Credit: Adam Block/Mount Lemmon SkyCenter/University of Arizona.

I obtain a lot of email from folks with pseudoscience claims. It can be the the earth is actually flat, or that the sunlight is powered by electricity, or the Einstein to be wrong about gravity. Bonus point out if the email also calls me an you are fool or part of the expensive illuminati. But in the world of pseudoscience another popular approach is to do a insurance claim based upon part image. There"s no referenced resource or clear history of the image, just a snapshot and a claim. But even because that pseudoscience, this is simply being lazy, since in the information age images can often be tracked to their resource with minimal effort.

You are watching: 5 h 42m 21.0s 22° 36′ 45.7″

Let"s look in ~ an example. Here"s photo I acquired in the letter this week. That looks choose some strange winged earth or star, and also it is declared this is photo of Nibiru. Relying on who you listen to, Nibiru is red dwarf near the Sun, or a hidden planet in the external solar system, or the Sun"s stellar companion. The only thing Nibiru people seem to agree upon is that it"s heading our method and can kill us all. If you execute a fast Google picture search, sure enough you discover several YouTube videos and also blog short articles claiming it"s an image of Nibiru. Nobody of them offer any resource to the image, therefore no happiness there.

But there are a few things we can tell indigenous the photo right turn off the bat. The first that it"s in color, so it"s probably a composite false-color image. In astronomy us don"t take color images, us take black and white photos at details wavelength ranges. If we desire a shade image, we have actually to combine images bring away at various wavelengths to create a shade image. Occasionally this is done with the score of making the image as true to life as possible, however often we develop "false color" images to make specific features much more prominent. We execute this due to the fact that we desire to capture as lot light as possible, and color digital cameras aren"t very great at that. Over there is likewise some message written on the side:

IRIS 1473:3 (NI2b) 2003UB313


The object as watched in Google Sky.

Credit: DSS Consortium, SDSS, NASA/ESA, together screencapped native Google Sky.

It every looks official and government like, but was probably added to the image, since raw photos aren"t stamped on the image. They room usually FITS filesthat have the timestamp and such as metadata. IRIS is the name of a solar satellite, theInterface region Imaging Spectrograph. Yet it wasn"t even launched until June the 2013. 2003UB313 is the designation for the dwarf earth Eris, and NI2b can refer to nickel boride. It"s hard to say. IRIS couldn"t have taken picture in 2003, and also Eris doesn"t remotely look favor this. However going with the Google photo links, ns came throughout a reference noting that the object can be viewed in Google Sky, at appropriate Ascension 5h 42m 21.0s, and Declination 22° 36′ 45.7. Certain enough, if girlfriend look up that location, you uncover a comparable object. Now we"re obtaining somewhere.

As an interesting side note, numerous of the Nibiru write-ups talk about a conspiracy where Google blocked the end that ar of Google skies when people found it, presumably to hide Nibiru native the basic public. But Google is really clear about its sources. They give credit come the DSS Consortium, SDSS and NASA/ESA. The DSS Consortium is a Digitized skies Survey that has actually digitized photographic bowl from early on sky surveys, most substantially the Palomar Observatory sky Survey (POSS). The initial sky survey (POSS I) to be done in 1958. A second, greater resolution survey (POSS II) was done in the 1980s and also 1990s. These have actually been digitized and are freely obtainable to the general public. Choose what part of the sky you want to see, and you can get the yes, really images. The only record is that the site wants places in decimal levels rather than the old institution hours, minutes, seconds. I could convert it by hand, however why not let an digital converter carry out the heavy lifting. Bada bing, bada boom, and we haveRA: 85.5875, DEC: 22.6125. Plug these right into the online DSS archive, and also we have our images. By default the site offers you the raw FITS files, i beg your pardon is what astronomers use, but it will likewise give girlfriend a GIF if girlfriend like. The resolution is quite low, yet it does check that this is the object in question.

Left: DSS color composite. Middle: 2MASS composite. Right: way composite.

Credit: ADS All skies Survey

The pretty thing about sky surveys is that they space still law them, and most the the data is publicly available. So why no look increase the object in various other surveys? One great resource is the ADS All skies Survey, which has actually data from several sources. The quite thing around this specific site is that when you discover your object, friend can choose images from number of sky surveys. The image above shows three of them. The one on the left supplies the DSS data us found before to create a "real color" image. The middle picture uses data indigenous theTwo Micron All-Sky survey (2MASS), which concentrates on infrared wavelengths close come the clearly shows spectrum. The picture on the best is native theWide-field Infrared Survey traveler (WISE), which looks at much longer infrared wavelengths.

It"s quite clear that this thing is glowing in the infrared as well as the visible, and that the odd wing attributes are most apparent at visible wavelengths. This is a usual characteristic the T Tauri kind stars. These room young stars quiet in the process of forming. Unlike our Sun, i m sorry generates its heat from atom fusion, T Tauri stars room generating warm through their very own gravitational weight. They often tend to be brighter and also warmer than key sequence stars that a similar mass, and they additionally tend come be near other gas and dust. The irradiate from the star regularly reflects off this dust, producing bright enjoy nebulae. This would describe the wing-like feature near the star.

Just to it is in sure, we can look up the object on an expensive database known asSIMBAD (the collection of Identifications, Measurements, and Bibliography for astronomical Data). If the is a well-known object, the will most likely be provided there. Entering in the RA and Dec we acquired from the Nibiru fans, that looks like SIMBAD find 2 objects:GN 05.39.2, i m sorry is a reflection nebula,2MASS J05422123+2236471, which is a T Tauri type star. It has actually an obvious magnitude of around 12, and also is probably around 700 to 1,000 irradiate years away. We"ll know its precise distance when the Gaia spacecraft start releasing that is data. At magnitude 12, it can also be seen v a little telescope in dark countryside skies. Amateur astronomer Scott Ferguson has not only done this, he"s made videos mirroring his work.

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One the the most amazing things about astronomy is how accessible the data is. Many of the data from huge telescopes and sky surveys space publicly obtainable for free. Any type of site who posts picture like the one sent to me without providing sources is merely being lazy. Scientific research isn"t around being lazy, it"s around getting things right, and also that"s one of the reasons citations are always needed.