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Sunday, September 6, 2015

Douma Market Attack: Southwest Views Analysis

Douma Market Attack: Southwest Views Analysis
September 6
last edits (re-considering azimuth) Sept. 7) 

We have two useful images from shortly after the alleged jet attack of August 16 that can show roughly where and when the blasts happened, which can help put other things in context. Both views are by opposition activists positioned a ways to the southwest of the smoke plumes, both as the sun was shining from almost right behind them in the early afternoon. 

First view - four distinct plumes, sunlight I think is very slightly from the right/south of behind.

A somewhat later view from further out shows just one massive plume after they've all blurred together. The sun is slightly from the left/west, but again almost from behind the camera, besides from fairly high. Everything we see is lit up by sun from almost above. It's full on mid-day. I've always had a hard time analyzing mid-day videos. 

But luckily the later image at least could be anchored by scenery. The Fayha school of driving at the edge of Mesraba is what we see at the bottom. Earlier, I drew a line from the corner of a building at center, drawn to smoke edge and to a "shoulder" of the distant Mount Snir, gives a line drawn over Google earth 3-D view at right.

Now I would say the lime line should be rotated a few degrees clockwise, from a spot probably a bit west of the start here, to a smoke edge further east (see below), but also looking to/connecting with the mountain further up its ridge. I had 220degrees, +/- 4, for a time range of 1:35-1:50 PM. I now think it's considerably later. Some updates are below.

Next, comparing fields of view - the distant city 'skyline' is here cropped from both top images in the same order (earlier on top), enhanced and sharpened, with a few identifiable common features highlighted in both - mountains in green, 3 taller buildings in orange, less tall in yellow, mosques/minarets in white. The blue-marked dark patch in the center of each is least clear, seemed worth marking and each view has its shade of blue, used for view comparison graphic below. Both being southwest views, the top one (darker  blue) seems a bit closer to west so it's "west", and the bottom one (light blue) is a little more to the S-SW, so it's "south."
Certain things shift from one view to the next, like the minaret vs. dome on the right-hand mosque. Seen from the "west," they almost line up exactly, while from the "south," the minaret seems shifted right of center. That mosque lines up with Mt. Snir differently in each view. The left minaret lines up differently with the yellow area, and that lines up differently with the orange. This is all consistent with the top view being from a position to the left, clockwise, from the lower/later view (and so west vs. south).

I'm not certain how this all lines up, but pretty sure I have all the color-coded features placed in the south-center of Douma, with the Grand Mosque being the furthest thing north I can place, in the south but not west view (again, consistent). Here is all of these mapped on a satellite view from Google Earth, apparent or likely approximate lines of view compared from main mosque minaret and from each known impact area. 

(bottom, detail, minaret shift noted above is consistent with the layout of that mosque.)
I'm sure the blue lines here aren't exactly the right angles, but close enough for a visualization. In fact, it seems to line up fairly well - this is close. The angle of the darker ("west") lines is 221 degrees on the compass. If the sun is 3 degrees from the right (estimate) the solar azimuth would be 218, for a time of 1:38:32 PM. That seems a bit late for the early image... this will need sorted out.

In the lineup, note that's only three plumes explained, the ones on the left, lining up fairly well with the known damage areas. In the photo, we should measure not from the big plumes seen but from the  sheared-off base of each one, an unclear distance east in each case. For example, the one at al-Hal (furthest box east) should appear a bit to the right of that mosque, as it does. So the lineup isn't totally clear but seems consistent.

Implied, then, is that the fourth plume, the darker one on the right, must be off the map here, and not in a location I've seen - or placed anyway. This might be the third market, as described.

In fact, considering the span, the later "south" view might show a fifth impact further yet to the east giving that sharpest line I first measured from. (If so, it was likely later (less blurred) than the others.) But perhaps that's just impact 4, and the different perspective could explain the apparent distance being greater.

Arc of Attack?
(not a view issue, will move)
That mystery plume +4, if not the apparent fifth impact, would likely be in the same arc implied by the other three. That arc might suggest a fixed-range surface rocket firing position to the south-southwest - the same basic direction these images were taken from.  
Revisiting first azimuth measure
That first azimuth measure, yellow lines in the graphic above, was definitely wrong. It should go by at least the 4th plume, slightly to the east (roughly the same distance as between the other strikes). This shift of the line would mean the time on that second image could be earlier. But the distance and thus angle to the shadow on the mountain isn't exact either - that's more likely further northeast, to make it later. And hey ... just what part of the plume is casting that shadow? It's not the base, with sun shining down... The higher parts are all to the west/northwest, drifting. This also shifts later (closer to due west sunlight origin).

These three issues will combine to some degree ... Getting annoyed at myself and more serious, quickly I'll try an easy shortcut. By the hosts's sholder, a wall stiking out at the west end of that field. It's in shadow, but barely. The sun is just past that angle in its arc. I see this wall is not 90 degrees to the back one but has a useful angle I measure as 218 degrees. There's a solid sliver of shadow at its base, foreshortened so likely larger than it appears, so we must be at least a hair past that. Say 219 minimum.

Converting to time: I use NOAA solar calculator, pin on Douma, time zone GMT +2, DST on for August 16, 2015. I get 119 reached around 1:40. This is a certain no earlier than time, but considering the high angle it could be a bit later as well. An azimuth up to 228 makes sense to me, and that happened almost exactly at 2:00. Later angle could make sense, but decreasingly so.

Exact measures not set, may never be, but at least I think this gets us close. Probably filmed shortly before 2:00, say 1:50, +/- 8 minutes.

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