Exposing PseudoAstronomy

July 21, 2012

Richard Hoagland’s Ziggurat on the Moon: Hoax or Fraud, but Not Real


During TAM, I met with a listener of my podcast and one of his first requests was “more Hoagland!” So, this post is dedicated to Darrin.

Edit (Aug. 7, 2012): I have posted a 4.5-minute video of the debunking of this on YouTube.

Another Edit (Sept. 25, 2012): This is my wrap-up post on this subject that spanned over a month and 20,000+ words. This post you’re reading now is the first and is what generally shows up first in Google searches. I recommend reading this post, then visiting the last post which contains a list of all others in this series that relate to the lunar ziggurat.

Lunar Anomalies

One of Richard C. Hoagland’s main shticks is to find apparent photographic anomalies and then claim they are artificial things. Face on Mars, glass tubes on Mars/Moon, “Data’s Head” on the Moon, etc. are just a few examples.

Last night, he was on Coast to Coast AM and, courtesy of Expat, here’s a transcript of what Hoagland stated (GN = George Noory, RCH = Richard C. Hoagland):

GN: …will we ever go back to the Moon, Mr Hoagland?

RCH: “Yes, we will. What’s really astonishing, and the reason I wanted to do a little update tonight is… I’ve sent over to Lex, to be posted on the Coast website, an astonishing image taken from orbit … on the lunar far side, on the opposite side of the Moon from the Earth — almost as far away from the Earth as you can get, almost 180° — almost on the equator, just south of the equator, a mile-size — each side is a mile — ziggurat. It looks like an Egyp….a Sumerian pyramid. It’s extraordinary. It’s enormous.

It … you gotta go look because this is just absolutely astonishing — and I’ve spent now several days trying to make sure this is real, and to the best of our analytical abilities it’s real, there’s a whole bunch of little “tells” around it that tell us. For one thing, hoaxes are never subtle. This is subtle. This is the kind of thing that an expert would instantly recognize — and unless you have trained eyes it’s going to take you a minute or two maybe to see it, but once you see it, you’re never going to not see it.

And the most amazing thing, George, is where it’s located. It’s almost exactly opposite the Earth, on the far side of the Moon, where you would put a massive pyramid — because we now know from the Enterprise studies, including what I did with the eclipse here in May — that pyramids amplify torsion field energy enormously.

That’s why there are pyramids all over the world, you were asking your guest last night “Why are there pyramids all over the world? Do they talk to each other?” Yes, they do. They’re linked by hyperdimensional physics — and whatever the reason for this thing being built on the far side of the Moon was — part of it had to be, to look with this energy through the core of the Moon — which we now know from our eclipse studies amplifies torsion energy ENORMOUSLY — and to look through the core at the Earth and to monitor the torsion field changes in the Earth.

If some hoaxer had put this thing on the [..?..] they figured out all the right things to do to put it in the one place in the whole solar system where it would make sense from a hyperdimensional perspective, which is one of the reasons I think it’s real.

And you all ought to go and look at what Lex has posted … and I’ve got Steve Troy working on the footprints, on which orbit.. which astronaut took the picture. It may have been Collins, all by himself in the CM orbiting around the Moon while Neil & Buzz were down on the surface. But this is only a tip of the iceberg, George, as to what they’ve been hiding for 43 years, that we have got to take control of now.”

GN: “You’ve got that right…”

Quick Key Points

Let’s ignore how little this statement by Hoagland makes sense. Let’s ignore all the supposed implications. Let’s focus on just a few key statements (in bold):

I’ve spent now several days trying to make sure this is real, and to the best of our analytical abilities it’s real, there’s a whole bunch of little “tells” around it that tell us. For one thing, hoaxes are never subtle. This is subtle. This is the kind of thing that an expert would instantly recognize — and unless you have trained eyes it’s going to take you a minute or two maybe to see it, but once you see it, you’re never going to not see it.

An Hour of Investigation by Yours Truly

I was processing lunar images this morning for a new project that I hope to finish up soon, and once I set a new batch of images to go, I read my RSS feeds. Expat (a pseudonym), whom I interviewed in Episode 10 of my podcast about Mike Bara (one of Hoagland’s little buddies), had a new post up on his blog Dork Mission entitled, “The Eagle has landed, and Richard Hoagland offers absolute nonsense.” I clicked through and encountered the above transcript plus Expat’s comments.

Expat linked to the original image that Hoagland’s ziggurat came from, Apollo 11 photo AS11-38-5564. You can download a high-resolution scan from the Lunar and Planetary Institute. Which I did. And here’s the data page on the LPI website for that image. And, you can grab Hoagland’s ziggurat from the Coast page.

I spent around a half hour searching for Hoagland’s location, but it did not go well. Without knowing the exact rotation nor scaling, it was difficult to figure out. But, in the comments section of Expat’s post, we eventually got it:

Context of AS11-38-5564 with Hoagland's Ziggurat

Context – AS11-38-5564 with Hoagland’s Ziggurat, black box shows where it is
(click to empyramidate)

For the record, I took the original LPI image and rotated it clockwise 90°. I knew this was the starting point because of the shadows of craters in the image Hoagland presented. After finding the location, I rotated Hoagland’s image by 10.96°, and then I scaled Hoagland’s by 85.28%. I determined these by lining up craters.

Then I created this comparison so you can see the LPI scan and what Hoagland presented:

Comparison of Original and Hoagland Enhancement of Lunar Ziggurat

Comparison of Original and Hoagland Enhancement of Lunar Ziggurat
(click to enhancenate)


First, I will say that I do not know who made the “enhancement.” What I do know is that the original file was entitled “AS11-38-5564-Mike-oirginal-enhanced3.jpg” on Coast to Coast AM‘s website. Since Richard Hoagland used to work, and I believe still sometimes does, with Mike Bara, I’m guessing the image came from Bara. However, Richard is passing it off as his own, or at least hoping you think it’s his because he does not provide any attribution.

So again, I am not saying that it was Richard nor Bara who “enhanced” the image originally, but I would not put it past either of them.

That said, from my work over the past twenty years doing image processing and analysis (yay Photoshop 2.5!), Whomever did the “enhancement” would likely have gone through these steps:

First, they used a poorer quality image (see all the noise and loss of details in small craters?) or later deliberately added noise and reduced the quality.

Second, they darkened the image overall (look at the shadows near the lower left corner).

Then, they increased the contrast (the white spot near the upper middle (a crater highlight) is more saturated in the “enhancement” and covers a bit more area). This could have been combined with the previous step with a basic Curves adjustment.

Finally, they likely did some selective curves/levels adjustment to create the “ziggurat,” or they skipped this step entirely and went right on to just drawing it in.

There is no way you can get a ziggurat as presented without drawing it into this photo.

I figured this out in an hour. Half of that time was spent just locating the thing ’cause Hoagland never provides context, and 2/3 of the remainder was spent making the images I put up here.

Another Obvious Sign of Fraud/Hoax

There are few gradations of light and dark on the Moon because of a lack of atmosphere. If you’re in shadow, you’re in shadow and it’s going to be pitch-black (or almost pitch-black). You could potentially get a little scattered light from a hill that’s farther away, and you could get a teensy bit or Earthshine (though if this was from the far side of the moon, you can’t have earthshine as a source of light).

Now look at the “walls” of the “ziggurat” on the left side. They are in shadow, but they are clearly a lighter shade than the other shadows in the image. There is also no crater wall nor mountain to scatter light onto it. I would argue that the shading as presented is not possible on the Moon and is a fairly clear sign of a hoax/fraud right off the bat.

Finding the actual location in the original image and not having a ziggurat there is a secondary (though important) step.

Final Thoughts

At this point, I will bluntly state that (in my opinion) Richard C. Hoagland is either an incompetent person or a liar based solely upon this instance. That is an objective statement that I am making based upon the available evidence I presented above and explain below.

I justify the former position by again referring to his statement that he spent several days trying to make sure it’s real and to the best of his ability, he determined it’s real. I have shown in the above analysis it is not, unless you want to claim that Hoagland has access to a secret version and the one on the LPI website is the fraud. However, the lower quality and higher noise level of Hoagland’s would indicate to me that he is using a later generation copy the photo (as opposed to more original).

The other alternative is that Hoagland is simply lying. Either he did no analysis and just presented this as it was sent to him (ergo lying about spending several days in analysis), or he created it himself. Based on his previous track record for creating graphics, I personally doubt the latter, but I could easily believe that someone made this, sent it to him, and Hoagland just presented it without doing any of the analysis he claims he did.

Perhaps it was the same person who posted this on the Disclose TV forum back in February 2011, to which, again, Hoagland gives no attribution.

So, there you have it, the latest by Richard C. Hoagland.

Edited to Add …

After much searching, I have located the coordinates at approximately 174.34°E, -8.97°N. There does not appear to be any LRO Narrow Angle Camera images of the region, and you can explore it for yourself at this link. It’s smack dab in the center. This is a WAC image that has the location towards the bottom-center, though it’s actually slightly lower resolution than the original Apollo image (this is 76 m/px). I calculate that the length of the side of the “ziggurat” would be roughly 2 km, in line with Hoagland’s claim.

Also, there appears to be some evidence that this goes back before even 2003 with some posts on some other forums. Regardless, I maintain my opinion, that I think is fairly objective: Hoagland is either a liar (he did not spend days analyzing this, he just went with it), or he is completely incompetent (that he spent days analyzing this and thinks it’s real).


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