Earth Threatened By Glowing Green Asteroid?

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The Daily Mail is reporting that a youtube user has found a strange object while poking around in Google Sky. It looks suspiciously like a glowing green asteroid and he claims it’s heading right for us. But before we call in the experts, let’s do a little bit of critical analysis on our own.

First off, the image raises alarm bells because of the apparent size of the object. Without knowing how far away it may be, it’s hard to say how large it would actually be, but we can put some limits on it. I looked up the region on Aladin and the angular distance between the two stars just to the upper right of the object is 1 arc minute. The object seems to be about that size, so we can use that as a baseline.

Assuming that the object was somewhere in the vicinity of Pluto (roughly 6 billion km), doing a bit of quick geometry means the object would be somewhere around 580,000 km. To put that in context, that’s about 40% the diameter of the Sun. If that were the case, this wouldn’t be an asteroid, it would be a small star. The funny thing about stars is that they tend to be somewhat bright and a lot more round. So that rules out that extreme.

But what if it were very close? At the distance of the moon, that would mean the object would be about 300 km in diameter which would make this thing slightly smaller than the largest asteroid, Ceres. However, this raises another issue: With that much mass, the object should still be pretty round. Additionally, with such a size and distance, it would be very bright. And it’s not.

Even closer we run into additional issues. Astronomical images aren’t taken as a single color image. Images like this are taken in 3 filters (RGB) and then combined to make a color image. If the object is nearby, it moves from image to image, showing up in the final image in 3 places, each as a different color. For example, here’s an image of 2011 MD illustrating the effect. Given the object in question doesn’t have this tri-color separation going on, it can’t be nearby.

So this has pretty much ruled out anything anywhere in our solar system. If it’s close, it should have color issues and be bright. If it’s far, it’s too massive to have been missed. Outside of our solar system and it wouldn’t have any apparent motion and should be visible in other images. And it’s not.

In fact, searching the various databases from which Google Sky draws its data (SDSS, DSS, HST, IRAS, and WMAP), the killer asteroid doesn’t appear at all. Thus, it would seem that this object is nothing more than a technical glitch introduced by Google’s stitching together of images. Sorry conspiracy theorists. No Planet X or Nibiru out there this time!

23 Replies to “Earth Threatened By Glowing Green Asteroid?”

1. hionthemountain says:

it vaguely looks like the Andromeda Strain organism . . . are you sure it’s only an grafix anomaly ?

2. Dampe says:

Hmmm… i still say we better call in the experts… just to be safe.

3. SAM223 says:

Looks like a very nasty potato to me.
If it is an ‘asteroid” it has iether a lot of copper or some element that glows green. Could be worth billions! Let’s mine it!!!! No, wait-wait, it’s that green stuff Superman can’t handle. Ya,— that’s the ticket.
Oh p-l-e-a-s-e, Its nothing.
In other news, I had a really great time setting my amateure made telescopes up today for the Venus transt. Had about 75 people show up over the time. Was fun, but boy am I beat! Sure is hot here in Tucson! A few people showed up just after the Sun set and were kind of dissapointed. I told them to come back in 105 years to try again.

1. bfmorris says:

The smell of creosote in the desert air after a rain. Now that’s an experience worth intergalactic travel. How fun would it be to share that.

4. I live in the UK. Nobody takes the Daily Mail seriously. It’s got zero credibility. Let’s try to avoid reporting anything that this poor excuse for a newspaper vomits into the morning commutes of the UK citizens.

1. Indeed! This is why it’s colloquially known as the Daily Fail. It even has songs written about its terrible reporting.

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2. VincentFrank67 says:

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3. To be honest though, this one is pretty shocking even for the Daily Fail. When someone on YouTube finds something in Google Sky, that really isn’t news, even by their standards. Or it shouldn’t be, anyway!

5. Never believe anything you read in the comic known as the Daily Mail

6. DarkGnat says:

This is that Kryptonite island that Superman put in orbit a few years back; when Superman looked like Brandon Routh.

Hmmm, Clark Kent looks like Brandon Routh with glasses. Could it be….

7. magnus.nyborg says:

“Yeah, Google Sky is the place to make scientific and earth-shattering discoveries, because eventually someone is going to screw up hiding the real truth” /sarcasm

8. Anthony says:

“The Daily Mail is reporting that a youtube user has found a strange object..” I stopped reading and moved on with my life right after that.

9. Stu_Giles says:

Lol! Isn’t that the microscope image of the meteorite from the original Andromeda Strain movie?

10. DAVID says:

Yeah, anything an “arc minute in size” is a dead giveaway for a hoax; Venus appeared that large as it transited the Sun yesterday!

11. uptotrix says:

oh…I hope this zombie asteroid falls on our office.

12. Scott Ferguson says:

It is a defect on one of the plates from the digitzed sky survey, but Google’s processing/compositing/compression completely changes its appearance. It’s got a stitched appearance to it when viewed in its raw FITS file, it may even be a piece of debris that was on the film plate when it was scanned, but it’s definitely not an asteroid for all the reasons already pointed out (it wouldn’t be resolvable as more than a point-like light source, it wouldn’t be stationary for the nearly hour long exposure, etc, etc). It’s only on one of the red film plates and multiple red film plates covered those coordinates. Specifically it’s on film plate ER623 (A2OP) in the equatorial red survey conducted by the UK Schmidt telescope.
http://stdatu.stsci.edu/cgi-bin/dss_plate_finder

If google sky were done properly they would have screened for defects like this and used part of a different film plate to cover that area of the sky, but that would have required far more attention to detail than they gave. It’s just one more reason why no serious researcher uses Google sky as a primary source of sky survey data; it’s stitched, compressed, composited, etc. The instant I see someone proclaim they “found something” on “google sky” I know they have no idea what they’re talking about. If they did they wouldn’t have been using Google sky to search through sky survey data to begin with.

13. Ron Walsh says:

I do believe I see a wee Leprecon driving the ‘strange green object’.
Closest approach Sunday March 17,2013.

Sheesh what next…………

14. T says:

I hate to be a party pooper here. But just do this experiment for me.

The so called planet “Nibiru” is said to be 4x the size of Jupiter.

Jupiter = 142700km x 4 = ~570,000… almost an exact fit. The ancients really did say Nibiru is that large… of course, that’s why everyone discounts it so easily. But is it not ironic this “object” is the same size?

This thing looks strange to me. It looks evil. I have a bad feeling about it, but hopefully I’m wrong.

1. Scott Ferguson says:

A planet with 40% the diameter of the sun would not remain unknown 16 years after it was photographed on a red film plate by an all-sky survey. You can’t hide something that large; even if there were some massive professional astronomer conspiracy (because we all know how much nibiru believers distrust professional astronomers) amateurs would have discovered it on their own. For instance, where is it in the Photopic Sky Survey? Something this “large” would not have gone unnoticed by comet hunters, asteroid hunters, and especially by the aforementioned amateur-made all-sky survey.

For that matter, it’s not known to be that large, the size example given is assuming an arbitrary distance equal to Pluto as a way of excusing the fact that it doesn’t move at all in an hour long exposure, so if it were a real object it would have to be at a great distance. And it’s not a real object, it’s a defect on a film plate; it doesn’t even look like an “asteroid” on the original film plate. Google’s processing badly distorts it.

15. Scott Ferguson says:

Here’s the defect on the red film plate ER623 (A2OP) from the UK Schmidt telescope (part of the digitized sky survey) that caused this glitch on google sky.
http://i319.photobucket.com/albums/mm477/ngchunter/platedefect.jpg
(accessed from here as a fits file with levels adjusted in IRIS before saving as an 8 bit image http://stdatu.stsci.edu/cgi-bin/dss_plate_finder )
As you can see, it looks almost nothing like what google sky shows. Their processing doesn’t tend to handle single plate defects all that well. It’s a monochromatic red film plate, so even if it were green you’d have no way of knowing that. There were 3 other red film plates that covered these coordinates, any of which google sky could have used to avoid this defect (those film plates showed nothing there and nothing like it in the area), but they didn’t take the time to screen for defects in the film plates they used.

16. Tim Morgan says:

Kryptonite!