A reader of this newspaper called regarding a photograph of the Moon she received via an unsolicited e-mail dated July 23.
"The e-mail has a photo of the Moon over the North Pole and claiming it was 'at its closest point' and has never been so large in the sky," the caller said. "It's beautiful." But she wanted to know more: "Is it real?"
The caller next forwarded the e-mail to this writer. It included text and the photograph in question; the image is supposed to show a larger-than-normal crescent Moon above the setting Sun.
The mysterious image purports to have been taken at the North Pole during the week of May 11, 2009. Ice-free ocean water and low hills also appear in the image.
The image has all the earmarks of fakery.
The e-mail image shows a waxing crescent Moon for May 11, 2009. A quick glance at an astronomical almanac for May 2009 shows that the waning gibbous phase was visible during the week of May 11-not the crescent phase. Also, the Moon in this image is enormous-it's simply too large to be believable as seen in the sky from Earth. But there are other clues: open water and hills in the picture. There is no land within hundreds of miles of the North Pole.
We had New Market Press news photographer J. Kirk Edwards of Ferrisburgh study the image.
"It looks like it's 'photoshopped' to me," he said. "Perhaps two or more images blended together?"
This writer contacted Quark Expeditions, an adventure- travel firm based in Norwalk, Conn. Quark organizes annual expeditions to the North Pole aboard a Russian nuclear-powered icebreaker. The trips are conducted during late June and July when it is safest to travel to the far north.
Prisca Campbell, marketing manager at Quark, last visited the pole in the summer of 2008; she looked at the e-mail and said its North Pole image is doctored.