There are lots of bit players in the Planet X story. One of them,
a man who goes by the screen name of "Tuatha", has long been making
ridiculous claims about Planet X and how The Powers That be are spreading
lies about it. He posts almost daily to a Yahoo!Groups email listserv
about weird weather, sunspots and the like, and ties them all in to
Planet X using, um, tenuous logic. His big claim, though, are so-called
"anomalies" in the images returned by the ESA/NASA satellite
SOHO (SOlar and Heliospheric Observatory). I posted
a lengthy description of what is really going on with SOHO to a
different Yahoo!Groups list.
Well, in January of 2003, a UK UFO group came
out with claims of seeing, literally, flying saucers in SOHO images.
It made the news as a curiosity item, and I got a bit of email about it,
so I am putting my essay here for all to see, with some minor changes
to make it more up-to-date. Enjoy.
What is going on in the SOHO images?
A few people have been asking about this, but there hasn't
been much talk about it. As it happens, I have a lot of experience with
astronomical imaging. I spent about a decade working on Hubble
images, and a few years before that on a ground-based telescope. I
still do dabble in digital astronomical imaging. I am not bragging,
just putting my credentials down to show that I am very experienced
in this field.
Let me say this up front: the images from SOHO are completely within
the realm of what you'd expect from such images. The "anomalies"
pointed out by Tuatha (who claims spaceships are all around the Sun:
do a websearch on the words "suncruiser" and "SOHO" and you'll see
what I mean), Ms. Lieder and the rest are not anomalies at
all. They are simply things that happen when you use a digital camera.
The cameras usually used in astronomical imaging are called CCDs,
for Charge-Coupled Device. It's like a computer chip that's sensitive
to light. The best analogy for one is like an array of buckets in the
rain. Each bucket (CCD pixel) collects rain (light). The amount of
rain collected depends on how much rain falls on that bucket; the amount
of light in each pixel of the CCD depends on how bright an object is. When
light hits a CCD it is converted to electrons, and when the image
is done the electrons are "read off" the CCD and
counted. The more electrons you see in a pixel, the more light
hit that pixel. The numbers of electrons can be converted to
images by your computer. That's how the images on, say, the SOHO
site are done.
So, how does this affect the Planet X arguments? In many ways:
Sometimes, a pixel is more sensitive to light than others.
This can happen when a pixel is hit by high energy radiation like
cosmic rays (which I'll abbreviate "CR"), which are subatomic particles zipping
around space. What happens then is that pixel is always "bright", or
"hot", even when nothing is putting light into it. You have to
make a map of the hot pixels in a CCD so you can compensate for them.
Ms. Lieder claims the images taken by
Steve Havas show Planet X. What they really show
is a hot pixel. When the pictures are properly calibrated, as several
people have shown (see
here), the "Planet X" pixel goes away. One
giveaway is that stars/planets/etc. are round in the image (they
cover several pixels), where hot pixels look like single points.
The things pointed out by Ms. Lieder and others are single points,
so they cannot be real. This shows two things: 1) you have to be
careful and understand CCDs when you look at the data, and 2) Ms. Lieder
A lot of the stuff pointed out by Tuatha in the SOHO images is
really just hot pixels. They aren't spaceships at all, they are
simply pixels inside the SOHO camera that are a bit too overenthusiastic.
When cosmic rays hit a CCD, they dump their energy into a pixel,
making it look very bright. Sometime, if the impact angle is low,
the CR leaves a streak. At the end of the streak, it can suddenly
dump lots of energy into the pixels, making what looks like a spray. I
saw this all the time in my Hubble images. Unless there are billions of
spaceships out there leaving little trails in all those random images,
I would prefer to assume they are actually the somewhat more common
In the SOHO images, there are lots of CRs. Sometimes these are particles
from the Sun, accelerated during a coronal mass ejection.
Matter of fact, after you see a big ejection from the Sun, the
particles can hit the SOHO detectors, making it look like they were hit
by a shotgun. A few of what Tuatha claims are spaceships near the
Sun are CR sprays. Tuatha's claims are wrong.
Remember the bucket analogy? What happens when a bucket fills up to
the brim with water? It overflows. The same thing happens in CCDs.
A pixel can only hold so many electrons before it overflows. Because
of the way the pixels are made, the overflow goes into the adjoining
pixels horizontally, so the overflowing pixel leaks electrons
into the pixels to its left and right (or above and below it).
If enough light is hitting the
one pixel, it can overflow the adjacent pixels, which flow into the
next ones, and so on. When you look at the resulting image, a
bright object appears to have a bright horizontal line going through it.
This is called "blooming". A bright star may bloom over several
vertical pixels, so you get many rows of blooming.
There is a picture posted at
which is called the "Ra" image because there is a feature that looks
like the symbol for the Egyptian god Ra.
This is a perfect example
of a bright object blooming. If you go through the SOHO archive,
you'll see this happening whenever a bright object is in the image.
Venus is the brightest thing you'll see, and it blooms quite a bit.
I don't know what was in the SOHO field in the Ra image, but it
was bright and it bloomed (it may have been a very energetic CR). Those
"wings" are not real. They are simply electrons that overflowed
inside the CCD itself.
You can see several examples on this page:
In fact, the explanation given by Joe Gurman on that page is
correct, and the webpage author didn't believe him. The cosmic rays
and bright objects give the same shape every time because what's
happening is inside the CCD, not on the sky.
Also, the "torpedo" in that image is a comet! Lots of comets are
seen going very near (and sometimes actually impacting) the Sun.
Matter of fact, more comets have been discovered using SOHO than any other
single telescope. Hundreds have been seen.
As far as other "anomalies" in SOHO images go, there are many,
but all the ones I have seen have rational explanations. Sometimes you
see what look like palm fronds coming out, fanning across the image
(this one is a favorite of The Millennium Group, which
you can see here).
I asked a SOHO person, and they said that sometimes debris
gets knocked off the satellite (there are a few moving parts on
the satellite that can jolt it) and this stuff drifts in
front of the camera. They are out of focus at first, and as
they move away they get more and more in focus. That's why you
get the palm frond shape; the thick base is actually when the particle is
close, and the narrow tip is when it's far away. It's a
time exposure of something coming
Well, that was longer than I anticipated, but I hope it clears
some things up. The point here is that people like Tuatha, Ms. Lieder
and others have no experience with digital astronomical cameras, and
assume they simply take pictures. CCDs are far more complicated
than that, and in fact I have just scratched the surface here with
what you need to know to interpret CCD images. Every single thing
Tuatha has pointed at in the SOHO images actually has a far more mundane
explanation than alien spaceships.
Like Robert Sepehr (a man who has a Planet X video to sell, and constantly
makes easily-disproven claims on a
PX discussion group),
who constantly claims the Sun is acting up without understanding that this
is actually the Sun's normal and expected
behavior, Tuatha and the others simply don't understand the subject
they are talking about. It's really that simple. I don't mean this
to sound condescending; I mean it to be literally true. I try to
stay away from topics (like geology and mammoths) in this field when
I do not have the expertise to give an informed opinion, but in this case
I do. If more people actually went out and tried to find the answers
to some of these questions, a lot of the Planet X "evidence" would go away.