While most experts have been focusing on what they believe is the dictatorship's most technologically advanced missile, some scholars were looking at the background instead - more specifically the sky on the night of the test launch.
Wednesday's missile test reached the highest altitude ever recorded by a North Korean missile and the state-run Korean Central News Agency claims it's capable of reaching the U.S. In response to the test last week, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called on China to do more to rein in North Korea, specifically through restraining the country's oil supply.
"In the clean dark sky, you can see flashes from a missile from that long distance", he said.
David C. Wright, a senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, wrote in a report Tuesday that the Cathay crew most likely had seen the missile's first stage burn out and fall back to earth.
"Two images from clearly same viewpoint, but dramatically different star backgrounds!"
Not all the images appear to be tampered with, Langbroek said. "Stars just don't look that different a few miles apart, and we have no reason to disbelieve that this launch was from the Pyongsong region north of Pyongyang".
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Essentially, Langbroek suggested the stars in the background don't match up with the viewpoints from which the photos were taken.
Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, pointed out to CNN that the stars in the photo looked too clear for a picture capturing a missile's rapid ascent. The starry background helps highlight the missile and give it an ethereal quality, giving the photograph some texture that a near pitch-black background would not.
North Korea has conducted most of this year's missiles tests during daylight hours, and background landmarks help analysts locate exactly where a missile was launched. The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) in October condemned the rogue state for its repeated launches, saying they severely undermined the safety of international civilian flying.
However, he said not all the images appeared to be tampered with. Early last month, US officials told CNN that the North was developing a new, more advanced ICBM, one potentially superior to the Hwasong-14 ICBM tested twice successfully in July.
"Yeah, I think somewhat just wanted to make it pretty".