In November of 1996 there was a report by Dr. Courtney Brown of the Farsight Institute of an object accompanying the comet Hale-Bopp. According to Dr. Brown a series of images taken by a top ten astronomer clearly showed that object. A copy of one of the images was received by Courtney and shared with Art Bell. The astronomer according to Courtney promised to come forward within weeks with a formal announcement.
The astronomer that allegedly took the photo never came forward as promised. Art Bell released the photo on his Web page. An astronomer, Dr. David Tholen from the University of Hawaii claimed that the photo was a fraud. According to Dr. Tholen the photo was an altered version of his photo taken on August 31, 1995. The rest as they say is history.
The Millennium Group reported extensively on the comet Hale-Bopp and it's companion Hale Mary (the common name given the companion) for some time. Dr. David Rath shared his image analysis with the Millennium Group that suggested that the alleged fraud was in fact a legitimate image.
In Dr. Tholen' s words, "Hawaii is the only place with large telescopes that could have taken the image at the time indicated by the comet's placement among the stars, and with the degree of sharpness provided by the atmosphere above the observatory site."
"The University of Hawaii's 2.2-meter telescope is located at the summit of Mauna Kea, on the Big Island of Hawaii. Operation of the telescope is partially funded by NASA's Planetary Astronomy program; this enables planetary astronomers external to the University of Hawaii to apply for observing time.
Of course in addition to the Uof H at the summit of Mauna Kea there are:
- UH 0.6-m Telescope 0.6 m Optical UH 1968
- UH 2.2-m Telescope 2.2 m Optical/Infrared UH/NASA 1970 (The one Dr. Tholen used)
- NASA Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF) 3.0 m Infrared NASA 1979
- Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT) 3.6 m Optical/Infrared Canada/France/UH 1979
- United Kingdom Infrared Telescope (UKIRT) 3.8 m Infrared United Kingdom 1979
- W. M. Keck Observatory (Keck I) 10 m Optical/Infrared Caltech/ 1992 Univ. of California
- W.M. Keck Observatory (Keck II) 10 m Optical/Infrared Caltech/ 1996 Univ. of California
- Subaru (Japan National Large Telescope)* 8 m Optical/Infrared Japan 1999
- Gemini Northern 8-m Telescope* 8 m Optical/Infrared USA/United Kingdom/1999 Canada/Chile/Argentina/Brazil
Because of the time the alleged photo was taken (approximately 8:00PM HST) observatories west of Hawaii would be in direct sun. West coast observatories would be to far away. The "fake" image has to have been from the 2.2M telescope, one of the other observatories on Mauna Kea or another observatory in Hawaii.
This investigator has confirmed that the USAF AMOS facility on Mt Haleakala on the island of Maui was also observing the comet Hale-Bopp that same evening. This places no fewer than eight (8) other observatories in a position to have taken the "alleged fraud", at least one of which is confirmed to have been observing the comet that evening.
In re-examing Dr. David Raths original work, this investigator has
found that the images (the Tholen original and the "fake") do not match
in a particular way. In fact they appear shifted ever so slightly. Using
SkyMAP V3.1.10 this investigator was able to confirm that if you view the
comet from Mt Haleakala the site of the AMOS facility and Mauna Kea the
site of the UofH 2.2M (used by Dr Tholen) you get an identical images shifted
slightly reflecting the geographic separation of the observers. In the
image that follows, the sky is seen at an identical moment in time from
Hana on Maui (near the AMOS observatory) and Mauna Kea site of the UofH
Remember, the source of the fake cannot be West of Hawaii for obvious reasons. It cannot be on the West cost of the US either. It can be from Haleakla. The shifting evident by superimposing the Tholen original and the alleged fake is time shifting of an image taken by another observatory on Mauna Kea +/-5 minutes (Millenium estimate) or a similar image from AMOS on Haleakla taken within 5 minutes of the original. Obviously if an object 1/2 the size of the nucleus suddenly appears within five minutes, IT IS SIGNIFICANT!
The next problem was that the images clearly show that the resolution is different. Both observatories use a Loral CCDs but the USAF facility CCD has a 851X800 resolution versus UofH 498X1024. But the original source was allegedly photographic not digital. (The issue of whether the alleged fake came from a photo original versus a digital original is not resolved.)
The Farsight Institute has confirmed for this investigator that Prudence Calibresi used a Microtek E6 scanner to digitize the "alleged fake" from the developed film images provided by the unnamed astronomer. The E6 scanner would produce a 512X1024 pixel resolution GIF or JPEG file from the alleged photo. This would create a digital image that looks similar to the UofH image 512X1024 vs. 498X1024. In fact the JPEG image she provided was (if you view the file in HEX) clearly from an E6 since the E6 ships with Adobe Photoshop for image capture. The source is visible in the file header.
Problem! According to Dr. Tholen, "There is no doubt that THIS (his) 1995 September 1 image was used for the fraudulent images:
-A careful comparison of the central region of the original image shows the comet in the same position with respect to the background stars, which means the real and doctored images must have been taken at essentially the same time. As such, the images could not have been taken from eastern Asia or Australia, where the Sun was still up, nor from western North or South America, where the comet was very low in the sky.
-The images of stars on both show the same amount of sharpness, so an observatory site capable of providing approximately arcsecond seeing must have been involved.
-The faintest stars visible on both images are essentially the same, meaning that the combination of telescope aperture and exposure length must be the same. Given that the stars are not trailed, the exposures must have been short, meaning that a large telescope must have been used.
-The relative brightnesses of the stars shown are also the same, meaning that the same filters must have been used and combined into a single image in the same way.
-Lastly, the pixel size is the same."
The posting by Dr. Tholen was a JPEG image. This is a standard used for Web posting and graphics exchange. This image was allegedly fraudulently altered to produce the companion. Lets look at Dr. Tholen's bullets from the bottom up.
First you cannot determine pixel size from a JPEG image. You can only determine the number of pixels by row and column. Pixel size is important because CCD's, the devices used to gather the images in astronomy are selected based in part upon pixel size. Smaller pixels are generally better for viewing faint objects. As an expert in the field Dr Tholen can make specific statements regarding his interpretation of an image that infers pixel size. But, the JPEG file does not contain information regarding the size of the pixels of the CCD device that captured the original image.
If you actually enlarge the image Dr Tholens JPEG and the alleged fake, it clear that by counting the pixels representing specific objects within the image that the resolution is slightly different between the images.
The relative brightness comment is false as is the reference according to Tholen that, "the same filters must have been used and combined into a single image in the same way". The image posted by Dr. Tholen was a composite image created by Dr Wainscoat from three separate images. These are actually posted on the UofH website in their original FITS format as well as JPEG. The faintest stars in the images are not the same. Place both images side by side and view them yourself.
The comment that the images show the same amount of sharpness is misleading. A prudent individual would tend to agree that the images are remarkably similar. However this means absolutely nothing with reference to the alleged fake. As to the comparison of the central region of the picture being similar. This writer agrees. This writer also agrees with the conclusions. The two images were taken at nearly the same time (estimated to be within 5 minutes of one another) or they were taken from two different observatories on Hawaii within 5 minutes of one another.
The UofH alleges that the second photo is a fake. It must them be a electronically altered version of the original. Someone with a sinister intent would have to take the original off the Web alter it, placing an additional "object" near the coma and transfer it onto 35MM film. The transfer would have to be near perfect with no digital residue since the image was re-scanned into digital format using the Microtek E6 scanner. As you can see both stories are a stretch of the imagination.
This investigator has not confirmed whether AMOS was shooting 35MM that evening. AMOS is the only observatory in Hawaii that can capture images directly on 35MM format. This also contradicts Dr Tholens claims that observatories no longer use photographic images. From the AMOS Users manual the 35MM capability is clear. "A large variety of still picture recording equipment including a large format copy camera, a 4 X 5, and a 2-1/4 square Hasselblad is available. Nikon quality lenses having fields of view ranging from 8.2o to 100o for the Nikon (tm) 35-mm single-lens reflex camera bodies provide suitable coverage under widely varying conditions."
We now have JPL weighing in with Dr. Zdenek Sekanina confirming that there was a companion(s) as evidenced in the early Hubble photos (circa 1996 the same time that Courtney made his original predictions). Dr. Hal Weaver is using current photos to make the case that a companion object is not present. But, that of course leads to the question, "Well where did they go?".
ESO has also weighed in confirming the companion(s) based upon current images from the ESO. Their conclusion is that Hale-Bopp has a double nucleus, which can be viewed, currently from the ESO observatories.
There is an import side note here. The sizes of the "companion" referenced by Dr. Sekanina and the ESO astronomers are similar to that observed on the "fake" photo or about half the size of the nucleus itself.
Who is he, "Dr. Zdenek Sekanina, is a Senior Research Scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He received his Diploma from Charles University, Prague, Czechoslovakia in 1959, and his Ph.D. in Astronomy, there in 1963. His research interests are in the fields of the physics, evolution, and dynamics of comets, the physics and dynamics of meteors and fireballs, and interplanetary matter. He has served as a member of NASAs Comet Science Working Group, 1977-80, and was a Co-I on two Giotto experiments. He holds membership in the International Astronomical Union, has served and continues to serve on a number of its committees and working groups concerned with minor planets, satellites and small bodies of the solar system. He has received a NASA Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal, and an Outstanding Scientific Performance Certificate from the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. Minor Planet No. 1913 is named Sekanina in recognition of his many contributions to cometary astronomy."
So it appears that we have a legitimate, " Who done it?". Courtney
and Prudence from the Farsight Institute claimed the existence of a companion
object accompanying the comet Hale-Bopp. It would appear that their predictions
were true. Art Bell and Whitley Streiber were copied on the first release
of information. When nothing happened (as the astronomer never came forward)
the infamous photo was released publicly by them. Dr David Tholen came
forward claiming a fraud. Art and Whitley
immediately agreed and Courtney and Pru are branded as covering some type of conspiracy. The Hale-Bopp companion issue had been quieted and it appeared that someone liked it that way. The Millenium Group believes it is time for the silence to end.
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