Monday, January 16, 2012

What Can We Learn from the Fake HMO Image Incident?

Image purported to be of a large object near 89 Leo, allegedly taken on January 9, 2012 using the GRAS (now iTelescope) scopes. The alleged coordinates are RA 11 34 21 DEC 03 03 35, click on image to embiggen for detail. However, it is a photshopped copy of one of my images from 18 September 2010.

As you may know, one of my images of comet 103P (Hartely 2) has been taken, had a fake planet added to it, and the doctored image has been circulating as evidence of Nibiru (or at least a Heavy Mass Object, whatever that is). Now, while I’m annoyed that someone has fraudulently modified one of my images, I’m more interested in using this as a teachable moment.

What lessons can we learn from this, and what resources are there for people to learn about the sky and help them interpret images posted on the web?

Before we start, here’s a list of freeware programs you can use in our exploration of astronomical images on the net:

GIMP Free image processing program
Celestia 3D Solar Simulation program
Stellarium Planetarium program
Cartes du Ciel Free sky charting software
WikiSky Astronomy image analysis prgram
Aerith Comet location and information
Minor Planet Center Comet and Asteroid Ephemeris

Part 1: How can we tell the Image of the purported Heavy Mass Object/Nibiru is a fake.

Evaluating images takes some degree of astronomical knowledge and some degree of experience with astrophotography, but I’m going to start with some simple clues that you can get with very basic knowledgee of the solar system. First off, let’s look at the image circulating on the web that claims to be of 89 Leo with a planetary object in it (image at the head of the post, click to embiggen).

With no knowledge of where or when the image was taken (or of the fact that it is a Photoshopped version of one of my images), what clues are there that this is a fake:

First Clue to Fakery: The object is a crescent. I’ve already alluded to this in my previous post, but to re-iterate, this object is supposed to be outside Earth’s orbit. It is impossible for an object outside Earth’s orbit to show a crescent. See the diagram just above, to visualise this.

Second Clue to Fakery: Have a look at the image to the left (it's my original image, it's also in the image at the head of the post), see the long fuzzy blob there, that’s a comet.

The comet’s image has trailed as when you take long exposures, things like comets, asteroids and planets move with respect to the background stars. In this case, I actually took 4x90 second images and stacked them up to improve the brightness, because I aligned all the images so that the stars were in focus, the comet shows as a trail, you can see here where I have stacked the same batch of images on the comet rather than the stars the comet is clear and the stars are trailed (but for the purposes, we don’t need to know that at the moment).

Looking back to the comet you can see the faint tail pointing off to the bottom. Now, one of the important things about comets is that the tail points away from the Sun. With the dust tails things are slightly more complex, as the tail curves, and if the comet is directly in Earth’s orbital plane the comet can hide the dust tail, (see here for a complex tail of comet 2009 P1 Garradd), but the point is that the tail will not be pointing AT the Sun.

Relationship of the orbit of comet 103P Hartley 2 with regard to the Earth and the Sun. 103P is outside and above Earth's orbit, so any object near 103P in the T05 imager must be outside Earth;'s orbit and hence not a crescent. Simulation in Celestia, click to embiggen.

Why is this important? Because look at the crescent object. The Sunlight must be coming from the bottom left to illuminate the object to give it a crescent shape.

But the comets tail means that the Sun must be towards the top right. The crescent object has been pasted in without any regard to the Sun’s location. You can use Celestia, and this set of elements for 103P, to play with the comets orbit to demonstrate this to your satisfaction.

Still another clue comes from the object being a crescent. As we saw above, the crescent is facing the wrong way with regard to the Sun, but it is also too far away from the Sun. Thin crescents as seen in the doctored image (and crescent Mercury, crescent Venus and the Crescent Moon), can only show up when the body in question is nearly between us and the Sun.

The thin crescent moon can be as far away as 25 degrees, Venus 23 degrees. However, this object is fully 115 degrees from the Sun on 9 January (if it was actually near 89 Leo, it's a bit further way using the real location) , which would mean it could not be a crescent. Thus it cannot be an actual object, but something pasted in later (here's an example of my animations of the phases of Venus).

Third Clue to Fakery: As mentioned above, when taking long exposures (6 minutes in this case), solar system object are trailed because they move with respect to the distant stars. The comet has trailed out into a rod shape because of this movement. Now look at the crescent, it is crisp without any trailing. Any solar system object closer than Neptune will show significant trailing (and even Neptune will show some trailing). So this can’t be an image of an actual solar system object, but a pasted in image.

103P Hartley as viewed against the background constellations on 18 September 2010, as seen form Earth. Simulated in Celestia (click to embiggen)

Those are all fairly simple ways you can check that an image is fake with relatively little astronomical knowledge. Let’s look at some ways to check that require a bit more expertise.

Is the Image actually in Leo? The text on the image purporting to show the alleged HMO states that the image was taken of 89 Leo on the 9th of January, 2012. How can we check this? Well, aside from the fact that it is identical to an image I posted on the 20th of September 2010 (apart from the added crescent object), we can use a number of clues. Once again, the comet is our guide.

The area around PGC 71451, as seen in WikiSky (left) and from my image of 18-09-2010 (which is identical to the image claimed to be from 9 January 2012, except for the added crescent object). The boxes surround PGC 71451 in both images. You can see that my image (and by extension the photoshopped image) is identical to the Wikisky field. I've had to rotate my image slightly to match the orientation in WikiSky. Click to embiggen.

First, head over to Seiichi Yoshida's Aerith (or cometography), and look at the list of bright observable comets. Note that there are no comets in Leo at the moment. So the image can’t be in Leo. So where is it?

Next head over to I usually use for identifying fields in the STEREO spacecraft imager, but you can use it to identify other astrophotos as well. You will need to login using your Google or Facebook ID, upload the original image (restricting the search to Leo otherwise the run will take 24-48 hours), and you will get no matches. Run it again restricting to Andromeda, and it will match to the section of Andromeda where the galaxy PGC 71451 is. It’s not an image taken in Leo. run demonstrating that the image is taken in Andromeda, not Leo. Click to embiggen.

Another clue is that on the 9th of January, the nearly full Moon was 60 degrees from 89 Leo. Any long exposures taken this close to the full Moon would be badly affected by moonlight, but this image is not contaminated with moonlight (see my image of the supernova in Leo taken on 10 January for how it would look).

Is it where I say it is (in Andromeda)? Well, we’ve already used to locate the area, and WikiSky as well to confirm that it is indeed an image taken with PGC 71451 in it. Can we double check.

Yes, but the next bit is a bit more tricky. You will need a decent astronomy charting program which can allow you to add other bodies like comets (such as Cartes du Ceil), then head over to the Minor Planet Center, and generate an Ephemeris for 103P (Hartley 2) for 18 September 2010 by typing 103P into the entry box, add the coordinates to your charting program (the MPPEC gives a list of programs it can expert directly to) and Hey Presto! You will see 103P near PGC 71451, just as in my image. You can also use Stellarium, but you will need to download the pack of extra stars, or the images won’t match up. Because 103P is no longer bright, you will need to specially import the 1 line MPEC elements for 103P into Stellarium for it to show up.

Difference overlay of my image and the image allegedly in 89 Leon using the GIMP. (click to enlarge)

You can also use the GIMP (which I use a lot for astrophotography), to overlay my image and the doctored image. You can overlay them and use the difference command in overlay mode to show up differences. Note that the vast majority of the image is nulled out, except the added labels and (although this is a bit hard to see, so you will need to embiggen) the crescent object.

The comet is critical here as well. If this was someone else's image, the comet would have been in a slightly different part of the image, and not nulled out as it is here.

Summary: We have now demonstrated that-

a) The image purportedly of 89 Leo on 9 January 2012 is a copy of my image of of the comet 103P taken on 18-09-2010 near PGC 71451 in Leo.

b) The crescent object is a pasted in fake.

Part 2: What do I do now.

This was a bit exhaustive (and exhausting), but it’s shown how you can use several clues to determine if an image is faked. Of course, not all images claiming to be extraordinary events are faked, often they are simple mis-identification of things such as jet contrails, internal camera or telescope reflections, Venus and other bright stars taken out of focus and so on. But using the same principles (where was the image taken, how do solar system bodies line up) you can work out if what is being presented is something startling, or much more mundane.

Hot pixels seen in my and the doctored image that Don Gilson claims is a "structure". Left panel, hot pixels when the image is stacked on the stars, right image hot pixels when image stacked on the comet.

For example, in his youtube video dealing with the image, Don Gilson makes much of a series of dots in one part of the image, claiming it is a “structure”, but it’s just a series of hot pixels (pixels in the CCD chip in the camera that are jammed permanently on).

Because the image is constructed from a stack of 4 individual 90 second exposures, (re-calibrated between each exposure), the stars drift slightly between the exposures, so the hot pixels are not in the same place (in the companion image, constructed by stacking the frames on the comet, rather than the stars, the hot pixels trail horizontally). I also did a second image stacking the same frames on the comet, and you can see the pixels trail differently.

Hot pixels are the bane of astrophotographers (not only do they mess up pretty shots, they can be mistaken for asteroids), and there are a few groups of then in the image. However, you have to have a bit of experience with CCD astrophotography to recognise hot pixels.

With programs like Stellarium and Cartes du Ceil you can work out what you are looking at, Celestia allows you to simulate planetary systems and events. Using these is a lot of fun, and you will learn a lot about the sky and solar system while you are at it.


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