Posts Tagged ‘Astronomy’

Asteroid 2012 DA14 will not impact Earth

January 11, 2013 Leave a comment

da14orbitWritten by Leslie Haze of

It seems these days any information regarding an announcement of a Near Earth Asteroid (NEA) coming remotely close to Earth spirals out of control within minutes on the internet by “doomsday prophets”. It is inevitable. What they fail to recognize or report are the facts or truth. No research is done and the doomsday prophets immediately go into internet viral mode. It is unfortunate for the doomsayers because it will only add one more failed prediction to their rapidly infinite list of crock predictions. These tiresome predictions only confirm their idiocy.

Asteroid 2012 DA14 is a moderate asteroid classified 0 (No Hazard) on the Torino scale. This means no threat to Earth. This statement of course has no bearing for conspirators. This is not enough evidence to prove to someone who is unconvinced. Here I will explain how if the asteroid made impact with Earth, it would be so miniscule it would embarrass your dog. How could I possibly know this? Simple research of facts with side by side comparisons of similar asteroids. If you claim to be a “seeker of TRUTH” keep reading or you may stop now if you are looking for more hyped up disinformation.

Asteroid 2012 DA14 is only 45 meters or 148 feet in diameter. About the size of a commercial airliner. If the asteroid made it into Earth’s atmosphere it would most likely disintegrate some kilometers above the ground in a large explosion, which if it occurred over a populated area, would cause severe personal and structural damage. What does that mean? Anything 75 meters or less in diameter would not survive intact during its passage through our atmosphere.

Hypothetically let’s say DA14 miraculously didn’t disintegrate while entering the Earth’s atmosphere or was more than 75 meters in diameter. Let’s compare DA14 with the the Barringer Crater in Arizona. The meteorite that impacted here was a rare Type M made of metallic iron and was only 50 meters in diameter. This is the measurement after most of it burned up in the atmosphere. The Barringer Crater is 1,200 m (4,000 ft) in diameter, some 170 m deep (570 ft). Since the Barringer Crater meteorite was made of metallic iron (Type M) the impact caused far more damage because it was so heavy. Still it hardly produced an Extinction Level Event (ELE). (Please note there are 3 classifications of asteroids.)

It is estimated that more than 75% of all asteroids in the solar system are carbonaceous (Type C). Type C asteroids are asteroids made of carbonates. Composition is thought to be similar to the Sun, depleted in hydrogen, helium, and other volatiles. Type C asteroids inhabit the main belt’s outer regions, where as Type M is metallic Iron. The likelihood of DA14 being a Type M is 1% and the likelihood of a Type M actually impacting Earth makes the odds even less. On top of this, the likelihood of DA14 hitting a populated area makes it slim to none. You would have a better chance of winning the lottery. To give you a better understanding it would be like comparing a bowling ball (Type M) to a volleyball (Type C). Type C asteroids are much lighter and less destructive. Since Type C asteroids are less dense, they have a greater probability of breaking up into hundreds of pieces as they enter the atmosphere. Coincidentally the asteroid that created the Barringer Crater, even being a Type M, broke up before impact as well.

If asteroid DA14 were to enter Earth’s atmosphere on Feb 15, 2013 the explosion would produce the equivalent of 2.4 megatons of TNT. The asteroid that created the Barringer Crater had an impact energy estimated at about 10 megatons. That is about a 1/4 of what DA14 is estimated. Let’s say our calculations are off and it makes it into Earth’s atmosphere. Based on the facts given, DA14 would probably destroy a small neighborhood if it even were to explode above a populated area which is less likely than likely. The Earth is about 75% water and only 3% of land surface is covered by populated urban areas according to GRUMP data-sets. This means there is about a 3% chance the asteroid would explode near a populated area.

Based on all the facts given, even if DA14 was miraculously made of metallic iron we can see by comparing the Barringer Crater this would be the maximum damage. (Note: the Barringer Asteroid was much larger before it entered Earth’s atmosphere.) The damage it caused was nowhere near being an Extention Level Event. Sorry to disappoint anyone.

Asteroid 2012 DA14 will also not be visible to the naked eye. Also according to NASA/JPL there is an estimated cumulative 0.033% risk (1 in 3,030) of 2012 DA14 impacting Earth sometime between 2026 and 2069. There is an estimated cumulative 0.00018% risk (1 in 556,000) of 2012 DA14 impacting Earth sometime between 2078 and 2111.

So, to sum up:

  • The asteroid will not impact Earth on February 15, 2013.
  • There is an estimated cumulative 0.00018% risk (1 in 556,000) of 2012 DA14 impacting Earth sometime between 2078 and 2111.
  • It is rated a low −5.78 on the Palermo Scale. (The risk is less than 1/500000 of the estimated risk of another similarly sized near earth asteroid hitting Earth during that time period. It is estimated that there are more than a million near-Earth asteroids smaller than 100 meters.)
  • It rates 0 (No Hazard) on the Torino scale.
  • If it were to hit Earth, it is estimated that it would produce the equivalent of 2.4 megatons of TNT. The Tunguska event has been estimated at 3−20 megatons.
  • In 2012 there was a cumulative 0.033% risk (1 in 3,030) of 2012 DA14 impacting Earth sometime between 2026 and 2069. In 2012 it was also known that the asteroid would pass no closer to Earth’s surface than 3.2 Earth radii.

Cosmophobia – An unreasoning fear of the cosmos

January 5, 2013 Leave a comment

Now that 2012 is behind us and all of the doomsday predictions of December 21st failed, Bill Hudson (a.k.a. ‘Astrogeek’) founder of the website has created a new site for 2013 and beyond. Dealing with yet more doomsday predictions that are already in full swing on numerous conspiracy websites, fears from comet impacts to rogue planets, this is Cosmophobia.What the heck is “Cosmophobia”? You may be wondering:

Astronomer David Morrison, Senior scientist with the NASA Lunar Science Institute, coined the term ‘cosmophobia’ after answering questions at the NASA “Ask an Astrobiologist” page. He defined it as “An unreasoning fear of the cosmos”, and created a short list of items that people are worried about.

A presentation at the Astronomical Society of the Pacific’s annual meeting in Tuscon in August 2012 was titled “Doomsday 2012 and Cosmophobia: Challenges and Opportunities for Science Communication” and is available for viewing via NASA’s website.

This site grew out of the 2012hoax website, at the end of 2012. It was felt that despite the fact that 2012 had ended without the various predictions of doom and destruction the resources gathered under the 2012hoax website would still be necessary in the future. Many of the predictions made about 2012 originated well before 2012, and would continue to be claimed well after 2012.

This site will deal with various claims that invoke ‘cosmophobia’, where the fear factor is pumped up in claims in order to make something fairly mundane sound sinister and threatening. In addition to claims made about astronomy, we will also look into claims touching on other fields of science such as geology and vulcanology. We will approach all claims from a perspective of skeptical inquiry. The claimant must provide evidence that supports their claims, and extraordinary claims will require extraordinary evidence.

The Cosmophobia website:
The Cosmophobia discussion board:
The Cosmophobia Facebook Group:


December 4, 2011 3 comments

UPDATE: Since the Comet Elenin Doomsday conspiracies fell to pieces, quite literally, Marshall Masters of has removed all Comet Elenin material from the front page of his website. No admissions of being wrong and no apologies for creating unnecessary fear mongering. But honestly, did you really expect anything else?

Well its been a while since we posted anything, but thought it best we show how wrong the doomcryers were, yet again! We’re going to keep this short and sweet so let’s get this nonsense out of the way. First let us go back a little to May 21 of this year; we had the false prophet Harold Camping predicting the end of the world, that was cancelled until October 21, well nothing happened, we’re still here! We had comet Honda pass the Earth on August 15, it didn’t hit us, we’re still here! We had doomcryers predicting that asteroid 2005 YU55 would smash into the Earth on November 8th, it didn’t, we’re still here! But now for the biggie, how can we forget comet Elenin, or the Brown Dwarf star Nibiru as many were saying. First of all it was exactly what it was said to be, a comet, and a wimpy comet at that. Yet we had the imbecile narcissist Marshall Masters saying otherwise. Anyway back in August comet Elenin started disintegrating and was reduced to nothing more than dust, Good’ol yowusa soon jumped on that news too. Well we didn’t pass through its debris, we didn’t all get poisioned and we didn’t all turn into zombies and start eating eachother! However we cannot forget the all important date regarding this comet, October 16, when the remnant of Elenin made its closest approach to Earth. It passed by at the precise distance NASA and the astronomers studying this object said it would, 0.2338 AU (34,980,000 km; 21,730,000 mi) and now Elenin, or rather what’s left of it, is on its way back out into deep space. There was a whole bunch more of predictions we could have covered here but quite frankly it wasn’t worth it, the outcome for all is the same, they failed. We’re now in December and 2012 is around the corner, the true great year for ‘EPIC FAILNESS!’ Who knows what other crackpot theories and predictions these lunatics will dig up as we go through the year. We really cannot wait for it to arrive and have fun once again debunking them all. I wonder what the next big doomsday prediction will be when the 2012/Nibiru one falls flat on its face? How about 2020? That’s a nice even number isn’t it? Actually here’s a better idea for all the doomcryers, how about when 2012 fails and we pass into 2013, then 2014 etc, you unplug your PC from the wall, then unplug your brain from your ass and go outside and actually do something constructive and worthwhile with your lives? Nuff said.

A World Class Physicist’s View Of 2012

July 29, 2011 Leave a comment


Professor Brian Cox, OBE, is a British particle physicist, a professor at the University of Manchester, and a member of the High Energy Physics group working on the Large Hadron Collider at CERN.

He is also a populariser of science, hosting major TV series such as “Wonders Of The Solar System”. The latter was named best documentary series of 2010, and received the prestigious George Foster Peabody Award for excellence in documentary film-making. Other awards for his work in popularising science include the Institute of Physics Kelvin Prize, for communicating the appeal and excitement of physics to the general public. Some have called him “The New Carl Sagan”.

He is an outspoken critic of all areas of pseudoscience, particularly Astrology, 2012, the Mayan calendar prediction, and conspiracy theories concerning the Moon landings. [1] He is also dismissive (in a similar manner to Richard Feynman) of “philosophy of science” written by non-scientists; “to put it bluntly, vast amounts of drivel have been written about the subject by armies of postmodernist philosophers and journalists”. His comment that Astrology is “a load of rubbish”, made during one episode of Wonders Of The Solar System, provoked many complaints from Astrologers. His reply to this, in the Huw Wheldon Lecture, was: “I apologise to the astrology community for not making myself clear. I should have said that this New Age drivel is undermining the very fabric of our civilisation”. [2]

He does have a reputation for plain speaking. The Creationist belief that the world is 6,000 years old is dismissed as “bks”, anyone who believes the world is going to end next year because of the Mayan calendar is “a moron”. And people who believe Cern’s Large Hadron Collider will suck the universe into a black hole are “t—ts”. [3]

Views on 2012

Cox’s main output concerns serious science and major projects such as the Large Hadron Collider. His comments on 2012 have generally been made through less official channels, such as his Twitter account and YouTube, where he often uses colourful language and slang. For example, on Twitter he said “the 2012 end of the world stuff is a steaming pile of turd, and if you believe it u r a nobber – that’s my considered view”. There are two videos in which Cox speaks about 2012, filmed informally while on a car journey. The following is a transcript of the first video: [4]

The maya had a long count, which was a calendar, it was basically base 20, mayan calendars are always base 20, that’s because you’ve got 10 fingers and 10 toes, so it’s a HUMAN based calendar. And so the long count began – this current long count – began in 3 thousand 100 and 16 or 17 BC, I can’t remember which, and if you add them all up, then the year 13 0 0 0 0 – which is the end of that long count – is 2012. And in the mayan calendar then, a new long count begins, so the mayans believed that the universe was created in three thousand whatever it is BC, and will end in 2012 because a new one’s going to be created, a new cycle’s going to be created – it’s in the same sense that the day ends when the Sun is devoured in the East <corrects himself> in the West, and reappears again in the East.”


The maya have a calendar which cycles around, and there are many, many, many, correspondents on the internet that believe that that’s still going to be the case, that the universe is going to end in 2012.”


What kind of MORON do you have to be? ….. to?” <pauses>


See the maya had some elaborate system of counting, it all cycles around and their whole civilisation was built on it, so I have no quarrel at all with the maya, I think they had a beautiful civilisation. [but] People on the internet today who …. the thing is, the calendar is based on the number of fingers and toes you’ve got, right. How can that have cosmic significance? 5 5 5 5. How can that have cosmic significance? It just depends entirely on what – on how many dextrous protrusions the organism that invented the civilisation’s got. So …..” <shakes head, lost for words>


“So your opinion of people that think the world will end in 2012 because that’s the end of the mayan long count is? Your opinion is?”

Brian Cox:

I reckon that they might be statistically right, because you’ve got to be such a <expletive bleeped out> to believe it, that you might have a higher statistical chance of walking in front of a bus. So in that sense, they could be statistically correct. And it will be to the advantage of all of us, because the human race will progress in a more measured way, if the people who believe that are statistically removed in 2012.”

The following is a transcript of the second of Cox’s videos about 2012, in which he covers the same ground: [5]


“What do some people think’s going to happen in 2012, and what do you think?”

Brian Cox:

What IS going to happen in 2012, is that the current mayan long count is going to end, so it’s going to go to 13 0 0 0 0. and then, as our experts on mayan culture tell us today, it will go to 1 0 0 0 0, and carry on. But what the maya believe is that the universe will be recreated at that point, because they believe that every long count cycle the universe begins ends and then restarts again. <laughs> However ….”


“What do other people on the internet think will happen in 2012?”

Brian Cox:

The problem with the maya’s view of history, as we now know, is that it’s based on a base 20 counting system, right, base 20, so it’s not base 10, it’s base 20, and that’s because you’ve got 5 fingers on that hand, 5 fingers on that hand, and 5 toes on each foot. So their calculation of when the universe will end, requires you to have 10 fingers and 10 toes. Hence, you would have to be a complete tw*t [6] to think <laughs> that it has any bearing on Cosmolgy. Not if you’re maya, see the maya believed that people influence time passing, people are required actually to keep time passing, so their view of the world was self-contained and sensible. If, at the turn of the 21st century, you still believe that that’s the case <laughs> then you are a tw*t.

On the dangers of the Large Hadron Collider

Cox dismisses “doomsday” scenarios involving black holes or other products created by the LHC in 2012, or any other year;

“according to Dr. Brian Cox at CERN, the universe conducts the equivalent of ten trillion lifetime runs of the LHC every second, and has been doing so for billions of years, with not a single observable consequence.” [7]

What this refers to is the fact that the universe itself creates particles with similar and greater energies than the LHC, and that these naturally occuring particles have been colliding with other particles, in bodies such as the Moon, for billions of years, with no disastrous effects. [8]

Gia Milinovich

Brian is married to Gia Milinovich, an American TV producer. Her blog includes a page entitled “Apocalympics 2012 – Mayan “Prophecy”, in which she berates 2012 believers. Here are some quotes from Gia’s Blog: [9]

Some people – whacky New Agers and many people who should know better – have taken this to mean that the world will end. The fact that the end of the Mayan Long count ends on or near the Winter Solstice adds much more significance to people who seem to think there’s some kind of ‘supernatural magic’ in the revolution of the Earth around the Sun.


What I can’t understand is why people think the Maya had more of an ability to see into the future than any one else.


I’m afraid that anyone who believes there is any deep significance in Mayan Prophecy is quite clearly incapable of finding joy and wonder in the real world and instead insists on creating stories which are based on fear, negativity, insecurity and self-loathing. Seriously, you can’t predict the end of the world *and* love Yourself, Humanity and the Universe, can you? Sad really.

Published scientific papers by Professor Brian Cox (not including CERN);


Media Writing Credits;


1. Brian Cox speaking about Moon Landing conspiracies:
2. Astrology comments during the Huw Wheldon Lecture, at 9 min 20:
6. Tw*t (noun): A stupid incompetent fool, a person who lacks good judgment, a foolish or despicable person.

Comet Hysteria and the Millennium: A Commentary By Gary W. Kronk

June 8, 2011 2 comments

Whether you like it or not, there are a lot of gullible people in the world. It is truly amazing what people will believe. But, what’s worse, it is upsetting how many people are out there who try and take advantage of those people. Now I am not going to spend my time addressing all the lies people are falling for on an everyday basis, but I would like to address something that particularly bugs me. For nearly 30 years I have enjoyed observing comets. I have seen well over 110. My interest in this branch of astronomy is so great that I have also spent a lot of time reading about comets, doing my own research, and even talking to the experts in this field. The result is an increased enjoyment while observing, the publication of two books about comets, and I even give occasional talks on the subject. Although my books are basically reference works for other researchers, my own research has brought me into contact with a lot of interesting stories about how people in ancient and medieval times reacted toward comets. These stories are the kind of anecdotal material I like to intersperse throughout my talks when I need to lighten things up a bit. These include the following:

  • The comet of 79 was blamed for the eruption of Vesuvius that led to the destruction of the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum.
  • Halley’s Comet of 1066 was hanging in the sky for two months while the English and Normans were planning for an invasion. At the Battle of Hastings a few months later the Normans emerged as victors and from that time on the comet was said to have been a sign that favored William the Conqueror.
  • The comet of 1665 was said to have been responsible for the Black Plague that killed 90 thousand people in London.
  • The appearance of Halley’s Comet in 1835 was blamed for several things, including the fall of the Alamo, the destruction of 530 buildings in New York City because of a fire that raged for several days and nights, the massacre of over 280 people in Africa by ten thousand Zulu warriors, and wars that erupted in Cuba, Mexico, Equador, Central America, Peru, Argentina, and Bolivia.
  • These stories are basically examples of hindsight, or links that were made by modern people to explain things in the past. Sometimes the dates of historical events can not be perfectly matched to the appearance of a comet so a slightly different way is created to establish blame, such as the following:
  • The appearance of Halley’s Comet in 66 was said to have been “a warning” of the fall of Jerusalem in 70.
  • The appearance of Halley’s Comet in 1456 was said to have been “a heavenly comment” on the successful 1453 invasion of Constantinople by the Turks.

Once again these are examples of hindsight.

With the invention of newspapers, the telegraph, and the telephone came an increase in communication between people. Although doomsayers have always existed, this opened up a new avenue for them to pass their word to others. Perhaps the first major test of this came with the appearance of Halley’s Comet in 1910. A little bit of scientific information in the wrong hands can be dangerous. During the latter half of the 19th century astronomers had developed a tool that enabled them to analyze the light being reflected by comets. One of the first discoveries was that comets reflected sunlight, which makes a lot of sense to us nowadays since we know comets do not emit light, but this did surprise of lot of people. Interestingly, however, bright comets would actually reflect sunlight as it passed through their own dense clouds of dust and gas. This allowed astronomers to begin determining what comets were actually made of. One of the earliest discoveries was that comets contained cyanogen, a very poisonous gas. As Halley’s Comet approached the sun in 1910, astronomers announced that Earth would actually pass through the tail of this comet during May of that year. They assured everyone that our planet was safe and suggested the possibility of some spectacular sunsets. Meanwhile, the doomsayers latched onto a potential link: if comets contain a poisonous gas and if Earth is going to pass through the comet’s tail, then the people of Earth were in serious danger. Numerous newspapers actually published this story. Astronomers countered by saying the material in the tail was so spread out that there could be no ill affects, but few newspapers published this accurate information. Interestingly, a minor panic arose in some cities and entrepreneurs took advantage of it. They sold “comet pills” which were said to counter the effects of the poisonous gas. The pills sold like crazy. On May 20, after Earth had passed through the tail, everyone who had taken the pills was still alive…but, then, so was everyone else.

Interestingly, comet-caused panics basically vanished during most of the remainder of the 20th century. But during the last few years “end-of-the-world” predictions have become hot topics in supermarket tabloids, the WorldWideWeb, and on radio and television programs. The WorldWideWeb is probably the most to blame where anyone with a computer, with any degree of intelligence, could access the sites and take in as much information as they wish. Why all the interest in these predictions? The following are some of the contributing factors:

  • The end of the Millennium: although the world has passed through numerous 1000-year cycles before, some people are becoming worried about this one, mainly for religious reasons. There are numerous books written about the subject, articles in magazines, and lots of WWW sites which help fuel the fear. Interestingly, research into texts written during the 990s revealed millennium panics were present.
  • Prophecies: For some reason, things said by people who talk in their sleep have always been a source of fascination. This time around, it is the 16th-century prophet Nostradamus. His ambiguous statements have been linked to many historical events through hindsight. Various newly published interpretations indicate that he claims something big would happen around the time of the new millennium.
  • Astronomical Disaster: The 1980s sparked a revelation of sorts for astronomers as they discovered that something big had hit Earth 65 million years ago and wiped out the dinosaurs. An increased interest by astronomers, geologists, and biologists helped identify several other cataclismic events that caused a large loss of life on our planet. Asteroids or comets have been suggested for some of these events. As the 1990s began new programs were funded that enabled some observatories to start serious, devoted searches for objects that might threaten Earth in the future.
  • Hollywood: Improved computer power was being used to help improve the appearance of movies. This led to a series of movies on both television and the big screen that tried to depict what it would be like for Earth to be hit by a large asteroid or comet.
  • Conspiracy Theories: Ever since the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963, people have become more suspicious. Unfortunately, some have become more suspicious than others. This has led some people to doubt the validity of investigations into the assassinations of President Kennedy, his brother Robert in 1968, and Martin Luther King, also in 1968. There are people who doubt the United States Air Force’s report stating that UFOs were not extraterrestrial. And there are people who believe that the multiple missions to the moon were all faked.

Of course, none of the above would mean anything if it was not for the media. People go to newspapers, radio, and television for news, but the success of papers like the National Enquirer, radio programs like the Art Bell show, and television programs like the Jerry Springer show all indicate that sensationalism sells. Sensationalism has unforturnately taken hold on the WWW and it has been here that pseudoscience has joined up with the above factors to start annoying me.

The “Doomsday Comet” of 1996

Beginning in 1996 minor forms of comet hysteria reared their ugly head for the first time since 1910. With the discovery of comet Hyakutake and the realization that it would pass close to Earth, some supermarket tabloids reported the comet was actually going to hit Earth–totally ignoring the predictions of astronomers. The due date came and went without a hitch and there was no further discussion. Interestingly, one supermarket tabloid, the Weekly World News, published an article on 1996 February 13 that stated the Hubble Space Telescope had found a “doomsday comet.” The article said “the famed astronomer Dr. Robert Cremson” had found the comet while examining Hubble images. He said it was the size of Europe and would hit Earth on April 7. First of all, although comets have been photographed by Hubble, no comet has ever been discovered by Hubble. Second, no one by the name of “Robert Cremson” appears in any of the records indicating use of the Hubble Space Telescope. Nor does this name show up in internet searches with respect to astronomy. Interestingly, the Weekly World News refers to this person as “Dr. Crenshaw” around the middle of the same article. Just for the record no “Robert Crenshaw” shows up in Hubble records or in searches dealing with astronomy. Anyway, the two billion people that were expected to die in the impact are still alive and well.

The “Doomsday Comet” of 1997

Although the year 2000 was still three years away, comet Hale-Bopp caused a more significant form of comet hysteria in 1997. This comet was one of the largest comets ever seen and there were doomsayers who took this as something very significant. There were predictions that the comet would bring the end of the world on April 1, which was the date the comet would be closest to Earth. Although this mention of a “close approach” perked up the ears of the doomsayers, the reality of this was that the comet was over 120 million miles away–further from us than the sun. There was no chance that any particle of this comet was going to reach Earth. Subsequently, there was no end to the world–once again. Sadly, there is another aspect to Hale-Bopp’s appearance which contributed to the ritual suicide of 39 members of a religious cult called “Heaven’s Gate”, founded and led by Marshall Applewhite and Bonnie Nettles, on March 26, 1997. An amateur astronomer had taken a photo of the comet during November of 1996 that he claimed showed a UFO following the comet. The “UFO” was actually a star that was present on every photo ever taken of that region. Unfortunately, the mere mention of “UFO” got a lot of people excited and the amateur astronomer became a celibrity on radio and television programs that promoted such things. From this came more misidentified images of the comet and its “UFO”, with the “UFO” typically being a misidentified star or a photo defect. The religious cult believed the “UFO” was a spaceship which was coming to take their spirits away. Suicide was the only way to release their spirits in time. So, two bright comets, two predictions of doom for our world, and life still continued as normal. In some ways, the doomsayers of 1996 and 1997 were simply carrying out the same tradition as the people of ancient and medieval times. Bright comets capture the imagination. Although comet Hyakutake and Hale-Bopp both reached similar brightnesses, they did so for different reasons. Hyakutake became bright because it passed only ten million miles from Earth, the 33rd closest approach of any comet in history. Had it passed at a distance more typical of comets it would hardly have been noticed. Comet Hale-Bopp became bright because it was huge, certainly among the largest comets ever seen. It remained visible to the naked-eye for nearly a year and a half–nearly twice the previous record. If this comet had passed as close to Earth as comet Hyakutake did its brightness would have approached that of the full moon! Bright comets are generally a once-in-a-decade event and with two bright comets having passed, you would think comet hysteria would be an impossibility until after the millennium. But no. Nostradamus prophesied a comet would herald the mass desctruction around the time of the new millennium, so the doomsayers needed a comet. During May of 1998 they got another chance to frighten the gullible.

The “Doomsday Comet” of 1998

Comet SOHO (official designation C/1998 J1) was discovered on May 3, 1998 by the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO). This “observatory” is a satellite that orbits the sun just a few million miles from Earth where it continually monitors the sun. On the date of the discovery the comet was barely within the image of a wide-field camera. During the next couple of days it steadily stayed near the northern edge of that camera’s field until it finally left. Rough orbits indicated the comet would probably be a bright object for observers in the Southern Hemisphere. It was finally spotted by observers on May 19 after it had sufficiently moved out of twilight. The comet was not as bright as Hyakutake and Hale-Bopp, but it was visible to the naked eye for a couple of weeks. This comet became interesting to the doomsayers through the use of conspiracy rumors. An internet group calling themselves “The Millennium Group” was the biggest of the conspiracy sites. Through a misunderstanding of cometary astronomy they actually claimed the comet was bigger than comet Hale-Bopp–a statement that was far from the truth. In reality the comet’s maximum brightness never reached the same level as Hale-Bopp and it was as bright as it was because it passed rather close to the sun. It was far below the maximum brightness of Hyakutake and Hale-Bopp by the time it had emerged from twilight. Another stir was caused by a misunderstanding of the discovery images. These images showed the comet near the top of the field, the sun in the center, and a “mysterious Saturn-shaped” object just to the left of the sun. One WWW site actually magnified the object and claimed it was a giant spaceship. In reality, the object was Mars, which was then on the far-side of its orbit on the other side of the sun. The “Saturn” shape was simply an artifact produced by SOHO’s electronic camera when it images a bright object. Comet SOHO came and went. Again, there was no disaster.

The “Doomsday Comet” of 1999

The year 1999 was a big year for the doomsayers. It was the last year before the beginning of the new millennium (if you are one of those who believed it began in 2000 and not 2001). Further reinterpretations of Nostradamus by various individuals indicated this was the year for mass destruction. No bright comets were predicted; however, as 30 or 40 comets are discovered each year, the “doomsday comet” had to be out there somewhere. Right? On the night of April 16, 1999, Steven Lee of Australia found a small comet. Calculations revealed the comet would pass closest to the sun on July 11, so that the comet would brighten. Its closest approach to Earth would occur in May at a distance of about 67 million miles–relatively typical for the brighter comets. Somewhat rare, however, was a second close approach on September 29, at the greater distance of about 77 million miles. Sadly, after having naked-eye comets in 1996, 1997, and 1998, comet Lee was too small and too far away for it to become a naked-eye object. However, a potential millennium disaster was at stake, as well as the prophecy of Nostradamus. Enter “The Millennium Group” once again! This time they published a rather wild scenario on their web site that indicated comet Lee could still hit Earth. They claimed that, while the comet was behind the sun during July, it was possible for a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) to hit the comet and divert pieces to a collision course with Earth. First of all, CME’s can not be predicted. Second, if a CME did occur, it is unlikely for it to reach comet Lee’s closest distance from the sun of 66 million miles with enough force to blow the comet to pieces. Third, comets have been observed to split in the past and the pieces generally stay close to the comet because of something simple called momentum. If a CME did hit the comet with a force great enough to split it, the pieces could not be diverted enough to hit Earth. At best they would drift a few thousand miles from the comet, not 77 million miles. Comet Lee was also the focus of Nostradamus scholars, who claimed the comet contained a “hidden cometary, asteroid, or meteor fragment in its tail.” They said Nostradamus indicated when the comet would hit Earth, but the various sites tended to disagree in their interpretation. Some tried to be smart about the whole thing by stating Nostradamus’ indication of the 7th month of the disaster was ambiguous because no one knew which calendar he was using. So, depending on this interpretation, some sites said July, some said September, and some admitted they were unsure and said July or September. Interestingly, a couple of sites apparently copied from the other sites and just blatantly said the comet would strike sometime between July and September. By the end of September there was no sign of a collision. Comet Lee was still exactly where it was supposed to be in the sky and it was then moving away from both the sun and Earth. Interestingly, the Associated Press distributed an article with a dateline of August 18 that said a 47-year-old man who worked on space shuttle data processing was found in a cave in southeastern Ohio on August 10. Also located within the cave was camping equipment and food. The man told authorities that a meteor was going to hit in the Atlantic Ocean causing a 200 foot tidal wave that would wipe out the east coast. The man was kept in jail overnight and was then sent on his way.

Another Threat in 1999

But the millennium was not over and neither was the task of the doomsayers. Richard Hoagland and Art Bell, each of whom makes a living by keeping the rumors of UFOs and conspiracies alive, both claimed film footage of the August 11 solar eclipse over Europe showed two unknown objects near the sun. Their “analysis” of these objects indicated they were quite close to the orbit of the Taurid meteor stream. So close, in fact, that Hoagland suggested they were probably part of the stream and of a size that could be disasterous for our planet. There was one major problem with their scenario. Although some objects do become visible during total solar eclipses (stars and planets, for instance), it still takes a fairly bright object to be seen at this time. In addition, an object sitting in the Taurid meteor stream at the position indicated on that date would have been located about 120 million miles from Earth. So, if Hoagland and Bell were reporting that objects dangerous to our planet were seen during the August 11 eclipse, how did these objects avoid detection in the past as they moved through the night sky? There is definitely one large object that is moving in the Taurid stream orbit and that is the periodic comet Encke, which is believed to be the parent of the Taurids. Discovered back in 1786, this comet circles the sun once every 3.3 years. It has on several occasions become visible to the naked eye, but never at a distance of 120 million miles from our planet. So, the Hoagland/Bell objects must be larger and brighter than Encke! If these objects were in the Taurid orbit they would move through the inner solar system in a fashion quite similar to that of comet Encke; therefore, they would have the potential of becoming incredibly bright and would have easily been detected in the past. Interestingly, of the thousands of images and video footage shot during the eclipse, nothing else showed anything unusual. Thus, it seems probable that these “doomsday” objects were probably just specks of dust on someone’s lens.

Doomsday Comet of 2000

So, with the new millennium beginning on January 1, 2000, would the appearance of a comet in 2000 be fair game for the doomsayers? After 1999 passed without a hitch, you would think many of these people would be out of a job. Some of the doomsayers have made a good living taking advantage of others and this whole millennium thing worked out quite well for them. They were published in magazines, appeared on talk shows, and even written books. But, these doomsayers tend to be pretty bright people and it did not take long for them to realize what scientists have been trying to tell everyone for several years–the new millennium would not begin until January 1, 2001. Why? Well, there was no year zero and since each millennium has a duration of 1000 years, then the first millennium ran from the year 1 through the year 1000, and the second millennium logically runs from 1001 through 2000. The third millennium would not begin until 2001. Therefore, the doomsayers had another year to frighten people! So would the tabloids, radio programs, and internet sites that breed the conspiracy theories and doomsday predictions have a comet to scare people with in the year 2000? Well, as 2000 began there was the potential for two barely naked-eye comets during the last half of the year. But the doomsayers, were getting smart. Afterall, once these comets were gone, the potential fear would subside. What they came up with was a wild theory. The small, relatively obscure comet West-Kohoutek-Ikemura, which makes one revolution around the sun every 6.4 years, was going to pass close to Mars sometime during late May or early June of 2000. Their “computations” indicated the close approach would be on the order of only 40,000 miles, which they said was close enough for the comet to either be pulled into Mars, resulting in a catastrophic blast of “millions of tons of material” from Mars, or to yank one or both moons of Mars out of orbit. They continued by noting that either the material or the moons would be put on a collision course with Earth. In a day when astronomers can pinpoint the return of a well-known periodic comet to within a few minutes or hours, how could a group of “scientists” making up The Millennium Group not be able to pinpoint a potential collision of a comet with a planet? How did well-known astronomers predict the close approach of the comet with Mars?

  • Kenji Muraoka (Japan) indicated the closest approach occurred on June 5, with the minimum distance of 0.04215 AU, which is equal to 3,914,000 miles or 6,303,000 kilometers.
  • Kazuo Kinoshita (Japan) indicated the close approach would occur on June 5, with the minimum distance of 0.0425 AU, which is equal to 3,946,890 miles or 6,355,700 kilometers.
  • Patrick Rocher (France) indicated the smallest distance between the comet and Mars will occur on June 5, with the minimum distance of 0.04251 AU, which is equal to 3,948,000 miles or 6,357,000 kilometers.

Thus, three well-known astronomers respected for the accuracy of their orbital computations had already provided similar orbits indicating a close approach slightly greater than 3.9 million miles (6.3 million kilometers). Although this comet had been bright enough for large amateur telescopes to see in the past, the return in 2000 was not observable as the comet was pretty much on the other side of the sun from Earth when at its brightest. By the time the comet was far enough from the sun to be in range of large telescopes it was too faint to be detected. Therefore, this was a clever idea on the part of The Millennium Group as the fear just kept going. Of course no pieces ever hit Earth. It is sad that people seem to have short memories and were believing this internet group once again. There was no chance of a collision. There was no chance of pieces of Mars hitting us. Just a close approach of a comet and Mars.

Will there be a Doomsday Comet in the future?

As you can see from the examples above, the doomsayers have been spreading fear about comets for years. Since 2000 up till now they have labelled many other comets as doomsday events. Comet Holmes, McNaught, Tempel 1 are more examples. The latest one is comet Elenin. Comet Elenin (also known by its astronomical name C/2010 X1), was first detected on Dec. 10, 2010 by Leonid Elenin, an observer in Lyubertsy, Russia, who made the discovery “remotely” using the ISON-NM observatory near Mayhill, New Mexico. At the time of the discovery, the comet was about 647 million kilometers (401 million miles) from Earth. Over the past four-and-a-half months, the comet has – as comets do – closed the distance to Earth’s vicinity as it makes its way closer to perihelion (its closest point to the sun). Comet Elenin should be at its brightest shortly before the time of its closest approach to Earth on Oct. 16 of this year. At its closest point, it will be 35 million kilometers (22 million miles) from us. What’s funny, but not funny to me, is it’s the same people talking the same tripe about past comets and they’re doing the same once again with comet Elenin. Marshall Masters of has hopped on the Elenin bandwagon with all his pseudoscience weight and remember, Marshall Masters was a member and front runner of…yep, you guessed it! The Millennium Group! No science, no facts, just more of the same doomsday fear they’ve spewed out over other comets for over 10 years. What’s sad is people still buy into and believe their sheer and utter nonsence when time and time again they are proven wrong.


During the last few centuries astronomers have managed to lift the cloak of mystery surrounding comets. We now know what they are, how they move, and where they come from. Although there is evidence that a comet hits Earth every few million years or so, there is a growing number of scientists that also believe comets played a major role in the early development of life on our planet. It would seem that the numerous early collisions of comets with a very young Earth probably provided most of the water now present on our planet–water, of course, being perhaps the single most important ingredient for sustaining life. Comets are just another of nature’s spectacles. Like the beauty of a sunset or a rainbow. All are unexpected, but none should be feared. Our world and our universe are filled with numerous mysteries just waiting to be solved. Fear will not enable us to learn about them, but calmly observing and studying them will.

Comet Elenin is not a danger to the Earth

April 5, 2011 6 comments

Comet C/2010 X1 (Elenin) is a comet discovered by Russian astronomer Leonid Elenin on December 10, 2010. Elenin was using a robotic observatory near Mayhill, New Mexico.

Mr. Elenin is an amateur astronomer from Lubertsy City, Russia, near Moscow. He is a graduate of the Moscow Aviation Institute, works as a researcher at the Keldysh Institute of Applied Mathematics (Russian Academy of Sciences), is married, and is bilingual (Russian and English). He volunteers with the International Astronomical Search Collaboration, and runs a website at He has had a passion for astronomy since childhood, and studies minor Solar System objects and variable stars. He has discovered more than 10 variable stars and numerous asteroids, and now, a comet.

On December 11th, 2010, Leonid Elenin posted news on his site of a “new and interesting object” discovered during a “routine survey of the sky on Dec. 10, 2010”. The discovery was made at the independent Russian remote observatory ISON-NM, which is located near Mayhill, New Mexico. The observatory is operated under the Russian project ISON (International Scientific Optical Network). His observations were confirmed by Aleksei Sergeyev and Artyom Novichonok at Madinak Observatory in the Ukrane.

Initially the comet was thought to be a short period comet, with aphelion near the orbit of Jupiter, and a perihelion inside the orbit of Earth. However, over a week after its discovery, the Minor Planets Center at Harvard published the orbital elements, revealing that the perihelion would be near Mercury! It was still unclear as to whether this was a rogue (a one time event) or a periodic comet. Further observations and calculations show that its period is on the order of 10,000 years, and that this is likely its first pass through the inner solar system. This leads to the prospect of a very bright comet in 2011. Leonid Elenin also estimates that the comet nucleus is 3-4 km in diameter.

According to the JPL Small Body Database C/2010 X1 is a Hyperbolic Comet, meaning that it will not return. However, Leonid Elenin has calculated that due to perturbations to the comet’s orbit from the gas giant planets, that the orbit of his comet will be modified to a long-period elliptical orbit, and that it will return in about 10,000 years.

Comet Elenin is in an orbit that is close to the plane of the ecliptic. It is currently just past opposition and about 3 times farther away from us than we are from the sun. Here is an illustration of the comet’s orbit as of April 5, 2011.

In August 2011, Elenin will become a naked-eye visible object, as it sweeps in closer to the sun than the Earth is.

By September 1st, 2011, Comet Elenin will approach the orbit of Mercury, and it will reach Perhelion on September 5th. In just a little over a month it will have traveled from the orbit of the Earth to the Orbit of Mercury. At this point it will be so close to the sun from our vantage point that it will be completely hidden. However, it will be visible on solar-observing spacecraft such as STEREO and SOHO.

On October 17th, 2011, Comet Elenin will make its closest approach to the earth. However, its distance to the Earth will still be huge, nearly a quarter of the distance between the earth and the sun.

Wild Claims.

Instead of being excited about the possibility of a naked-eye visible comet, some people are making some very strange and wild claims about the comet, or about Leonid Elenin. Some people are apparently questioning whether Leonid Elenin is even a real person, despite the fact that he is acknowledged as a contributor in various scholarly journal articles since 2009.

Elenin will not collide with Earth.

At its closest approach, Comet Elenin will be 34 million kilometers (21 million miles) away from the Earth. It will also be 4 million kilometers (2.4 million miles) above the orbit of the Earth. See this image showing that Elenin will be well above Earth’s orbit, and this image, showing it will be well ahead of the earth in it’s oribt and the videos below created by member obaeyens using the orbital simulator AstroGrav.

The Earth will not pass through Elenin’s tail.

A common misconception of comets is that the tail streams out behind the comet. Even if that were the case, the images and video above show that we would not pass through the tail. However, the tail of a comet does not stream out behind the comet’s path, but rather points away from the Sun. As such, the tail will never be in a position to cross the path of the Earth.

Even if the Earth were to pass through the tail of the comet, the only effect on the Earth would be a nice show of meteors. The Perseid meteor shower occurs every year between August 9 and 13 when the Earth passes through the orbit of Comet Swift-Tuttle. Comet Halley is the source of the Orionid shower in October.

Leonid Elenin is a real person.

Yes, it has been claimed that “Leonid Elenin” does not, in fact, exist, but that instead his name is a ‘coded message’. The poster finishes off a list of what they see as ‘hints’ in the circumstances with the statement:

You know the way TPTB operate. Everything is scripted well in advance and they use Hollywood to drop clues.

Or, it could be that the poster watches too many fictional movies and thinks that they are ‘coded messages’ from “The Powers That Be”.

Does Leonid Elenin even exist?
Comet Elenin a “smokescreen” for Nibiru:

Don Yeomans on C/2010 X1

Don Yeomans has weighed in on the comet, saying:

“So you’ve got a modest-sized icy dirtball that is getting no closer than 35 million kilometers,” said Yeomans. “It will have an immeasurably miniscule influence on our planet. By comparison, my subcompact automobile exerts a greater influence on the ocean’s tides than comet Elenin ever will.”

NASA’s David Morrison on Comet Elenin claims

“The comet never comes close to the Earth, but it is expected to be visible in binoculars during August and October. Part of the Internet chatter concerns its size. Comets are exceedingly small and enveloped in a tenuous cloud of gas and dust, so the only way to be sure of their actual dimensions is to visit with a spacecraft. This means its mass is less than one billionth the mass of the Earth. Needless to say, we will not be aware of the tiny gravitational pull from Elenin.”

This is a quote from a David’s answer to a question on the “Ask an astrobiologist” page. He has received lots of questions about Elenin as well.


1. Elenin, Leonid. “Новый интересный объект нашей обсерватории | SpaceObs.” Сайт обсерватории ISON-NM / ISON-NM Observatory Site. Web. 06 Apr. 2011. <>.

2. Elenin, Leonid. “«Кометы могут представлять серьезную угрозу» – интервью «Газете.ru» | SpaceObs.” Сайт обсерватории ISON-NM / ISON-NM Observatory Site. Web. 06 Apr. 2011. <>.
3. Beatty, Kelly. “Bright Prospects for Comet Elenin? – Observing Blog.” 24 Dec. 2010. 06 Apr. 2011 <>.
4. International Astronomical Search Collaboration. “Employee List.” Home. 06 Apr. 2011 <>.

The black boxes in Google Sky, WikiSky, and Microsoft World-Wide Telescope are not ‘censored’ by NASA

December 3, 2010 5 comments



Much is made of the fact that there is a blank region in Orion that appears on Google Sky, WikiSky and Microsoft WorldWide Telescope. The region in question can be seen here.

What is it?

The presence of the blank square is undeniable. So, why is it there? Why is approximately the same region being ‘censored’ by three major online planetarium programs? Did the Men In Black come knocking on Google’s door?

The truth of the matter is far more mundane.


The images that make up the visual portion of these online planetarium sites are all from the same source… the DSS (Digitized Sky Survey). The original DSS1 was a high-resolution scan (digitization) of photographic plates. For the northern sky, a 1958 sky survey from the Palomar Observatory2 was the source. For the Southern skies, Southern Sky Atlas and its Equatorial Extension (together known as the SERC-J) and the southern Galactic Plane survey (SERC-V), from the UK Schmidt Telescope at Anglo-Australian Observatory, were used.

The so-called ‘missing’ block comes from the Palomar data.

Wait, when did you say?

1958. The base data that appears in Google Sky, WikiSky and Microsoft World-Wide Telescope is from 1958. These programs are augmented with other data sources, but the block appears in the DSS data.

So, this means that the conspiracy theorists would have you believe that NASA and other branches of the government are trying to hide something in data that is 52 years old3.

Why is there a “blacked out” square?

Ah, but is there a ‘blacked out’ square? As it turns out, no. That one block of data has some apparent issues, since it drops out of the interface of three different online planetarium programs. However, it is possible to directly query the data from the original source, the Space Science Telescope Institute. This is the source used in the video below.


Here is a good video on YouTube debunking the ‘censorship’ claim by EvilSpork29 titled “Debunking: Google SkyView, WikiSky & WorldWide Telescope Cover-up & Conspiracy Theory”[1]. The author takes you through step by step, and shows you exactly where to get the ‘missing’ data.

An astute reader points out that a fourth online planetarium does not have a blank square in this area, and that is SkyMap. In fact, you can see ‘behind the square’ at this link.

Imperfect Data

In addition to all of the other objections, the idea that the DSS data had to be edited fails on another count. The data are not perfect. This is an implied property where people imply that NASA wouldn’t publish these images with errors in them. The fact of the matter is that the DSS imagery have all kinds of image artifacts.

Go back to the link to google sky, and zoom out until you see the stars in Orion and Sirius. Once you have these, look for a round blue object between Sirius and Orion, sitting just above Sirius, and zoom in on it, until you see this.

That is the underside of the telescope at Palomar. It is an image that appears on the original photographic plates, and is a result of a double-exposure or light leak onto the plate. The plate was not discarded because it was felt that the data was not obscured enough, and was too valuable to discard. There are several of these in the DSS data, along with some other interesting imaging artifacts.

The telescope imaging process introduced certain artifacts into the plates such as varying levels of brightness, noise, and color saturation, as well as vignetting: a darkening of the edges and the corners of each plate, which needed correction in order to generate a clear and seamless image. Terapixel programmatically removed these anomalies, stitched and smoothed images, and then created image pyramids for visualization in WorldWide Telescope (WWT). [2]


Even if we were to believe the conspiracy theorists who claim that planetarium programs have been censored by nefarious powers that be, it remains a very simple matter to stand in your backyard and gaze in the direction of the allegedly hidden coordinates. All the censorship in the world can’t cover up the actual sky, nor can it ensure the silence of millions of professional and amateur astronomers around the world.


The claim of censorship fails because the data are available from the Space Science Telescope Institute as well as The data is over 50 years old, so whatever a censor was hiding would have had to have been visible at that point. Also, censorship conspiracies are dubious from a practical standpoint, because hiding something in software does nothing toward hiding it in the actual sky, as people (including astronomers) can simply look up at supposedly “censored” regions of the heavens.

1. now called the ‘First Generation’ DSS or sometimes DSS1
2. Officially the National Geographic Society – Palomar Observatory Sky Survey (NGS-POSS)
3. as of 2010
1. “EvilSpork29” “YouTube – Debunking: Google SkyView, WikiSky & WorldWide Telescope Cover-up & Conspiracy Theory.” YouTube. Web. 28 Nov. 2010. <>.
2. “Terapixel – Microsoft Research.” Microsoft Research – Turning Ideas into Reality. Web. 28 Nov. 2010. <>.
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