news reports it is not passing off photos of Canada — or any other country — as Mars. 

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The photo labeled Mars in the video appears on NASA’s website and is from 2004, according to the agency. The "Columbia Hills" refers to a range of low hills inside a crater on Mars’ surface, named to honor the Space Shuttle Columbia whose crew perished upon reentering the earth’s atmosphere in 2003. 

The photo labeled "Devon Island" in the Instagram photo is identical; there’s no evidence it’s from Canada. A reverse Google image search does not link the photo to any existing photos in Canada.

NASA does field research on Devon Island because the landscapes are similar to Mars. The island, which is in the Arctic Ocean off the coast of Canada, hosts the Haughton-Mars Project, which includes a research facility NASA uses because it mimics Mars’ environment. 

"Devon Island’s barren terrain, freezing temperatures, isolation, and remoteness offer scientists and personnel unique research opportunities," according to NASA’s website.

A similar conspiracy theory surfaced in February 2021, claiming that NASA had released fake photos of Mars that were really images of a Bulgarian rock formation. That claim was debunked by USA Today, Reuters and Agence France-Presse. NASA confirmed in 2021 that it took none of the photos. Another debunked claim in 2022 alleged that NASA said photos from Ireland were from Mars.

We rate the claim that pictures of Mars are actually Devon Island, Canada, False.


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NASA is not altering pictures of Canada and passing them off as Mars images

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