Tuesday, August 02, 2011
Did Elenin/Nibiru tilt Saturn (or How do Bleeping Telescopes Work?)
There is a lot of silliness running about the intertubes at the moment about comet C/2010 X1 Elenin. I try to avoid the silliest, and talk about genuine confusions and misunderstandings, encouraging people to think critically and look at the sky.
But I have to respond to the latest silliness going around the intertubes, as it involves one of my favourite astronomy programs, Stellarium.
In a page hosted on scribd (see link above, it will be 10 minutes of your life you will never get back), amongst the usual claims (CW Leonis is Nibiru etc., see my FAQ and these posts to cover most of what is in this document) and some unusual claims (gravity doesn't exist) is the claim that Elenin/Nibiru has caused planet Saturn to change it's tilt.
The support for this claim is comparison between Stellarium predictions for the night skies appearance and actual telescopic images. It appears to have a lot of traction, given the emails I've been getting and the various discussion groups hosting these images (eg here).
Before discussing this, I'd like to get people to think about this claim though. Saturn is the iconic planet for amateur astronomers, thousands world wide will be watching it every
No, Saturn did not tilt.
Most solar system visualization programs show the planets as we would see them from Earth, but telescopes invert the image, either a simple flip or upside down-back to front, depending on the optics involved (see http://www.spaceref.com/telescopes/Image-Orientation-Why-Is-Everything-Upside-Down.html for more of an explanation and of course here with diagrams).
When you compare a visualisation image with a telescopic image, they will look tilted with respect to each other.
And you can demonstrate this with Stellarium itself. If you look at the image to the right, you will see a small telescope icon (boxed in the image). This will swap between the "no telescope" view and various telescopic views.
In the image below, I compare the Stellarium prediction for the unaided eye image for Saturn at 22:00 hr on 1 June 2011, as in the image from Scibd, and the Stellarium prediction for an equatorial mounted telescope (such as the one used to take the Saturn image seen in the Scibd document).
Personally, I wouldn't take much stock in the writings of someone who doesn't realize telescope images are inverted.
At Christopher Go's astrophotography site you can see stunning images of Saturn going back to 2007. No Nibiru-induced tilt is seen.