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What is this Moon phenomenon?

  1. Aug 16, 2006 #1

    DaveC426913

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    I picked this up on another board and am mystified. I'd like some more input on it. What do you guys think?

    Note especially the naked eye confirmation and the multiple witnesses.


    A co-worker of mine, out on the weekend at a campsite, looked up at the moon and noticed a strange red circle in the sky near the moon. He grabbed his camera and took several pictures and had his wife and kids verify that he was not seeing things.

    http://www.totedata.com/mars.jpg

    The quality of the picture is not the best, but it demonstrates what he saw (moon is on the left, red globe on the right). The moon was fairly large, near the horizon, and it was his claim that "that must be Mars!". I assured him that it was not (and could not be, for several reasons), and must have been some consequence of a lens-type effect of the atmosphere casting a shadow of a red moon some distance to the right of where it actually was.


    (To me, the object on the left looks like an out-of-focus bit of dust or raindrop caught in the image, but that doesn't address the naked eye account.)


    I am looking into the exact date so's we can verify positions of the Moon (and Mars). I'll ask about the camera settings too. and I'll get him to post the uncropped photo.


    Does anyone have any theories?
     
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2006
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 16, 2006 #2
    mars or venus?
     
  4. Aug 16, 2006 #3

    DaveC426913

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    Right, but of course it can't be. They are only points. This was a disc comparable in size to the Moon.
     
  5. Aug 16, 2006 #4

    russ_watters

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    The red blob in the pic sure looks like the moon to me. It has the surface features of it.

    I'll go with the atmospheric lensing, but that's an awful lot of separation.

    Still, it is strange that the thing called the moon in that pic is wayyyy out of focus.
     
  6. Aug 16, 2006 #5

    Bystander

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    Campsite near a pond, lake, other body of water? On a still night?
     
  7. Aug 16, 2006 #6

    berkeman

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    Looks like part of the urban legend thing recently about Mars getting so close to earth this year that its size would rival the moon. Look at the title of the picture -- it's part of the Mars legend.

    Check out the scoop on Snopes.com:

    http://www.snopes.com/science/mars.asp
     
  8. Aug 16, 2006 #7

    DaveC426913

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    I'm acutely aware of the Mars hoax. As the star buff amongst my family and friends, I'm asked about and have to dispel this one all the time.

    This has nothing to do with it.*

    The filename of the picture (it has no "title") is Mars because the photographer saw a red light in the sky. Mars was his first, most likely guess (as evident in the OP), even if it's highly unlikely.

    * (I grant that there is a vanishingly slim possibility that the photographer's story is totally fabricated and the picture is designed to play iright into the Mars hoax. But wouldn't you think then, that the images would show that better? I mean, it doesn't look ANYTHING like Mars!)
     
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2006
  9. Aug 16, 2006 #8

    russ_watters

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    Are we sure that "the moon" in that photo isn't an aircraft landing light? Again, the moon should not look like a lens flare...
     
  10. Aug 16, 2006 #9

    DaveC426913

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    Read the account.
    1] He and other witnesses observed this enough that I would think a landing light would have to be ruled out.
    2] The photo is pretty poor quality.

    I propose that the photo be treated as nothing more than strong evidence that the event happened and only generally what was witnessed, but a close analysis of the photo itself would be a red herring.

    I think the account itself is what is worth examining.
     
  11. Aug 16, 2006 #10
    Judging from the "moon" in that picture I'm calling hoax. Either that, or the guy's camera is worse than my cellphone camera.
     
  12. Aug 16, 2006 #11

    DaveC426913

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    OK, I analyzed the red object. (Even though I just previous said that analyzing the photo is a red herring, I feel that my analysis here is not merely speculative, I am comfortably saying it is conclusive.)

    I Googled a random pic of the Moon and played with the exposure settings (I did no 'shopping on it; I didn't even have to rotate it!) and then I put it next to the one from the pic.

    Whatever else is happening in the photographer's picture, the red object is the Moon.
     

    Attached Files:

  13. Aug 16, 2006 #12

    chroot

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    Well, duh. Of course the red thing is the moon. The white thing therefore must be a flying saucer.

    Bottom line: anyone who claims that the white thing is the moon, while the red thing is not, is either trying to perpetrate a hoax or is so dumb that his eye-witness testimony is suspect.

    I suspect the white object is some phenomenon like an Iridium flare, while the red object is, of course, the moon. An Iridium flare would be consistent with a white light low on the horizon, near dawn or dusk. This fellow's camera (or photography skills) are so poor that the auto white balance drastically underexposed the moon in order to capture the white object without blooming. Notice also the lack of stars in the photo. The white object had to have been extremely bright.

    If the photographer had been sensible enough to provide time, date, and location data, I could look for satellites that would have appeared as shown.

    - Warren
     
  14. Aug 16, 2006 #13

    DaveC426913

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    The white object looks very much like a point object burred into a disc, lit by flash. This is an extremely common event in photography. The fact that the object is blurred *at all* corroborates the likelihood that it is not in the same focal plane as the Moon (i.e. infinity) and in fact, would have to be quite near and quite small, like within feet.

    That is two marks against the veracity of this account.

    I think that the photographer is going to have to do some pretty fast talking to save this story.
     
  15. Aug 16, 2006 #14

    Integral

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    Clearly that is an image of the moon. There is NO way it is Mars or any other planet. It is interesting that the the blurry image of the moon appears blue/green when generally it is more yellow, kinda like you took away the red...hmmm.

    I guess the question is, which image is the "real" moon? Seems pretty clear to me that some sort of refraction is occurring. Perhaps the blue/green image is the refracted image and the red is the "real moon". I have read of a phenomena called Looming, where objects below the horizon can appear to be looming above the horizon, this is similar to a road mirage except the temperature gradient is in the atmosphere rather then at ground level. It is more associated with the sea then land.

    I am assuming that since Dave knows who took the pic that we are not dealing with a photochop image.
     
  16. Aug 16, 2006 #15

    DaveC426913

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    In his defense:
    1] No one said the guy knows the slightest thing about the night sky. He doesn't know how to understand what he saw. That does not make him a suspect witness. The account provides facts and circumstances, not interpretations (well, except the one final guess, which everyone has ruled out).

    2] Time/date/location data are absent, not because of him, but because of the intermediary communication. He didn't KNOW it was going to get thrown onto several fora where it would get scrutinized by experienced.

    As for an Iridium flare or satellite - no way:
    a] a flare could not possibly have lasted as long as the account indicates
    b] the image would have been smeared by motion
     
  17. Aug 16, 2006 #16

    DaveC426913

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    I can't imagine this could be some sort of double image. That would be quite remarkable in and of itself!

    No, I do not ("...I picked this up on another board..."). It is a third-hand account.

    A quick analysis of the image does not turn up any evidence of Photoshopping (try cranking up the brightness and saturation all the way), though someone more skilled than I might.
     
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2006
  18. Aug 16, 2006 #17

    Integral

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    I had a reply spell checked and ready to post when we were hit by a power outage. Something like 40,000 pe'ps in this, and a neighbor community lost power. Back on now after ~2hrs.

    I find it remarkable that both images are of about the same size, that seems to important to ignore. It could mean that this is indeed two images of the moon, or it is a photochop done with intent to deceive.

    The one critical factor that we do not have is knowledge of the horizon. Can we assume that it is oriented correctly? It is interesting to rotate the image 900 to the right, this brings the red image on to the horizon and the blue/green image to a position that could be about a 1/2 hr before moon set. So a double exposure would create such an image. I do not know how to do a double exposure with a digital camera, but it could be superimposed images?


    Knowing that this is something off the web, reduces my confidence that the images were in the sky at the same time. Therefore less likely to have a physical explanation.
     
  19. Aug 16, 2006 #18

    DaveC426913

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    Inasmuch as we assume the photographer's story is honest, I would assume he's posted it without rotation. This is corroborated by his account "...moon is on the left, red globe on the right..."

    Read the account! He saw it with the naked eye, and corroborated it with other witnesses.

    You can claim the story is false, but unless you do so, any explanation that involves the camera is ruled out.
     
  20. Aug 16, 2006 #19

    DaveC426913

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    Update:

    1] Apparently there are more pictures. I'll try to post em as soon as they become available.

    2] The poster has found a reference to a similar phenom. (Even though this is on a "Bad Astronomy" Board, I don't think that negates the value of the post itself.) I'd say this changes things.
     
  21. Aug 17, 2006 #20

    DaveC426913

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    OK. New evidence just in.

    The photo uncropped in which you can see:
    - a star off to the left
    - the horizon (turn the brightness way up - or just look at the second pic)

    The photos were taken near Calgary Alberta on August 7th. (Thing is, I can't find any star that would match this position in relation to the Moon on that night.)



    And an additional photo, in which you can see
    - the horizon
    - the reflection of the Moon off the water in the foreground
    - the beginnings of an object upper right from the Moon, which has not formed fully yet.


    I'm comfortable now that a double image of the Moon is the most plausible explanation. I never knew such thing existed!
     
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