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).



  1. Excellent work, Stuart.

    Comment by Expat — July 21, 2012 @ 3:24 pm | Reply

    • Thanks. I meant to Skype you when I posted this, but between putting it in the comments on your site and up on CoastGab, I forgot. Glad you found it quickly. 🙂

      Comment by Stuart Robbins — July 21, 2012 @ 3:25 pm | Reply

      • Why are you trying to debunk Bara and Hoagland? You think they have something to gain from this? We deserve the truth and I don’t believe anything Nasa say’s as they are controlled by the gov’t who also lie. What about the people that have come forward that have worked for Nasa and have said we are not alone? Stop trying to debunk and look at the big picture, we are being lied to. Obama said he was going to have a transparent government when he took office. The fact is he has no control. Could he go to S4 or Area 51, walk in and tell us the truth, I doubt it.

        Comment by ryan — September 26, 2012 @ 10:34 pm

      • Ryan, the “big picture” is always made up of individual, bite-sized pieces of information. This post is not about any of the things you mention. It’s about a specific claim made to millions of people by Richard Hoagland, a claim that came from and was held up by Mike Bara. This post (and several others) are a detailed analysis of that specific claim and through that analysis I was able to illustrate many misconceptions shared by many people and hopefully some people learned something. Now, if you’d like to address something I said about this specific lunar ziggurat claim, feel free. If you’re going to keep talking about a big picture and NASA lying and secret government bases, I suggest you find a conspiracy forum like Above Top Secret and post there.

        Comment by Stuart Robbins — September 26, 2012 @ 11:50 pm

  2. Nice sleuthing. Good that we could all help find it!

    Comment by Trekker — July 21, 2012 @ 3:46 pm | Reply

    • And thanks goes to you for really being the one to finally zero in on the area. I was ready to give up.

      Comment by Stuart Robbins — July 21, 2012 @ 3:47 pm | Reply

      • You’re welcome. Next project would be to try to pinpoint the coordinates, in order to find it on the LRO photos!

        Comment by Trekker — July 21, 2012 @ 4:14 pm

      • I have the software to do that IF I could get access to the correct formatted file. ISIS requires a TIFF formatted Apollo image that has some basic identifier data in it so that ISIS knows what to do with it. Seems like I can get everything back to Lunar Orbiter via PDS in proper format, but not Apollo. Without that, I can’t map-project the Apollo image.

        Comment by Stuart Robbins — July 21, 2012 @ 4:25 pm

      • Trekker – I have added info to the end of this post with the coordinates.

        Comment by Stuart Robbins — July 21, 2012 @ 6:57 pm

  3. Thank you! Also Darrin, Expat and Trekker. I was beginning to exhibit symptoms of hyperdimensional physics/torsion field withdrawal.

    Comment by JayB — July 21, 2012 @ 7:05 pm | Reply

    • Thanks for the coordinates! I’ve just been poking round there myself, not knowing you’d updated this blog. Nothing much to see, is there?? I think we can write off a ziggurat!

      Comment by Trekker — July 21, 2012 @ 7:30 pm | Reply

      • I updated the blog and put in the comments notice of the update as soon as I found them. It took me awhile. I located the general region and then I used 88 control points across the Apollo image with a spline fit to rectify the image onto standard geographic coordinates. Then it was a matter of re-finding the location on the rectified image and then searching for NACs and WACs.

        Comment by Stuart Robbins — July 21, 2012 @ 7:42 pm

  4. As someone who image edits as an occupation (and is no stranger to NASA images either) I can say that this is an over-manipulated image. There’s no way the latter can follow from the former without purposeful manipulation. Something from nothing, this.

    Comment by J. Major — July 22, 2012 @ 7:59 pm | Reply

    • I think I’m pretty generous when calling it an “enhancement,” but I wanted to attempt to be objective. 🙂

      Comment by Stuart Robbins — July 22, 2012 @ 8:01 pm | Reply

  5. Why dont you publicly debate Richard C. Hoagland on Coast to Coast ??

    Comment by Peter J. Vorias — July 23, 2012 @ 4:30 pm | Reply

    • That would be futile unless the debate were tightly constrained to a specific topic or narrow range of pre-agreed-upon topics. And I not trust any host on that show to do that and stick with it (possibly Ian, but he’s only on once a month now or something like that). Otherwise, Hoagland is way too familiar with his own mythology to be debated on an open forum like that, I would be hopelessly lost.

      Comment by Stuart Robbins — July 23, 2012 @ 4:55 pm | Reply

  6. I did the same thing too. I went to the original photo, rotated it 45 degrees clockwise and found the location pretty easliy. There is NO ziggurat or anything like a ziggurat there–just a pile of rocks. It is so obviously a complete hoax that I lost all respect for Hoagland. He is a fraud and a liar. I sent an email to George Noory saying the same thing, but that won’t stop them from having him on again and again. When did Coast to Coast ever care about the truth?

    Comment by Carl — July 24, 2012 @ 12:34 am | Reply

  7. I have gone through all the Apollo mission photos and plotted all the lunar orbital images in google moon http://www.sendspace.com/file/8yooxr I’m still working on the mapping camera images, but if the Hasselblad images are locatable, I have located them!

    Comment by PW — July 30, 2012 @ 12:15 pm | Reply

  8. I’d agree fully with your assesment of Hoagland’s playing fast & loose with the facts. I’ve had a very frustrating time trying to find out just what he was writing about in 1977 when he described what he termed “NASA’s semi-secret dream…” a manned Mars mission which would use solar sails to haul 30 ton payload modules containing habitats and equipment to the red planet before the men are sent to explore. A plan he dismisses with the words “Trust NASA to automate a Manned Mars Expedition!”

    The above is found in the May 1977 issue of Analog magazine in an article which makes the unequivocal statment that the results of the Viking mission are at best ambiguous and no reference at all to the Face-on-Mars…

    Comment by Graham — July 31, 2012 @ 6:19 am | Reply

  9. Stuart writes: “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).”

    It is probably light reflected from the giant spaceship parked behind the moon. (Hat tip to “Earth: Final Conflict” and _not_ to any similar stupid ideas like giant Draco ships over Rome etc… [sigh].)

    Comment by johanges — September 1, 2012 @ 4:23 pm | Reply

  10. Mike bara responds to this blog here: http://mikebara.blogspot.com/2012/08/as11-38-5564-why-daedalus-ziggurat-is.html

    Comment by Captain Crunch — September 15, 2013 @ 9:56 am | Reply

    • Yes, and I responded many times on this blog. Search for the ziggurat on here and you will find them.

      Comment by Stuart Robbins — September 16, 2013 @ 8:23 pm | Reply

  11. Ummm….Stuart? I read your piece and then read Mike’s. Sorry to have to be the one to tell you but Mike obliterated your argument, and provided the proof no less. You should tuck tail now and run along. You can’t refute Mike’s argument and accompanying facts and I’d love to see you try. Let’s see your facts that irrefutably disprove his. Put up or shut up, Stuart. This piece you posted here doesn’t qualify as “facts” either. Save your drivel for the sheeple and let’s see your facts.

    Comment by Erik S. — November 29, 2014 @ 12:10 am | Reply

  12. Several of the responders to your series of posts (and the podcasts) concerning the ziggurat don’t seem to be willing to set aside their preconceived beliefs. I looked at the well-organized, rock-solid mountain of your evidence and compared it to the endless, turgid, trivial, and disorganized mess that Mr. Bara referred to as his. It was shamefully apparent he was wrong and knew it, but he insisted on doubling down on his earlier claims. He wants to make money off people who buy into his view of things, so he can’t return to reality, even for a moment, without losing his income. I feel a little sorry for Mr. Bara. Just a little…

    Comment by Rick K. — November 29, 2014 @ 11:11 am | Reply

  13. in my opinion if this guy was telling the truth he would release the info for free give his talks for free and if he is legit he would get plenty of donations,just like most things on these subject all bs.. having said that i personally believe in the ancient alien theory but i don’t believe there is a lot of good evidence.probably the best evidence is peru.

    Comment by Tim Olson — May 2, 2016 @ 11:34 am | Reply

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