Episode 43: The Fake Story of Planet X, Part 3
Recap: In this edition of the ongoing Planet X (fake story) saga, I address the conspiracy theory that Planet X is approaching from the South Pole, which is why we can't see it, but governments have secretly built a telescope at the south pole so they can observe it.
There was no Puzzler in Episode 42
Puzzler: One of the pervasive Planet X claims is that it's coming at us from "behind the sun." This has been claimed for several years, at least since the 2003 Planet X stuff. Is it possible for this to still be true - a Planet X coming at us from "behind the sun" for several years, always just next to the sun and showing up in fuzzy photos on YouTube? Why or why not?
Q&A: This episode's question is the final crater one I've gotten so far, and it comes from Jeff S. from the region around the US Capitol who asks: "Does [sic] craters forming on top of other craters, specifically, bigger craters blasting an area with a lot of smaller craters, meaningfully effect [sic] the calculation of space age, or does that happen so infrequently that while it is a source of error, it's relatively minor?"
Craters form on top of other craters all the time. I mentioned in episode 41 that I was about to, and now have, submitted a paper age-dating 78 different surfaces on Mars. I was actually dating OTHER craters based on the craters that had formed on top of them.
So yes, craters do form on top of other craters. Assuming you can still see the first crater, then you just use both of them in the age calculation for the larger surface.
But there does come a point where the surface has so many craters on it that any new crater that forms is going to erase an equal number of other craters. At this point, no new information can be obtained, and we say that the surface has become "saturated" with craters. We can only assign a minimum age at that point with craters at that diameter.
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- Relevant Posts on my "Exposing PseudoAstronomy" Blog
- Meetups in July!
Claim: The claim I'm going to talk about this time is the conspiracy theory that Planet X really REALLY is approaching us, despite the evidence I've talked about before that it isn't, but that it's coming up from the south, so no one can see it unless you're at the south pole. That's why there's a big international telescope down there, 'cause governments know about it and are trying to observe it so THEY know when to get in their bunkers, but they don't want you to know.
This entire claim can be put to rest by just the background information part of this episode, which is why this episode is going to be one of my shortest. I don't have any Coast to Coast clips handy, so I'm not even going to subject you to those, but this IS a geometry episode, so you may want to listen to the main segment twice. It's short.
Let’s assume that we have a fairly flat horizon. Most people probably have this if they walk outside. I don’t because I live a few miles from the Rocky Mountains. But let’s pretend that you’re walking outside now and you see a purely flat horizon, or you're in the middle of an ocean so it's a completely flat horizon. If you were to draw a line from due south to due north, that line would span 180° (that's half of a circle, which is 360°). That is important -- 180°, half a sphere.
Let's start with something easy to explain without giving the whole thing away. Say you are at the North Pole on Earth. That's 90° N latitude. If you look straight up in the sky, you're looking at 90° N latitude on the sky, which astronomers call 90° N declination as opposed to latitude. Astronomers just project Earth's lines of latitude into space to get declination.
Now let's say you look to the horizon in one direction. Your horizon FROM looking straight up is half of that half a circle, so half of 180° is 90°. Since any direction from the North Pole is south, you subtract 90° from 90° N declination and get 0°. If you turn around and look to your horizon, you get the same thing, 0°.
This means that you can see an ENTIRE HALF of the sky from being at the North Pole on Earth. The sky will appear to rotate around you throughout the night, which can last a long time at the North Pole, and you'll always see exactly half of it if you have a flat horizon.
Now let's move a bit south, where the math gets harder, but I still don't want to give the WHOLE thing away yet. Let's say your latitude happens to be 40° N, which is what mine is ... the 40° latitude line is a mile from where I live. If you look straight up in the sky, astronomers would call that 40° N declination. The declination of straight up is always going to be equal to your latitude.
So if you’re looking straight up, you see declination 40° N. If you look due south on the horizon FROM looking straight up, that is going to be 1/4 of a circle, half of 180°, which is 90°. That 90° is 90° south of 40° N. Some quick math will tell you that if you project your southern horizon line onto the sky, that is 50° S (40° N - 90° = -50°, which is 50° S).
If you look due north, then we ADD 90° to 40°N. If you just add 90 to 40, you get 130, and there's no such thing as "130° N" nor "S."
So first, you add 50° to 40° in order to get 90° N, the North Celestial Pole. But you're looking "past" the North Celestial Pole -- which had been straight up when we were at Earth's North Pole. To look "past" the North Celestial Pole by 40° (since 90° to our horizon minus the 50° we've already gone is 40° left), then we subtract 40° again from 90°. So our northern horizon FROM 40° N latitude is going to be 50° N declination.
In other words, if you could see the stars 24 hours a day from your 40° latitude location, you would, throughout those 24 hours, be able to see the ENTIRE northern hemisphere of the sky -- just like when you were at the North Pole, but you can ALSO see down to 40° S declination. I don't like spherical geometry and I never understood steradians, so let's just say that is ROUGHLY half of the southern hemisphere, too. After all, 40° is close to half of 90°.
True, you can't see the stars for 24 hours a day from 40° latitude unless we undergo a pole shift. That was a previous episode. But, over the course of 6 months, you WILL be able to see the equivalent of that due to Earth's rotation around the sun.
Now let's go to the equator. If you've been half able to follow me, you probably have an idea of where this is headed at this point. If you're on the equator, that's 0° latitude. Straight up from you is the Celestial Equator - not where God lives - but where astronomers mark 0° Declination. If you look to your northern horizon from looking straight up, that's 90° North added to 0°, so the North Celestial Pole is at your northern horizon. If you look to your southern horizon from looking straight up, that's 90° South added to 0°, so the Southern Celestial Pole is at your southern horizon.
What does that mean? That means that if you take a snapshot of the sky at midnight from the equator, you will see exactly half of the northern hemisphere sky and half of the southern hemisphere sky. If you wait six months and take another snapshot at midnight of the sky from Earth's equator, you will see exactly the OTHER half of the northern hemisphere sky and half the southern hemisphere sky.
In other words ... you can see THE ENTIRE SKY from Earth's equator. And on the equinox, if you watch the sky from sunset to sunrise, you will be able to see THE ENTIRE SKY from your location. None of it will be missing, assuming you have a flat horizon. None of it.
If you go south of the equator, and I'm told that some people live south of the equator -- in fact I've interviewed one of them on this podcast and I'll be meeting at least one of them at TAM this week -- then you get the same phenomenon as I just talked about from 40° N latitude. You will be able to see the entire southern hemisphere sky from your location plus some of the northern hemisphere sky.
Back to the Claim
Now, let's go back to the claim, that only a telescope at the south pole on Earth can see the approach of Planet X because Planet X is coming from the southern hemisphere sky. Hopefully at this point I don't need to say anything else -- as I said at the beginning, this entire claim can be shown to be bunkum just from the background information. You can see the entire sky from Earth's equator over the course of a single night. But geometry is hard and even harder to explain verbally.
As for telescopes, there are professional optical telescope observatories scattered throughout the world. True, the majority are in the northern hemisphere in places such as Hawai’i (United States), Arizona (United States), or the Canary Islands (Spain). But there are also several world-class observatories in the southern hemisphere, not the least of which are the telescopes in Chile in the Atacama Desert that gets rain once every 400 years or so, and the observatories in Australia.
In fact, some telescopes were built with this geometry in mind. The twin Gemini telescopes (appropriately named) are placed in Hawai’i and Chile for this very reason, and their site prominently states: “The Gemini Observatory consists of twin 8.1-meter diameter optical/infrared telescopes located on two of the best observing sites on the planet. From their locations on mountains in Hawai’i and Chile, Gemini Observatory’s telescopes can collectively access the entire sky.”
Now, what about that mysterious international conglomeration building a telescope at the South Pole? The South Pole Telescope, or SPT for short, is funded by the US's National Science Foundation with buy-ins from several US universities (including the one I'm currently at and the one I got my undergrad degree from), some in England, one in Germany, a US national lab, and the US National Institute for Standards and Technology, which also happens to have an office two miles from where I live.
The telescope itself only operates in microwave, millimeter wave, and sub-millimeter wavelengths. As in, not visible. Not even infrared. But long wavelengths of light. Some so long that you'd actually be able to see them with a ruler if you could see light in that way. You CAN'T image planets nor stars in these wavelengths, they'd look like a faint blob. The purpose of the SPT is to examine things like the cosmic microwave background radiation, galaxy clusters, and constraining dark energy models.
Wrap-Up: In other words, when you get right down to it, this particular conspiracy theory about a southern approach of Planet X that "They" don't want you to know about is pretty stupid if you even start to do a teensy bit of investigation. It's born out of more ignorance than subtlety, and ANY amount of information about what's going on here will show that it's wrong.
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