THAT YouTube video
If you’ve been brave enough to put #ISON or #cometison into Twitter any time over the past few days you’ll have found there’s a YouTube video doing the rounds – and by “doing the rounds” I mean being forwarded and Shared and passed on from one fruit loop to the next – which supposedly reveals the “true nature” of Comet ISON, i.e. that it is actually THREE objects instead of one. And what are those objects? Well some think they’re three pieces of comet – proof that ISON has broken up and is indeed a hail of space rocks headed for a cataclysmic collision with Earth. Others believe they are, um, well, UFOs. Yes, alien spacecraft. So either ISON is being trailed or shadowed by flying saucers, or it is itself a fleet of flying saucers.
I know. Give me a break.
How has this lunacy come about? Because people who haven’t got a clue how finished Hubble images are produced from the raw data took some screengrabs and, seeing three blurry things…
…added two and two to get 1000, then made YouTube vids screaming to the world that NASA is hiding the true nature of the comet… blah blah blah…
The truth, of course, is rather less sensational.
For a really detailed, scientific explanation of what’s going on in that photos, I recommend you take a look at this fantastic webpage which takes you through the creation of the most recent Hubble images of ISON step by step…
But I know most people taken in by and forwarding this story to their friends won’t bother with that, it’s too much hard work, so here’s the simple version, answering all the questions in their breathless “OMG!” “WOW!” Tweets and Facebook posts…
* Yes. ISON is a comet, you numpties.
* No. It doesn’t have company. (Not yet, anyway…)
* No, that pic doesn’t show ISON is either three seperate objects, or a fleet of UFOs. That’s just bloody silly, and anyone who actually believes that really shouldn’t be allowed near a computer. Not while they’re on so much medication anyway.
* What it shows is multiple images of ISON, taken by the Hubble telescope through different filters, against a background showing stars as points because they were tracked by Hubble.
Above: three separate images of ISON put together in one picture. Why? Check out the link above.
* Using that raw data the Hubble team then brilliantly and painstakingly made a single, beautiful image, showing everything in focus. This is, by the way, how ALL Hubble images are made – by combining raw images taken through different filters. It’s not new. This has been going on for years.
That’s not magic. It’s science. Ironically, the same science the people spreading this rubbish around the internet use TO spread that rubbish around the internet – you know, electricity, computing power, modern communications, the internet, that kind of stuff.
I am sure many people are forwarding this garbage innocently because they really don’t know anything about comets, or astronomy, and just think it’s fascinating and exciting. But I am equally sure there are people out there forwarding this story utterly, utterly convinced that it’s true, because they genuinely believe in aliens and have a head full of conspiracy theories they just lurve sharing with everyone else who will listen, or doesn’t want to listen but is given no choice. These are the same people (who, have you noticed, never use their REAL name on Facebook or Twitter, but always either a random bunch of numbers and letters or, worse, something ridiculously grand like “The World’s Truth” or “Revelation Master” or “Secret Code” etc) who insist that the Apollo landings were faked. The same people who told us all that another comet, Elenin, would hit Earth and kill us all. They’re the same people who told us all, oh so confidently, that the Mayans had predicted the end of the world in december 2012. Oh yeah, remind me again how that turned out..?
Incredibly, some of them are even insisting that THEIR ‘processing’ of the raw images, or YouTube screengrabs (and for ‘processing’ read ‘messing about with Contrast and Levels in Photoshop for a few minutes’ ) shows things the official Hubble images don’t! Yeah, that makes sense. Someone sat at home in their mother’s basement or their lonely bedroom, with walls covered with X Files posters, can do a better job on their PC than the geniuses on the Hubble Telescope team can with their state of the art computers…
I know I’m wasting my breath writing all this down because the people creating and peddling this rubbish are so deluded and so loyal to their delusions that they’ll either ignore it or rant and rave against it. Whatever. I feel better for saying it. And if it helps one person walk away from the Dark Side of the ISON Nutters and come back into the light of scientific reason and truth it will have been time well spent 🙂
So, to summarise… (click to enlarge)