Exposing PseudoAstronomy

September 26, 2016

Podcast Episode 148: (BONUS) X-Rays from Pluto

Does discovering
X-rays from Pluto change all
We know and hold dear?

First interview episode since The Return, an interview about the discovery of x-rays coming from the vicinity of Pluto. I talk with one of the main authors of the paper announcing the observation of x-rays from Pluto, and we discussed why the find is not severely unexpected, and while it’s interesting it is not something that is completely unexplained. In fact, there’s a very good, natural explanation.

As what was intended to be a 5-10 minute interview ended up running about 50 minutes. Hopefully it was worth it. Note that this was recorded really ad hoc, outside on a university campus, using both an iPod Touch and Samsung Galaxy S5. Interestingly, the iPod performed better relative to noise, but it had a low-end filter; the Samsung had a high-end filter. Therefore, I lined up the audio precisely and combined both so you get better audio, and I tried to lower the relative intensity of each recording if one was picking up the wind more than the other.

There are no additional segments in this episode.

I hope that you enjoy this episode.


August 18, 2016

Has Yahoo! Finally Hit Rock Bottom, with Horoscopes in its Science Feed?

Jerry Coyne reports today that Yahoo!’s science news feed is reporting on astrology. Not that it’s Taurus excrement, but an article with the headline, “Tonight’s full moon and upcoming lunar eclipse are going to bring about some CHANGE” is full of astrological bull crap.

Not only that, but the picture they use is of an annular solar eclipse. Notice that a “solar eclipse” does not equal a “lunar eclipse.” An annular solar eclipse is when the moon is near apogee (farthest point from Earth) so it appears smaller than the sun’s disk and therefore cannot completely cover it, leaving a ring of solar illumination around it.

Not only that, but the “eclipse” this month is not a lunar eclipse at all, and the one next month is a penumbral eclipse — unless you have a camera and are very carefully looking at the brightness, you will not notice any change.

Fortunately, the vast majority of the 250+ comments (as of the time of this writing) take Yahoo! to task over this.

Though I will let an astrologer have the last word. To the currently highest-rated comment, by “Tia” with 104 up-votes and two down-votes, and 15 replies, “gypsyshookar” (which I originally read as “gypsyhooker”) wrote:

“While I agree with you, as a very experienced and certified astrologer, we have it on our own authority that this qualifies astrologically as an eclipse with eclipse effects. However, it is NOT astronomy which focuses mainly on the observable physical phenomena of rocks in space. Astrology, on the other hand, is based on the observable correlation of life and events on Earth with the placement of the planets. FYI, astronomy is based on the earlier astrology and not the other way around. And before you pooh-pooh astrology, I suggest you take a course in it from an accredited astrologer such as myself, whose name is followed by something like BA,MCL, or better yet PhD. When scorned by a colleague for his belief in astrology, Sir Isaac Newton replied: “I have studied it, Sir. You have NOT.””

July 21, 2014

Podcast Episode 116: The Electric Universe, Part 2, with Dr. Tom Bridgman

Sun models from the
Electric Universe. Do
The predictions work?

Practically on time comes part 2 of the two-part overview of the Electric Universe. This one is also a bit heavy with the math, so I recommend heading over to Tom’s site for more information and many, many more details.

So, um, with the deadline for a major grant program coming up in a few days, that’s it folks!

April 1, 2013

Podcast #69: The Solar Neutrino “Problem”

I was all set to do a few other episodes, and I was re-kajiggering the schedule of episodes for the next several months. I realized that – gasp! – I had almost nothing planned picking on young-Earth creationists! And it had been about 20 episodes since I had last done it.

Clearly, I had been neglectful, so this episode deals with one of the more technical but one of my more favorite topics in young-Earth creationism: The Solar Neutrino “Problem.” Listen to the episode, especially towards the end of the main segment, and I think you’ll see why I like it so much.

Otherwise, in this episode we have the solutions to the past two puzzlers, a new puzzler for this one, and three announcements of upcoming talks: Colorado School of Mines on April 12 (Apollo moon hoax), Denver Skepticamp on April 27 (image anomalies), and TAM in mid-July.

February 1, 2013

Podcast #63: Clip Show #1

It was bound to happen at some point, that episode that’s just a hodgepodge of short, random bits of crä-crä that I put together as a clip show. This one features five bits of silliness — or maybe six, I lost count. Big-name stars you may remember from other episodes are Brooks Agnew and Gregg Braden, but making their first time appearance we also hear from Christopher Knight and Alan Butler, Ken Parsons, and Jeffrey Grupp. Coast to Coast AM clips feature heavily, so if you don’t like ’em, you may want to skip this episode.

Other segments were Announcements and a Puzzler. You’ll need to go to about 24 minutes into the episode for the puzzler, it’s not in the usual place.

December 16, 2012

Podcast Episode 57: Doom from the Sun on December 21, 2012

SOHO and the SDO saw white and then nothing. Militaries scrambled as every satellite went dark. Then the people on the ground saw enormous arcs of light — the aurora seen across the planet, so bright they were even visible during the day. Mesmerized by the display, awe quickly turned to panic as every electronic device sparked and died. The lights went out across the planet. The Sun had spoken.

Or at least, that’s what some people think is going to happen in about 5 days. It ain’t great literature, but I’m throwing a party that starts in 2.5 hrs and need to get this posted. And get dressed …

This episode, the last of the 2012 series, is all about the one topic I haven’t really discussed yet: Something from the sun doing something bad on December 21, 2012. You know … in 5 days. This episode is all about how that’s not going to happen.

Solar Disk as of December 16, 2012

Solar Disk as of December 16, 2012

Otherwise, this episode has the Q&A, puzzler solution for 56, feedback (with minor correction on episode 56), and announcements:

I’m starting to look for back-peddling by doomsday proponents for a follow-up episode very early next year. If anyone listening to this podcast happens to come across something by anyone who claimed stuff like Planet X would cause a pole flip, a big solar storm would wipe us out, or even on the positive side that we’ll all be able to levitate and do instant healing, and you see these people start to make up excuses for why it’s not happening, please send it in to me.

May 25, 2012

Eclipses and Pole Shifts


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.

February 24, 2012

Podcast Episode 24: Help! The Sun (or Moon) Is Moving!

This episode is what I set out to be a fun, short episode, but spiraled into a lengthy discussion of geometry. I hope that it’s somewhat understandable. It is a discussion of the perhaps infrequent but still “out there” claim that the sun or moon is rising or setting in a different location than it/they used to.

January 21, 2011

Planet X and 2012: Sun Returns to Greenland … Two Days Early!? And a Major Fail by Time Magazine

This is a very quick post so I’ll dispense with the normal subject headings. A few days ago, Canadian host Karl Mamer of The Conspiracy Skeptic podcast pointed me to a page describing the sun returning to Greenalnd – specifically Ilulissat – two days before normal (January 11 instead of January 13). The most plausible explanation is melting ice decreasing and changing the horizon. But that didn’t stop 2012 doomsday folks from saying it’s a pole shift and all that nonsense in the comments page.

I wasn’t going to post about this until I saw this story on Time‘s website. Zoe Fox’s article has to be one of the absolute worst ones I’ve read on their site in years.

The third paragraph states: “While scientists are yet to agree upon an explanation, ideas are circulating, such as the impending 2012 leap year and the changes in the constellations.”

Changing constellations!? What!? Constellations have nothing to do with what day of the year the sun rises, and they don’t affect Earth in any way, shape, nor form (unless you’re an astrologer, but then I’ve talked about that before). And of course, a coming leap year would also have absolutely nothing to do with the sun rising two days earlier from one year to the next. I’d like to know what “scientists” Zoe Fox interviewed to come to this wacked-out statement.

The next paragraph actually does state the likely cause: “Perhaps the most convincing explanation is Greenland’s melting polar ice caps. The average annual temperature in Greenland was three degrees Celcius higher in 2010 than average. As the ice caps melt, the horizon line sinks, potentially paving the way for an earlier sunrise.” Although Zoe is apparently too busy to use spell-check … it’s “Celsius,” Zoe, not “Celcius.”

Absolutely horrible article on a well-respected news site/magazine.

April 11, 2010

What Happens When All the Planets Line Up Against Us?


This is a claim that has persisted for a long time, and though people who believe in the 2012 stuff have propagated it, it is not specifically a Planet X / 2012 claim: If all the planets (plus our moon) lined up opposite the sun, they would pull us out of orbit. As the “lolcatz” say, “Oh noez!”


The force felt by an object due to gravity is a very simple mathematical function, codified by Newton’s Universal Law of Gravity:

In this equation, F is the force felt, G is the Gravitational Constant, M m are masses of the two objects in question, and r is the distance that separates them.

To figure out how much more or less two different objects will pull on the same object, we can simply remove one of the two masses, so the equation simplifies to F = G * m / r2.

The Math

To determine the relative forces, one simply needs to know the mass of the planets and sun, and the distances between Earth and those objects. This can be found in any basic astronomy textbook or online source. One then can simply plug in the numbers and figure out the forces.

For the sake of argument, let’s say the sun is on one side of this tug-of-war, and the moon, Mars, Ceres, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and even Pluto are all on the other (Venus and the sun don’t count ’cause they would have to be on the sun’s side). Let’s calculate the force first due to the sun:

Mass (1024 kg)
Distance from Sun (106 km)
Distance from Earth (106 km)
Relative Force
Sun 1,989,100 149.6 0.0059

Alright, now let’s do all the rest, remembering that for the planets, we’ll need to subtract out the distance between Earth and the sun from what are commonly quoted as the planets’ distances:

Mass (1024 kg)
Distance from Sun (106 km)
Distance from Earth (106 km)
Relative Force
Moon 0.07349 0.3844 3.32·10-5
Mars 0.6419 227.9 78.32 6.98·10-9
Jupiter 1,899 778.6 629.0 3.20·10-7
Saturn 568.5 1434 1284 2.30·10-8
Uranus 86.83 2872 2723 7.82·10-10
Neptune 102.4 4495 4345 3.62·10-10
Pluto 0.00125 5906 5756 2.52·10-14
Ceres 0.00095 415 265.4 9.00·10-13

Final Thoughts

This is a really short post because it doesn’t need to be long. To be perfectly honest, I was actually surprised at how small the force of Jupiter actually is on Earth relative to the sun. If we add up the force from all of the other objects, we only get a force that is 0.566% as strong as the sun’s. And then if we take the moon out of the equation because that would be the first to move out of the alignment, then we have a force of only 0.000592% as strong as the sun’s.

If we look at Venus if it were also lined up, helping the sun, its force is 1.90·10-7, or about half as much as all the other planets (again, leaving out the moon), so it would cancel 54% of the effect of all those other objects (again leaving out the moon). The force from Mercury is only about 1/3 that of Mars.

So really, if anyone who makes this claim were to bother to spend about 10 minutes looking up the numbers and plugging them into an Excel equation (what I did), they would quickly see that this claim is simply and utterly nonsense. And this is besides the fact that the planets aren’t lining up any time soon on the other side of Earth to try to pull us out of orbit.

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