Exposing PseudoAstronomy

June 23, 2014

Podcast Episode 113: The Blue-Haze Limb of Mars


While the color of
Mars is red, some photos show
Blue on the limb. Why?

While I’ve already addressed the True Color of Mars (episode 74), one remaining – and unmentioned – twist is the blue haze limb that is sometimes visible as the upper atmosphere in color images taken from Earth orbit; this episode addresses those. And, it’s a completely different phenomenon than just a crappy understanding of image analysis. Real science ensues!!

Feedback makes up over half of this episode. I talk about Episodes 112 (why Russell Humphreys thinks that magnetic fields should decay to begin with and how he made his prediction), 109 (a follow-up interview of Marshall Masters from just a few days ago), and 111 (general feedback and criticisms of the Cydonia movie).

Finally, TAM is less than 2.5 weeks away, and I’d love to meet my adoring fans you folks who tolerate listening to me every now-and-then. Please let me know if you’re going AND interested in meeting up. Otherwise, I may have to spend all my time with a Hershey chocolate -lover, and we don’t want that now, do we?

And über-finally, I got a special e-mail while I was recording this episode. Listen to it all the way through to hear it. 🙂

Oh, and super-düper-finally, about the release schedule: Some of you may have noticed has been a bit off lately. The excuses are the usual, but ostensibly, the podcast is “supposed” to come out on the 1st, 11th, and 21st of the month. And that’s how I date them in the RSS feed. But, in the intro, I state that this is an episode for a certain third of the month, so that’s been the justification in my head for being able to get it out a little late. And looking at my upcoming schedule, I think that you can probably expect more of the same at least until September. They should be on or about the 1st, 11th, and 21st, but won’t necessarily be exactly on those dates.

May 22, 2014

Podcast Episode 110: Solar System Mysteries “Solved” by PseudoScience, Part 2 – The Pioneer Anomaly


Pioneers: Little
Spacecraft that could. But, reveal
New physics, maybe?

The long put-off episode on the Pioneer Anomaly (you’re welcome, Graham). This is a normal-length half-hour episode, hopefully a complete telling of the story, hopefully understandable. There are a lot of links in the shownotes, so head over there if you get lost.

There’s also a Q&A segment, a question from the many in my archive.

There are also three announcements, two requiring links. First up is the trailer for my Cydonia region of Mars video, and second is that this Saturday I will be interviewed on ATS Live (I’ll try to record it and post if possible). I don’t know all of what we’ll talk about, but topic-wise we will likely hit on Bob Lazar and John Lear … if you’re into UFOlogy, you almost certainly know those names.

April 21, 2014

Podcast Episode 107: Clip Show #2


Gravitational
Force, lunar holograms, and
Rainbows. Yay clip shows!

You get three different claims in this episode, from simple misunderstandings to what some may classify as outright crazy (or, as I like to write, cräZ). More specifically, I talk about whether gravity is an accelerative force, whether the moon is a hologram, and something having to do with rainbows. And no, I’m not talking about the sprinkler rainbow lady.

The possibly newly forming moon around Saturn is a Q&A in this episode.

Graham, I swear I’m getting ready to do the Pioneer Anomaly …

April 14, 2014

As We Approach the Era of the Blood Moon Tetrad, Here’s What You Need to Know


Introduction

Coming out of the 2012 (Mayan apocalypse) non-event, many of us wondered what the next doomsday would be. At the time, I said in several interviews that I didn’t know. This “blood moons” thing, however, seems to have grasped the attention of many, and since it has another 18 months to play out, I anticipate it might grow considerably. I hope not, because it’s silly, but we’ll see.

For those just coming here from an internet search, and you haven’t followed this blog at all, a few months ago I put out a podcast episode that thoroughly addressed this issue. I suggest it as a starting point.

The purpose of this blog post is to briefly summarize those issues again, and to go over a few small things that I did not address in that episode. And to say, once again, there is absolutely nothing to worry about, the whole thing smacks of people for thousands of years fearing comets or eclipses because they didn’t understand them. This time, we understand them, but some people still irrationally fear them.

Edited to Add: Conspiracy Skeptic Karl Mamer interviewed me and got the interview up really fast. It’s an hour:15 about these issues.

Terminology

Tetrad: Lunar eclipses can be penumbral (it just dims a bit), partial (only part of the moon is in total shadow), or total (full moon is in Earth’s shadow). They can happen in any order or combination, but when four lunar eclipses in a row are total, that’s called a “tetrad.”

Blood Moon: A spooky/scary -sounding name for a total lunar eclipse because the only light that can reach the moon is filtered through Earth’s atmosphere, leaving only long wavelengths of light, the red light. So, the moon appears dark and red. Yeah, scary.

Lunar Eclipses

Very briefly, the moon orbits Earth, and the plane of its orbit is tilted about 5.1° relative to Earth’s path around the sun. So, it crosses that path twice in its orbit (called nodes). Only on those points could an eclipse possibly occur. And, only when those points happen during a new or full moon do you actually get an eclipse.

When it happens during a new moon, that’s a solar eclipse. Full moon, it’s a lunar eclipse. If a part of the moon would see the sun partially eclipsed by Earth, that’s a penumbral eclipse and you just get a small dimming. If a part of the moon would see the sun totally eclipsed by Earth, then that part is totally eclipsed, called an umbral eclipse. When the whole moon is in an umbral eclipse, it’s a total eclipse.

Eclipse Seasons

Because of the way the moon’s orbit works and the nodes line up, if you have an eclipse, you will likely have the other kind (solar or lunar) 2 weeks earlier or later. And, then they go out of alignment. Six months later, they’re back in alignment, and so you’ll usually get another 2 or 3 eclipses, 2 weeks apart.

And, the whole thing repeats something like every 18.6 years.

Jewish Calendar and Holidays

The Jewish calendar is a lunar calendar, meaning that new moons start a new month and full moons are in the middle of the month.

Most Jewish holidays are tied to the Jewish calendar and happen on either the first of the month or on the middle day of the month.

Therefore, by definition, most Jewish holidays will happen during either a new moon or a full moon. Therefore, by definition, the likelihood of a lunar or solar eclipse happening exactly on a Jewish holiday is much, much higher than for holidays based on a solar calendar.

Aside: Who’s Behind the Phenomenon?

That would be Pastor Mark Biltz. He originated this back around 2008, and it got very little attention. That’s changed.

Biltz’s story is that he went to NASA’s website and saw that there were these eclipses and tetrads, he saw that some of the tetrads happened during Jewish holidays, in his mind he thought that some of those resulted in doom (more on that later).

When he relates the story, he makes a big deal about how the data all comes from NASA in an apparent argument from authority. While it’s true that you can get a whole bunch of eclipse data from NASA, Pastor Biltz apparently has some issues reading big bold text. For example, he claims that NASA posts eclipse data for the “past 5000 years.” Except, it’s for the past 4000 and next 1000.

It’s a minor issue, but it calls into question how good he is at reading even less obvious signs which is the entire basis for his claims. (And Pastor Biltz claimed that Christopher Columbus was Jewish – he insisted on it – despite the fact he was a Roman Catholic. Again, signs of poor scholarship and a willingness to warp something to fit his ideas.)

More to This Phenomena: How Often Do Lunar Eclipses Occur?

Pastor Biltz claims that NASA data shows that 3479 total lunar eclipses have happened in the past 5000 years. It’s actually past 4000 and next 1000, but, whatever. He says that this means you only get an average of 1 total lunar eclipse every 1.5 years (it’s 1.4, but moving on), but OMG we get 4 in the space of only 18 months this time!!!!

This sounds like it’s way over the average. Which it is. But, using an average is the wrong statistics for this on the short-term. Eclipse seasons and the way the orbits work out mean that you typically get these occurring in spurts. You get a lot of penumbral, then a few total. Or, 2-3 total, then 1 partial, 2 total, 5 penumbral. Before this April, we had 1 partial, 1 penumbral, 1 partial, and 2 penumbral. No total eclipses for 2.5 years!!!!

My point is that it’s fine to say that, on average, these happen once every 1.5 years over the long term. But, then going ahead and using that to say that a particular year, two years, or even decade is above or below “average” is an abuse of the statistics.

More to This Phenomena: How Often Do Tetrads Occur?

There’s no nice, simple formula predictor that gives you a way to figure this out. Happily, Universe Today has a nice table. It shows that during the 11th-13th, 17th-19th, 23rd-24th, and 28th-29th centuries, there are 0. 14th there were 6, 15th there were 4, 16th there were 6, and 20th there were 5. This century, we get a whopping 8, and next century we get 4.

So, they are not exceedingly rare, but, they’re not that common. This generation has or will see several. Our great-great-great-great grandparents saw none.

More to This Phenomena: How Often Do Tetradal (is that a word?) Eclipses Occur on (Major) Jewish Holidays?

Well, because tetrads are relatively rare, and they tend to precess through the months (because lunar eclipses precess through the months), it is somewhat more rare than tetrads. But again, by definition, it is likely that they will happen on Jewish holidays. Not necessarily major ones, but on Jewish holidays. This time, they just so happen to fall on major ones.

More to This Phenomena: What Happened Last Time?

So, the last time the tetrad happened during Passover, Sukkot, Passover, Sukkot, was April 24, 1967 – October 6, 1968. Pastor Biltz says the big thing that happened to Israel during that time was the 6-day war, which was June 5-10, 1967. So, during the “blood moon season,” but not during or even really near any eclipse (in fact, about as far as you could get – 3 months before and 3 months after the next/last one). And, based on an objective look at the history, Israel won. And Israel increased its land holdings significantly. I wouldn’t call that a “bad” thing for Israel.

What about before that? The previous tetrad also happened over two successive Passovers and Sukkots, and that was April 13, 1949 – September 26, 1950. What does Pastor Biltz point to as the major bad event concerning Israel that this Sign in the Heavens pointed to? Israel was founded. May 14, 1948. 11 months before the first eclipse in that tetrad.

Ummm … not a bad thing for Israel, and the fact that he has to search nearly a year to find something significant makes me, well, skeptical.

Retrodiction, Prediction, Cherry-Picking …

By this point, it should be very clear how I feel about this issue. But, let’s put it another way: You have a somewhat rare event, and you find something bad (or good) that happened during or within a year of that event, and say the two are related (correlation = causation fallacy). That is what Pastor Biltz has done. Nothing more, nothing less.

Why do I say this? Well, I took a simple internet search of “Timeline of Jewish History” and, nicely, Wikipedia has something on that. Yeah, some of you may not like Wikipedia, but regardless, you can still use it as a starting point. And, gasp!! pretty much every year, something important happens to Jews. Or, same thing with a timeline of Israeli history.

My point is that if your criteria is vague (“something” has/will happen) and you’re allowed to include events that happened practically within a year of the event that already lasts 18 months (so you have 42 months, or 3.5 years to find something), well, I’m unimpressed. Now, if something catastrophic that was a once-in-a-lifetime event happened exactly on the date that these tetrads started but only on the tetrads that coincided with the major Jewish holidays, then I might be more interested and look more closely.

But, let’s take a look at the last tetrad: May 4, 1985 – October 17, 1986. Biltz doesn’t say anything about that because the cycle happened +1 month from the Jewish holidays. Looking at those timelines of Jewish and Israeli history, the First Intifada started in 1987, just a year after the tetrad ended!

Or what about the importance of 1982, when Israel withdrew from the Sinai Peninsula? Or 1956, the war which brought Israel into the Sinai in the first place?

And Yet, There’s More!

Pastor Biltz has many other bits and pieces that feed into this. For example, that 2015 is a Shemittah year, every 7 years when Jews are supposed to let their fields lie fallow. Oh, and all debts, except foreign ones, are remitted.

Biltz claims that the last one (Sept. 13, 2007 – Sept 29, 2008) finished just as the Dow fell 7%! And the one before that (Sept. ?, 2000 – Sept. 17, 2001) the Dow fell 7.1%! Not being able to carry this much further, he pointed to the one in 1994 (Sept. ?, 1993 – Sept. 5, 1994) when, not on the last day of the Shemittah, but sorta in the middle, Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 hit Jupiter with 21 fragments (it was actually many more than that, but hey, 21/3 = 7 so we get 7 again, so don’t let facts get in the way) in July 16-22, 1994.

Again, retrodiction.

Final(?) Thoughts

This is a really long post. And there’s a lot of stuff that Biltz and many others (such as John Hagee) have heaped onto this non-significant (but still neat!) astronomical event. I’ve tried in this post and the podcast to cover the major components and claims, and hopefully set some of you (who may have come here from an internet search for more information, or referred here by a friend) at ease.

Let me try to summarize more succinctly: The Jewish calendar is defined such that most holidays must happen during new or full moons, and lunar eclipses can only happen during full moons. Total lunar eclipses are called by fear-mongers “blood moons.” Yes, a tetrad is somewhat rare, and because elf the way things line up, it’s more rare that it will happen on the Jewish holidays, but not ridiculously rare because of the way the calendar is defined. But besides that, nothing bad happened the last two times. The time correlation that he and others have attempted to draw is flimsy and reeks of vague retrodiction to fit the story he/they want to tell. In fact, based on the events named, good stuff happened for the Jews and Israel.

So, I recommend that if you’re in a part of the world where you can enjoy this and the weather cooperates, go outside, take a look up, take your camera, and enjoy this not-everyday neat celestial event.

February 22, 2014

Podcast Episode 101: The Chualar Barley Field Crop Circle


Chualar crop circle
Was claimed by many as “real.”
Or, was it a stunt?

After a bit of a break due to the monumental effort in Episode 100, I bring you #101, my first foray into crop circles. I’ve wanted to do a crop circle episode for a LOOOOONG time, I think originally scheduled as far back as to be episode 16 in late 2011. But, this is the first time that I’ve found a good example of credulous reporting, “professional crop circle researchers” pulling out all the stops to say that this couldn’t possibly have been done by humans, the big reveal that it WAS done by humans, and the subsequent denial.

The episode was brought to you by:

  • Sacred Cows
  • Argument from Ignorance
  • Anomaly Hunting
  • Argument from Authority

Anyway, ‘n-joy and as always, let me know what you think (constructive criticisms, not rants, please).

February 16, 2013

Podcast #65: JosĂ© Escamilla’s Movie “Celestial”


A fantasia of pareidolia and misunderstanding image data, the movie “Celestial” gets a quick review on this roughly 24-minute-long episode.

There’s a Q&A, Puzzler (and solution for last time), and even a correction for the last episode and announcement for this one:

The episode for March 16, 2013, should be another interview with the pseudononymous Expat, who was my first interview ever back in Episode 10, for November 1, 2011. Expat will be returning to talk about the many conspiracy theories of Richard C. Hoagland related to politics and some technology at NASA. The reason I’m announcing this so early is that this topic garnered a lot of interest on the Facebook page for the podcast, and so I wanted to let you know early so that if there’s a specific question or topic you’d like me to ask Expat about, you can send it in. You can do that in any of the half-dozen ways there are to get in contact with me.

October 1, 2012

Podcast Episode 52: The Mystery of Phobos 2


The year was 1989, and the second of a twin spacecraft – the first having failed two months after launch – was close to its target: Mars’ moon, Phobos. Just before it was to launch its two landers to study the surface of the moon, something went wrong, and all contact was lost. The last image it sent back just before it lost contact was of a thin, cylindrical object — a UFO mothership — that must have blasted it out of the sky to hide from the Earthlings the closely-guared Illuminati secret that Phobos is actually a gigantic spaceship.

… or at least, that’s what they want you to believe.

Episode 52 addresses the “mystery” of the Phobos 2 spacecraft, and the conspiracy story that has been put together over the years that I relayed above.

Besides the somewhat shorter main segment, there are two New News items, Feedback, Puzzler (answer, no new one), and one tiny Announcement. Next episode should go up on or about October 16.

July 16, 2012

Episode 44: Independent Evidence the Apollo Moon Landings Were Real


Episode 44 has been posted, a tad early. I recorded this episode almost a week ago, and I’m posting it now roughly on time, though a bit early, when I happen to have internet at this conference where it costs $13/day/device (yes, seriously).

Anyway, this episode ended up being surprisingly short even though I go through four of the primary ways that I use to demonstrate that people really landed on the Moon with the Apollo program (I would say “prove” but I’m very cautious using that word these days — real “proof” only comes in mathematics). The four methods I use are ultraviolet photos of stars, the rocks, lunar laser ranging, and actual photos of the sites from lunar orbit.

There’s also a Q&A, puzzler (solution to last puzzler and this one will be in July 24th’s episode), and the main segment. Otherwise, that’s about it and perhaps why it came in at about 21 minutes.

July 8, 2012

Podcast Episode 43: The Fake Story of Planet X, Part 3


In this episode, I return to the 2012 / Planet X mythos with another installment (at least 5 total are planned) about “The Fake Story of Planet X.” This particular one is a conspiracy claim where folks think that Planet X is coming from the south pole which is why we can’t see it. Except that the government knows about it so built a telescope down there to observe it.

This episode also includes a bit of new news, Q&A, a puzzler (yay!), and a single announcement. Since I’m writing next week’s episode today and need to record it today/tomorrow, I am holding off on Feedback likely until July 24. Note that the solution to this episode’s puzzler will be discussed in the July 24 one so that people have enough time to participate in the puzzler (hint hint, nudge nudge).

May 25, 2012

Eclipses and Pole Shifts


Introduction

First, this post is a bit of a show-off for my recent photography. That said, it is also a musing on one of the more bizarre claims out there that the sun and/or moon are no longer rising/setting where they’re “supposed” to.

So let’s get the first part over with first …

My Photos and Video from the May 20, 2012, Annular Eclipse

With two friends, I drove 480 miles south to just outside of Albuquerque, NM (Richard C. Hoagland territory!). We were in the path of full annularity, and we set up in a beautiful spot with no people around us and clear sight to the western horizon.

I took a long sequence of photos and created a few montages and even a movie. I’m only posting three of the montages (I don’t like the third one, but I’m posting it anyway). These are only 6% full size, and you can only get to it by clicking on the image to have it open in a new browser. The full-res versions are suitable for printing at 72″ wide at 300ppi … that’s a lot of pixels and brings my computer to a crawl when I open it.

Annular Solar Eclipse Montage, Type 0, Version 1.3

Annular Solar Eclipse Montage, Type 0, Version 1.3 (click to embiggen)

Annular Solar Eclipse Montage, Type 2c, Version 1.3

Annular Solar Eclipse Montage, Type 2c, Version 1.3 (click to embiggen)

Annular Solar Eclipse Montage, Type 4, Version 1.1

Annular Solar Eclipse Montage, Type 4, Version 1.1 (click to embiggen)

And here’s the movie:

I’m not going to go into image processing details here. If you’re interested, I posted a lengthy thread about it here that goes through all the gritty details.

Relevance to the Crazy Conspiracy

I’ve not addressed this conspiracy before on this blog, but I have in my podcast, Episode #24, “Help! The Sun (or Moon) Is Moving!” The premise is, as I said before, that the sun and/or moon is no longer rising or setting or in the sky where it previously was, or where it’s “supposed” to be.

The answer to this is that it always shifts position though the cycle repeats annually. It shifts because Earth’s axis is constantly pointing towards the North Celestial Pole, so as Earth orbits around the sun over the course of a year, the angle the sun makes with the horizon changes. It rises and sets closer to your hemisphere’s pole during your hemisphere’s summer, and vice versa.

The implication by most conpsiracists that I’ve heard – if they have an implication other than generally “something’s happening that NASA’s covering up!” – is that we are in the midst of a geographic pole shift that THEY don’t want you to know about. Again, I’ve addressed pole shifts before (such as here or here).

“How is this relevant to eclipses?” you may ask.

Folks at NASA, as well as innumerable other people, have provided paths of past and future eclipses out to over 1000 years into the future. Both solar and lunar (1000 for lunar, 100 for solar from NASA).

And, at least since I’ve been using the site for the last decade, they’ve all been 100% accurate! The point is that this would not be possible at all if we were undergoing a pole shift. Even a tiny pole shift, where I’m defining “tiny” by, say, 1° which would not be noticeable to these people claiming the sun/moon is in the wrong place, would shift the path of solar eclipses by a non-trivial amount.

And yet, these eclipses continue to demonstrably and perhaps stubbornly be where they were predicted to be decades ago.

Final Thoughts

This is something that I like about science and get a great sense of “ah ha!” when I come across it: Conspiracists, pseudoscientists, and others who claim to be re-writing science do so in isolation. They do not realize – or they choose to ignore – what the implications would be for their claims outside of their one phenomenon.

In this case, if Earth were undergoing any sort of geographic pole shift, the annular solar eclipse that we witnessed last weekend would not have taken place where it had been predicted. A shift of 1° of the poles would have shifted the eclipse’s path by around 70 miles (110 km). If we were in a pole shift of more than around 0.5°, I would not have seen the moon completely within the sun’s disk from where I was in Albuquerque.

And it’s really as simple as that. Claims in science do not exist in isolation. You must carry them through and apply them to all other things that rely upon that data.

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