Photographing Earth From the ISS is Not as Easy As You Might Think

Astronaut Thomas Pesquet has shared numerous beautiful photos of Earth taken from the International Space Station, but contrary to popular belief, making these photos isn’t as simple as just hanging out in the space station’s cupola. As spotted by Digital Trends, Pesquet shared the image above along with a few words (in both French and […]

Photographing Earth From the ISS is Not as Easy As You Might Think

Astronaut Thomas Pesquet has shared numerous beautiful photos of Earth taken from the International Space Station, but contrary to popular belief, making these photos isn’t as simple as just hanging out in the space station’s cupola.

As spotted by , Pesquet shared the image above along with a few words (in both French and English) about what goes into making the images he shares on his Flickr and Twitter regularly.

“Good planning for a picture is half the job, and for us it starts with our navigation software,” Pesquet writes. “It allows us to catalogue our targets (although I prepared many in advance before I left Earth).”

Pesquet says that the software he and the other astronauts have access to shows them where it is day and night on Earth and also provides them with cloud cover predictions. But most importantly, he says, it shows future orbits. As useful as this is, it’s not enough information for Pesquet to assure quality images.

“Many people think that we can take a picture of a specific place on Earth on command, but it is much harder than that. First of all our orbits mean we only fly over specific areas periodically. Secondly even if we do fly over an area of interest it might be during night-time so there will be nothing to see unless it is a city with bright streetlights. The lighting in the morning or evening is generally not good enough either (this is why some of the pictures have more pastel colors). Then there are clouds that can get in the way,” he explains.

“Lastly, and not the least, often we pass over areas… when we are working. We cannot drop everything we are doing at 14:35 for example just because we really want to take a picture of a city or a mountain or other marvel of Earth.”

One last thiing worth noting is even if the astronauts are aware of where they are currently orbiting and what should be below them, they still have to spot it from 250 miles above.

“Even if the stars align and we have the time, the orbits and the weather is in our favor… we still need to spot the target from 400 km above and setup the camera settings correctly!” Pesquet says.

For those curious, Pesquet uses a Nikon D5 for his photography, as shown in the EXIF data of the photos shared on Flickr, and a 70-200mm lens. Make sure to follow him on Twitter and check out his Flickr for more photos captured from the orbiting space station.


Image credits: Header photo ESA/NASA

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Apple Threatened to Ban Facebook Over Human Exploitation on Instagram

Newly uncovered information shows Apple threatened to pull Facebook products, including Instagram, out of its App Store after a 2019 investigation revealed Facebook-owned apps were used for human exploitation and the trafficking of slaves. The beginnings of this report go back seeral years, as a BBC News Arabic undercover investigation — published in 2019 — […]

Apple Threatened to Ban Facebook Over Human Exploitation on Instagram

Newly uncovered information shows Apple threatened to pull Facebook products, including Instagram, out of its App Store after a 2019 investigation revealed Facebook-owned apps were used for human exploitation and the trafficking of slaves.

The beginnings of this report go back seeral years, as a BBC News Arabic undercover investigation — published in 2019 — revealed a more disturbing face of Instagram: one that freely allows users to buy and sell domestic workers through a simple post and hashtag combination.

BBC reports that the posts and hashtags used for these illegal sales were mainly in Arabic and were shared by users in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Victims — primarily women — were often categorized by race and offered to be bought for a few thousand dollars.

More recently, followed up on the original BBC investigation in another report — part of its Facebook Files — that suggests the social media giant was aware of the online slave trade before BBC got in contact and had been investigating the issue. The Journal found this information based on a Facebook 2019 internal report.

In that internal report, a Facebook researcher asked, “Was this issue known to Facebook before BBC inquiry and Apple escalation?”

“Yes,” was the response. “Throughout 2018 and [the first half of] 2019 we conducted the global Understanding Exercise in order to fully understand how domestic servitude manifests on our platform across its entire life cycle: recruitment, facilitation, and exploitation.”

After BBC released its 2019 report, Facebook banned the main hashtag used for the illegal slave trade and removed hundreds of accounts from Instagram. However, this has not fully resolved the issue.

“What they are doing is promoting an online slave market,” says Urmila Bhoola, the UN’s special rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery. “If Google, Apple, Facebook, or any other companies are hosting apps like these, they have to be held accountable.”

The recent Wall Street Journal report says that Apple and Google both raised these concerns to Facebook because the illegal sales are in breach of the US tech firms’ rules for app developers and users. Apple reportedly threatened to ban Facebook apps from its app store in response to the 2019 BBC report.

The pressure from the duo prompted Facebook to speed up the implementation of additional investigative and preventive measures that have “found more than 300,000 instances of potential violations and disabled more than 1,000 accounts”.

BBC News Arabic’s undercover investigation

Although it remains a problem at large — as the BBC has found listings still active on Instagram and on other apps — Facebook says that it has been combating human trafficking on its platform for many years and it prohibits exploitation “in no uncertain terms.”

In summary: Facebook was aware of the issues of human exploitation on its apps as early as 2018, a year before the original BBC report, according to documents recently uncovered by the Journal. It wasn’t until after that BBC report was published that Facebook was forced to act more aggressively in its response as Apple and Google supplied considerable pressure to fix the issue once made aware of it.

It points to a reoccurring issue where Facebook is aware of a problem but does not make that problem public nor does it respond in what would be deemed fast enough by the public or its peers without outside pressure. For example, Facebook has been under considerable scrutiny of late thanks to a major report that shows the social media company is aware that its platform is toxic for teen girls and contributes to the deterioration of mental health and self-confidence of some of its users. That report shows Facebook conducted an internal study that confirmed findings that have been alleged by third-party research for years, but did not reveal that information to the public.


Image credits: Header image via BBC documentary.

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