Thursday, November 29, 2018

Mike Bara tweaks the color of Mars

        The question of the authentic color of the Martian sky raised its ugly head once more as soon as the first image from the InSight lander was available two days ago. I argued a bit with a blog commenter just yesterday on that very question. Adrian asserted that "They [nasa] actually for years used filters in order to create the illusion that on Mars everything looks a bit red/orange," and I denied it, citing the page made by space artist Don Davis on the question. Don makes the point that the color of a scene is highly dependent on the color of the light that is illuminating it. He shows this photo-pair from a Viking lander:

        On the right is the best rendering of the scene actually on Mars. On the left is the scene as it would look if lit by a sunlit sky on Earth. Don is making the point that the sunlight on Mars is filtered by the rust-colored dust that's always in the atmosphere of Mars.

        The accusation that NASA/JPL deliberately reddens Martian skies derives, I believe, from the very first image from Viking Lander 1 that included the sky. What that image did NOT include was the color reference chart, so the color graders at JPL had to guess. The first-released version had a creamy sky, as I recall. Later, when the color chart was included in some frames, they went back and regraded that first image, and issued a corrected version that was noticeably redder.

        In his book "Postcards from Mars," Jim Bell explains all this, explains that the color of Martian skies varies according to how much dust is up there, and settles on "butterscotch" as the color of a "normal" Martian sky when just an average amount of dust is in the atmosphere.

See--NASA is lying!!!!
        NASA haters love to show this image, from a press conference at JPL on 10 January 2004. That day, the brand new rover was Spirit, and a frame from Spirit's pancam (designed by Jim Bell, by the way) was back-projected behind the speaker panel.

         The haters say this absolutely proves the point. But, you see, it doesn't. The fact that there are human faces in front of this frame makes any discussion of color balance on the original useless. The scene was lit by artificial light—most likely fluorescent, that casts a greenish spectrum on everything—and the whole composite picture was color-balanced to make the flesh tones look natural. Basically, this photo may be the only example of a red herring that is actually blue.

        Now to the interesting part. Mike Bara, in his latest "Tell the Truth Wednesday" vlog, makes exactly the same mistake. He shows this version of the first frame from InSight:

Then he shows us this:

Ta-DAAAAA!!!! SEE, NASA IS LYING!!!!!! BLUE SKY!!!!!!!!!!

        .....but once again, there is human flesh in the foreground, just as there was at the Spirit press conference. This cannot be the truest representation of the Martian sky, for that reason.

Forcing the whites
        Bara went on to even more dishonesty and misunderstanding. He shows us this InSight frame, as an example of what he says is NASA flim-flammery.

        Bara then gets out his favorite image editing software—Microsoft Office Paint, for Gods's sake—and proceeds to show us how he goes about "correcting" JPL's deceptions. He says that Instrument Deployment Arm, over on the right, should be white. The fact that it doesn't appear to be white is proof, to him, that this image is all wrong. So he uses the white balance feature of MS Paint to click on the arm and damn well force it to go white. Behold, the sky goes white too!!

        Well, yes, of course it does. But it's this result that's deceptive, not the one Bara showed before he corrupted it with his little MS Paint click-me thingy. He simply doesn't understand the point that Don Davis explained so well—the subjective color of objects is highly influenced by the color of the light that is illuminating them.

         It seems obvious to me that the objective of planetary color graders should be to show us, as close as possible, what the scene would look like if we were actually standing there looking at it. And that inevitably means taking into account the color of the ambient light. Mike Bara's white sky is just a ridiculous joke.

        Quite apart from all this photographic logic, would somebody please tell me what possible motive NASA/JPL would have for pushing the Martian sky red-wards more than is justified?

Update 20 December: Chris Lawrence reports:
        Bara returned to this topic in his "Tell the Truth Wednesday" vlog yesterday. At 15:50, after spending a few minutes calling NASA liars, he popped up an image of Mars. He says:
15:50 "By the way this is the only Hubble image of Mars ever taken, and as you can see from the limb around the planet the sky quite clearly... this is the airglow limb... is blue and not red, in fact the red is grossly exagerrated in this image, and although Mars is kinda red it's not really really super red, so I think we can kinda pretty much settle on that."
        The image in question is this one taken by Hubble when Mars was near Opposition in May 2016. Far from being the only image ever taken it's one of many images of Mars taken by Hubble going back to 1991, a year after Hubble launched.

        If you click "Fast Facts" on the Mars image you can see details about its construction. It's a colour-composite:

This image is a composite of separate exposures acquired by the WFC3/UVIS instrument. Several filters were used to sample various wavelengths. The color results from assigning different hues (colors) to each monochromatic (grayscale) image associated with an individual filter. In this case, the assigned colors are:

- Purple: F275W (275nm)
- Blue: F410M (410nm)
- Green: F502N (502nm)
- Red: F673N (673nm)

        This page explains what you're seeing in these images. Mars' atmosphere does scatter blue light and this gives the blue limb in the composite. Stuart Robbins covered this exact topic in his Exposing Pseudo Astronomy Podcast #113 in June 2014.

Perhaps Bara can move his vlog to the weekend and rebrand it "Making Shit Up Saturday".

Sean David Morton takes his best shot

Which is the odd man out?

  • Lloret de Mar
  • Tossa de Mar
  • Estoril
  • Estoppel
  • L'Estartit
  • Benidorm
  • Cambrils

The answer is Estoppel—all the others are Iberian beach resorts.

         Estoppel is the legal doctrine holding that a respondent in court cannot make a proclamation or statement that conflicts with a statement he/she made earlier in the same case. The doctrine extends to the court itself—in other words, a judge may not contradict himself or herself in court.

        Sean David Morton is using the doctrine of judicial estoppel as the cornerstone of his appeal against his conviction, in September 2017, on 28 counts of fraud. Morton, who has claimed to be "a legal scholar," produced an 18-page affidavit from his prison cell (and according to him, got so stressed in the process that he had a heart attack.)

        I make no claim to legal scholarship, in fact my only contact with the law was an arraignment on a charge of "drunk and disorderly" fifty years ago, after I had barked at a police dog in Kentish Town, London. But, reading Morton's tortured prose, I can't see he has the ghost of a chance with this. Stripped down to essentials, his claim is that the court trying his case made a statement that was in conflict with a statement made by a different court in a different case. I don't think that works as judicial estoppel, but I may be corrected.

        The prior case was against a man called Gordon Hall, who was apparently the original theorist of scamming investors out of $millions. Morton testifies that he paid Hall $6,000 for that information. He now says, in the affidavit, that he is as much a victim of Hall as are the investors whose savings he stole, and that accusing him of fraud is in conflict with the earlier accusation of fraud against Hall. He writes:
"Sean testified he felt he was defrauded by Hall. If Sean is considered culpable and not defrauded in this case then Hall's ... conviction in the other case is invalid because the clients are not defrauded by Hall like the government and judges agreed. This case is barred by the doctrine of absurdity, issue preclusion and judicial or equitable estoppel. Sean contends that this manipulation of the evidence deprived him of due process and rendered his trial fundamentally unfair." (Motion for summary disposition, 21 November 2018, pp. 3-4)
        It stands to reason that there's no explicit or implicit conflict in stating that both Hall and Morton are guilty. We may not have to wait too long for the appeals court to tell Morton "Get back to your jail cell, STFU, and serve out your time" (or words very much to that effect).

Monday, November 26, 2018

Insight on Mars

        Congratulations to the crack teams at JPL. InSight landed dead on time in Elysium Planitia and appears healthy so far. It's the first Mars lander equipped to monitor heat flow from the planet's interior.

        I wonder what Maurice Cotterell thinks about it. He's the crackpot who maintains that Earth-based engineers and scientists can't design a successful Mars landing sequence because they don't understand the influence of centrifugal force. He says he can prove it, but when I looked at his data, guess what? It was outrageously faked.

Update: What we have here is a failure of communication
        Meanwhile, over at Keith Laney's Hidden Mission Forum, the rednecks were predictably peddling their sourest of sour grapes. After congratulating JPL for a brilliant landing, "Vianova" set finger to keyboard and produced this piece of trash text:
"From there the research scientists that have cornered the funding, fail the NASA Good Guys and the public, with bullshit science research,
they aren't looking for -- Current Life -- they are looking only for ancient indicators of life.Those scientists, are NASA UNDERWORLD vampires, they monopolize the funding into nonsense science, geared only to facilitate Planetary Protection Guidelines."
        Vianova clearly didn't think it was worth his time to actually read about the science objectives of InSight. If he had—for example, by reading the press kit (see p.40), he would have understood (if that thing between his ears is capable of understanding) that the science objectives of this mission are

  1. To understand the formation and evolution of terrestrial planets through investigation of the interior structure and processes of Mars.
  2. To determine the present levels of tectonic activity and meteorite-impact activity on Mars.

This mission is not intended or equipped to look for life, either contemporary or ancient.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

More on the craziness of Mike Bara

        Well, this is interesting. Following on from my post of 2nd November, it now turns out that the timeline given by Spaceflight Now may have been wrong on a technical point, but not in the way Mike Bara thinks.

Recap: The issue is that a small parachute was seen floating back to the ocean within a minute of the break-up of Space Shuttle Challenger. What was that parachute carrying? Bara says it was the entire crew cabin; that the crew survived and are now living new lives.

        In my 2nd November piece, I showed this timeline from Spaceflight Now, as refutation of Bara's theory.

        Somebody obviously showed Bara that timeline, because he read it out during yesterday's "Tell The Truth Wednesday" vlog. At 15:34 Bara continued:
"They're saying then that there's a separate system where both the cap and the SRB had a... had a drogue parachute. I question that, because I don't remember that ever being in the design. I'll have to go back and look at the design of the Space Shuttle, um.. Challenger.. the Shuttle SRBs, find out if that was the case. I kind-of don't think that was the case. Logically it doesn't make a lot of sense, because, you  know, the cap is much smaller—the SRBs land in the ocean, and are recovered. They're much easier to find... I don't know how you find... The SRB caps were only about...Oh, six feet across, maybe,  no more than that. Maybe ten feet, I'll have to look that up again, but they weren't very big, and, y'know, finding a cap, a metal cap or something like that, they'd be real cheap and probably easy to replace. Actually it would really surprise me if there was a recovery system for them."
        I decided to dig a little deeper, and went looking for a technical paper on SRB design. What I found was a NASA technical news reference, including this nice exploded view of the SRB components.

        Immediately below the nose cap is a section called the frustum (that's just the word for a truncated cone in solid geometry). The frustum contains instrumentation in addition to all the gubbins required to pull the pilot 'chute, the drogue 'chute, and finally the main parachutes, out of their stowed configuration. Immediately below the frustum is a ring containing the Frustum Location Aids. The text of this technical paper, edited, with emphasis added, reads as follows:
"After burnout, the forward assembly initiates the release of the nose cap and frustum and turns on the recovery aids. ... Location aids are provided for each SRB, frustum/ drogue chutes and main parachutes. These include a transmitter, antenna, strobe/ converter, battery and salt water switch electronics. The location aids are designed for a minimum operating life of 72 hours and when refurbished are considered usable up to 20 times. ...The SRB nose caps and nozzle extensions are not recovered. The recovery crew retrieves the SRBs, frustum/ drogue chutes, and main parachutes."
        So there you have it. The baby parachute was carrying, not the nose cone but the frustum. Bara was right on one point—that the nose caps were not worth recovering. But there's the answer to his question "I don't know how you find [something like that]." By the way, the diameter of the SRBs was 12.17 feet (3.7m.)

Bottom line—it wasn't the crew cabin. The crew all died.

Bara was wrong, but was Spaceflight Now also wrong?
        Maybe, maybe not. That's certainly the implication of that paragraph at T+76.437. But read it again. It says that the nose cap separates and the drogue parachute deploys, which is correct. Then it says "A lone parachute seen emerging from the plume of a SRB." You immediately assume it's the nose cap under that 'chute. But the timeline doesn't actually say that. I think Spaceflight Now is off the hook. Bara is still very much on it.

Update 20 November:
        Just to ram home the point, here's a photo of the actual frustum of STS-51L, after recovery. And here's the undamaged frustum from STS-87, on its way to refurb/re-use.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Robert Morningstar misattributes news images again

James Concannon writes...

        Shame on you, Robert Morningstar. To make a sleazy political point, you posted this on your FB page today:

        Morningstar, you also added this text from "WarriorCode", dateline 4th November 2:18pm:
"[T]he democrats favorite group of people want to leave their sh*thole and turn our country into one too. Democrats have already been moving it in that direction here. Why not more? Right?"
        These images are in fact years old and have nothing to do with the migrant "caravan" now proceeding through Mexico. The most shocking image, of the bloodied policeman, is taken from a news story about student riots in Michoacan dated 16th October 2012. The page is from the news service EMEXQUIS, and the translation of the lead is as follows:
"In a series of operations carried out early monday morning, state and federal authorities detained 176 students from the [..] schools of Cheran, Arteaga and Tiripetio in Michoacan."
        The top photo is taken from a report of a 2016 teachers' union rally in Salina Cruz, 250 miles away from where the caravan is today.

        It is no excuse that thousands of other right-wingers have tweeted and facebooked and instagrammed these horrible images for propaganda purposes. Morningstar says he's a scholar, an intelligence analyst and an investigative journalist. In my opinion, that gives him an obligation to verify that what he re-posts is genuine. It took me about five minutes to ascertain that these images were misattributed—Morningstar should have made the same small effort.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Yes, Mike Bara, you are crazy

         At 45:40 in his latest vlog, Mike Bara says "People are going to say I'm crazy; go right ahead. Tell me I'm crazy."

YES BARA, YOU'RE CRAZY. You're also, in my opinion...

[x] Ignorant
[x] Insensitive
[x] Arrogant
[x] Lacking in human decency
[x] Unoriginal

        The latest evidence of Bara's craziness, ignorance and insensitivity is the utterly nauseating theory that the crew of Space Shuttle Challenger all survived on 28 January 1986, but for unexplained reasons their survival was covered up and they now have new lives. Ugh. I'm not even going to re-post the pictures that are alleged to show them as they are today, this is such a trashy idea.

        Bara bases this theory—not his own idea, by the waynote 1—on the fact that on CBS video a parachute was seen floating toward the ocean very soon after the spacecraft broke up.

        He says he believes Challenger had an undeclared back-up escape system, and that the parachute was in fact carrying the entire crew cabin safely Earthwards.

        Well, he was dead wrong about the cause of the Columbia diasaster, and he's dead wrong about this as well. Set aside, if you like, the ridiculous ideas that NASA would a) Not come clean about the crew escape systems that had been the subject of so much debate in the technical press, and b) Fail to report that the crew were alive. Set aside, if you like, the public funerals of the crew. The fact is, we know what that parachute was carrying and why, and it was definitely not the cabin.

Nose cap
        The two solid rocket boosters (SRBs), designed for reuse and to prevent major damage after they have flamed out and separated, were equipped with a parachute system to slow the rate of descent. At an altitude of about 15,400 feet, a barometric pressure sensor fired three small thrusters that ejected the nose cap of the booster. The nose cap itself floated back to Earth on a small drogue parachute, and what was seen on the CBS video was the nose cap of the right-hand SRB.note 2

        There's another technical consideration, too. It's unthinkable that something as massive as the fully-occupied Shuttle crew cabin could be controlled by a single small parachute. I doubt if anyone ever calculated the mass of that assembly, since it was never designed to be a separate object, but it must surely be many times the mass of the Apollo Command Module, which required three very large 'chutes to bring it home.note 3 Bara claims expertise in aeronautics and he should know these things.

        These days Bara is describing himself as "a space expert." When I was active in the spaceflight specialist press, space experts actually knew their facts.

....and by the way, Mister Space Expert, the mission was not designated STS-25 as you said in your ridiculous vlog. It was STS-51-L.

Thanks again to Chris Lawrence for monitoring

=====================/ \===================
[1] This, dated July 2015, may be the original
[2] Text partly copied from UPI archives.
[3] There was redundancy. Apollo 15 splashed down successfully with one chute collapsed. Trivia: The third 'chute initially deployed correctly but its risers were damaged by the RCS surplus fuel dump.