Nothing makes me feel more connected to the rest of the human race than seeing images of Earth from space, especially those taken at night.
National borders vanish, and rivers of light unite our towns and cities into a single glowing tapestry. It makes the planet resemble a giant, glowing, orb-shaped spaceship drifting through the void of space.
Just look at this incredible view of Europe, sparkling with artificial light:
Er, wait a minute.
If you’ve seen enough images of Earth from space at night, or you care to look closely enough, this image looks funny — and yet it has been shared all over the internet as a legitimate NASA photograph.
Seeing is believing, though. Compare it to this photograph of the Iberian Peninsula, taken by an astronaut aboard the International Space Station in July 2014:
As it turns out, the first — and arguably more breathtaking — image is actually a computer rendering created by Russian graphic artist Anton Balazh (Антон Балаж).
Scroll to see more of Balazh’s mind-boggling views of Earth and learn how he pulled them off.
It may be hard to believe, but this is not a real image of Earth from space at night.
Yes, this is northern Europe. But no, it is not a photo.
Nope, not the real United Kingdom.