New 'Spelfie' App Takes Photos of You from Space

The first "Spelfie" (left), a satellite photo organized by teenage environmental campaigner Isabel Wijsen to raise awareness about the problem of plastic pollution on Bali's beaches.
The first "Spelfie" (left), a satellite photo organized by teenage environmental campaigner Isabel Wijsen to raise awareness about the problem of plastic pollution on Bali's beaches. (Image credit: Spelfie Ltd. and Isabel Wijsen)

Space selfies are now a thing.

A free app called Spelfie lets users snap photos of themselves from very high above, courtesy of cameras aboard Airbus Earth-observation satellites

Those cameras aren't powerful enough to capture your grinning face, of course (though they can pick out individual trees and cars, according to Spelfie representatives). But space selfies can provide a new perspective on your attendance at big events like concerts and football games, or serve as platforms for getting the word out about issues that are important to you.

Related: Earth Day 2019: These Amazing NASA Images Show Earth from Above

For example, the first-ever "spelfie," taken this past June, features a group of people lined up on a beach to form the words "Act Now." These folks are villagers on the Indonesian island of Bali, and they're trying to raise awareness about the scourge of plastic pollution afflicting this tropical paradise and many other places around the world. 

That pioneering spelfie was just revealed this week in the BBC documentary "Saving Our Beautiful Bali," which chronicles the efforts of teenage environmental campaigner (and "Act Now" organizer) Isabel Wijsen. 

"Spelfie is a movement of people who want to change the world and make a difference through social media and imagery," Chris Newlands, CEO of Scotland-based Spelfie, said in a statement. "The power of a spelfie can help raise awareness globally, encouraging others to join in and want to make a difference, too, just as Isabel did for the Bye Bye Plastic Bags movement in Bali." 

In case you're wondering how a spelfie works, that same statement provides the following explainer: "Once an event has been confirmed on the Spelfie app by partners and sponsors, the user then chooses the event they wish to attend. They then take a selfie at the designated time and place and wait for their spelfie to land from space on the same day."

The cameras aboard the Airbus satellites are optical, meaning they cannot peer through clouds. So the weather has to cooperate for your spelfie to come through as planned. 

Mike Wall's book about the search for alien life, "Out There" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), is out now. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook

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Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.