APOD: ISS Transits Saturn (2016 Jan 22) Retracted

Comments and questions about the APOD on the main view screen.
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Re: APOD: ISS Transits Saturn (2016 Jan 22)

Postby geckzilla » Fri Jan 22, 2016 10:25 pm

Nitpicker wrote:
geckzilla wrote:The video is too compressed to tell what's going on, but this image is indeed the same ISS copy and pasted over and over and not a stack of video frames. Even the ISS on top of Saturn is the same.


Okay, that's beginning to sound like an excessive amount. Giving the author the benefit of the doubt, I suppose the ISS could have been processed by stacking and aligning all the ISS frames to create a better image of it, and then that one image was superimposed on the noisier ISS images from each frame. (Similarly for Saturn, which is how planetary images are typically made, anyway.) Not the worst crime, but perhaps not a decision to satisfy the purists.

I still think it's great.

Yes, that could have been done, but then why does the APOD description say that it's a video frame stack? There may have been a miscommunication between the photographer and editor. As it stands, the description combined with the image is indeed misleading and false.
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Re: APOD: ISS Transits Saturn (2016 Jan 22)

Postby Nitpicker » Fri Jan 22, 2016 11:19 pm

Well, it is still a video frame stack, but two separate alignments have been performed on the frames (one on the ISS and one on Saturn), prior to sharpening and re-combining.

The same process that is typically performed on planetary images, to reduce the effects of atmospheric seeing, has been applied to the ISS and Saturn, but the two objects were moving relative to each other. The two images we see (one of Saturn and one of the ISS repeated) represent an average of the sum of the photons captured over the course of (probably) 0.5 seconds. It is quite fair to assume that in the absence of atmosphere, the image of the ISS would not change over a period of 0.5 seconds (even though its position relative to Saturn does). I think the APOD is a fair and justified representation of the reality and the explanation is fine. I think the claims of fake are quite unfair.

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Re: APOD: ISS Transits Saturn (2016 Jan 22)

Postby geckzilla » Fri Jan 22, 2016 11:25 pm

I think an average, reasonable person would expect this is a series of photos combined rather than a representation, given the description. We've had edits to descriptions over less. It's important to note that when things like this happen it's not just the viewers who may be confused, but the photographer's reputation within the community at stake. Not to mention the nasty emails one gets sent... (I've gotten them just for annotating images.)
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Re: APOD: ISS Transits Saturn (2016 Jan 22)

Postby Chris Peterson » Sat Jan 23, 2016 12:05 am

Nitpicker wrote:I think the claims of fake are quite unfair.

Maybe. But I'll say that this changes it from a remarkable image to something very ordinary and uninteresting (in my eyes).
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Re: APOD: ISS Transits Saturn (2016 Jan 22)

Postby Nitpicker » Sat Jan 23, 2016 1:15 am

Sorry, but I don't consider the level of processing we see here (assuming it is what I have described above) to be conceptually different from any reasonable planetary image produced from a lucky imaging technique.

The clarity or otherwise of the images is not what makes the APOD remarkable, or merely ordinary to me. It is the fact that a photographer shot it with such precision in terms of timing and location. An unprocessed image (a simple stack of the video frames) would probably be just as remarkable to me, though would arguably not be so aesthetically pleasing. Indeed, I find the heavily compressed video, with all its lack of clarity, to be just as cool.

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Re: APOD: ISS Transits Saturn (2016 Jan 22)

Postby FLPhotoCatcher » Sat Jan 23, 2016 4:03 am

According to geckzilla, "...this image is indeed the same ISS copy and pasted over and over and not a stack of video frames. Even the ISS on top of Saturn is the same." I can say that the instances of the ISS outside of Saturn are identical, down to the pixel, so they are clones of each other. If the picture of the ISS over Saturn is identical to the others nearby, then it was not the source of the other instances of it, since it would be too difficult to cut all traces of Saturn from it.

Then you have the spacing, which if stacked from a video should be spaced completely regularly - but the spacing is much closer near Saturn.

So, since a computer was used to copy and place each instance of the ISS - even the one over Saturn according to geckzilla, and placed not where they would be in stacked video frames, it is not appreciably different than a computer rendering to me. Especially in this age of Photoshop and realistic computer renderings, truth in photography should be highly valued and encouraged.

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Re: APOD: ISS Transits Saturn (2016 Jan 22)

Postby geckzilla » Sat Jan 23, 2016 4:28 am

Let me be clear that I think Nitpicker is right about the lucky imaging thing and that the photographer did observe the event and that I am still giving him the benefit of the doubt. I think the description is confusing. It would have been better, imo, for the real frames to have been used. This version is more visually appealing because the noise has been removed and the clarity of the two objects is nice, but many people have been lead to believe that these are stills from the video, which after watching the video it's obvious that they are not. I would still like to see the raw video frames.
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Re: APOD: ISS Transits Saturn (2016 Jan 22)

Postby Nitpicker » Sat Jan 23, 2016 6:59 am

I would also like to see the raw video frames simply stacked together and aligned to Saturn. However ...

I do think it is most likely that the ISS we see in the APOD is a stack of all the frames (apart from the central one), aligned so all the ISS images lined up -- and crucially, with the delta-x and delta-y recorded for each translated frame. This aligned stack was then sharpened, as per typical lucky imaging processing, and then the sharpened image was de-aligned back into the original coordinates for each frame (using the recorded array of delta-x and delta-y). The image of Saturn was similarly stacked, aligned and sharpened, but not de-aligned. Then the sharpened image of the path of the ISS was added to the sharpened image of Saturn. So, not a "cut-and-paste job", but a thoughtful, rational and repeatable process, entirely based on the source data.

The explanations for the irregular spacing of the ISS include:

a) atmospheric wobble,
and
b) slightly imperfect tracking of Saturn,
and
c) slight variations in the frame rate of the camera,
and
d) lens distortion.

The irregularities are what lead me to think that the composition is a lot more authentic than some people are suggesting. I would be more suspicious if the ISS was perfectly spaced.

My quibble is with the claims that the APOD is a fake. I don't think it is. But it is not a simple stack of raw video frames, either.

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Re: APOD: ISS Transits Saturn (2016 Jan 22)

Postby neufer » Sat Jan 23, 2016 9:12 am

Nitpicker wrote:
My quibble is with the claims that the APOD is a fake. I don't think it is.
But it is not a simple stack of raw video frames, either.

The resolution of ISS is an order of magnitude better than it was for the Jupiter transit.
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Re: APOD: ISS Transits Saturn (2016 Jan 22)

Postby avdhoeven » Sat Jan 23, 2016 7:56 pm

With the exposure times given it's impossible to get such an image of Saturn under these conditions. There is much more here which is wrong. I'm sorry, but I truly believe it's faked. Maybe he did observe the transit, but he did not image it for sure in this way.

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Re: APOD: ISS Transits Saturn (2016 Jan 22)

Postby geckzilla » Sat Jan 23, 2016 9:55 pm

Alright, so here's a couple of problems for you all to consider that have been listed in various discussions which I've read at Facebook. I've yet to see any response at all from Julian Wessel.

1. Was the sun over the horizon at the time of the exposure? Many say that with the ISS and Saturn low on the horizon, any video is simply impossible with the sun shining in the sky.

2. Are Saturn and the ISS the correct size? Many say the ISS is way too small. However, the ISS would look smaller near the horizon, so I do wonder about this.

Either one of these being true could prove the whole thing is impossible. I'd like to check and double-check just to make sure these assertions weren't only made by one person and then merely repeated by others, though.
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Re: APOD: ISS Transits Saturn (2016 Jan 22)

Postby Nitpicker » Sat Jan 23, 2016 10:48 pm

I must admit that the dawn sky is the biggest concern I have. My scope is smaller and "slower" (6", f/10) than the author's, but I really doubt my similarly inexpensive CMOS video camera could get anywhere near the contrast and clarity on Saturn at that time of day and at that elevation, no matter how much I adjusted the exposure and gain.

The benefit of the doubt is fading fast.

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Re: APOD: ISS Transits Saturn (2016 Jan 22)

Postby Chris Peterson » Sat Jan 23, 2016 11:03 pm

geckzilla wrote:Alright, so here's a couple of problems for you all to consider that have been listed in various discussions which I've read at Facebook. I've yet to see any response at all from Julian Wessel.

1. Was the sun over the horizon at the time of the exposure? Many say that with the ISS and Saturn low on the horizon, any video is simply impossible with the sun shining in the sky.

The image was taken right at sunrise. It's pretty darn flat around there, but the Sun could still have been just below the horizon. That said, however, I've captured Saturn in the middle of the day with video, and that with a lower dynamic range camera than the one used here. Particularly with a stacked image, I have no problem believing this could be recorded against a bright sky (and normal processing would set the background to black). I've also seen the ISS in full daylight, and given its similar brightness to Saturn, I'd again expect no problem.

2. Are Saturn and the ISS the correct size? Many say the ISS is way too small. However, the ISS would look smaller near the horizon, so I do wonder about this.

The sizes seem about right. Saturn currently has a planet diameter of about 18 arcsec. Given 108 meters from one end to the other of the PV truss, that corresponds to an angular size of 19.5 arcsec at the stated 1140 km distance. And that's probably reduced just a bit by the slight angle we see the station tilted. So the relative sizes are entirely plausible.

The video on the imager's site would be hard to fake, as well. I have no reason to think the video wasn't made as stated, I'm just disappointed in the processing behind the composite, which I personally find to make the photographic accomplishment come across as less impressive.
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Re: APOD: ISS Transits Saturn (2016 Jan 22)

Postby triastro » Sun Jan 24, 2016 3:42 am

I heard from someone who contacted the author who admitted it was a ' composition'. APOD was supposedly told the same. Shame on APOD for not presenting this correctly.
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Re: APOD: ISS Transits Saturn (2016 Jan 22)

Postby geckzilla » Sun Jan 24, 2016 5:26 am

triastro wrote:I heard from someone who contacted the author who admitted it was a ' composition'. APOD was supposedly told the same. Shame on APOD for not presenting this correctly.

Let's not condemn anyone on this matter. It is not as if the editors flippantly throw APODs up or don't try their best to be accurate. You can just stop being outraged instead of shifting it from one person to another. It doesn't have to continue.
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Re: APOD: ISS Transits Saturn (2016 Jan 22)

Postby Nuncius » Sun Jan 24, 2016 5:35 am

C´mon . Astrophotography is ruled by optics. This is fake...

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Re: APOD: ISS Transits Saturn (2016 Jan 22)

Postby Chris Peterson » Sun Jan 24, 2016 4:07 pm

Nuncius wrote:C´mon . Astrophotography is ruled by optics. This is fake...

Again, there's a difference between an image that is processed in a way we may not care for, and a "fake". Nothing suggests the image wasn't made from an actual video of the ISS transiting Saturn.
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Re: APOD: ISS Transits Saturn (2016 Jan 22)

Postby Nuncius » Sun Jan 24, 2016 5:54 pm

Curious. The image was removed from Mr. Wessel site. The guy have some nice work. But because of two minutes of fame will be remembered by an Hoax...

Julian Wessel

Re: APOD: ISS Transits Saturn (2016 Jan 22)

Postby Julian Wessel » Sun Jan 24, 2016 6:33 pm

Hi,
it's Julian Wessel (J.W.Astronomy)
To make things clear I wanted to say that the APOD picture of Saturn and ISS is a composition of 2 Frames from different capturing session. They're both overlayed and processed to make the event as detailed as possible.
I'm sorry to all the astronomers feeling betrayed, this was not my intention. I just wanted to top my Jupiter transit and failed by overprocessing this image.
Nevertheless I will prove that it's possible to make this catch as perfect as shown. It's all a matter of planning and knowing his equipment. And I know I can do this. I'm one and a half year into astrophotography now and this is a mistake I won't do again! I've learned from it.
Sorry!

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Re: APOD: ISS Transits Saturn (2016 Jan 22)

Postby Thierry Legault » Sun Jan 24, 2016 7:29 pm

Appreciate your mea culpa Julian, however it's not only a question of planning and hardware, it's also a question of law of physics. To freeze the movement of the ISS, you need an exposure of 1 millisecond or less, and all experienced imagers know that then Saturn is totally underexposed, unsharp and full of noise. Exposure times are incompatible to get both objects nice together. No way to obtain such Saturn without multi-frame stacking, and then one is obliged to copy/paste of the ISS in front of it...which is well beyond (my) imaging deontology.

In addition, the probability to have one ISS exactly in front of the disk of the planet (both laterally and longitudinally) is...epsilon.
Last edited by Thierry Legault on Sun Jan 24, 2016 7:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: APOD: ISS Transits Saturn (2016 Jan 22)

Postby Chris Peterson » Sun Jan 24, 2016 7:51 pm

Julian Wessel wrote:Nevertheless I will prove that it's possible to make this catch as perfect as shown.

I'm confused. Did I or did I not see an actual video of this (looking as I'd expect, with everything fuzzy and aberrated) on your site yesterday? I do recall looking at something like that, quite distinct from the Jupiter transit video.
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Re: APOD: ISS Transits Saturn (2016 Jan 22)

Postby Thierry Legault » Sun Jan 24, 2016 8:05 pm

I second Chris: Julian, did you catch a transit of the ISS, or at least a close passage of it besides Saturn, during that morning of Jan 15th?

The famous imager Christopher Go also told me cleverly that since we are far from opposition, there should be a shadow of the disk on the rings (on the right side), approx twice the size of Cassini division. We see no shadow: did you took this image of Saturn on Jan 15th or during last opposition in May?

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Re: APOD: ISS Transits Saturn (2016 Jan 22)

Postby stephenramsden » Sun Jan 24, 2016 9:35 pm

Julian,

This is Stephen Ramsden. I wrote the article pointing out that this image was a fake that is currently being spread all over the internet. I decided to do this after conferring with some of the best planetary imagers on Earth and after seeing that this was already being called out on most of the chat forums on the net. I would like to point out that it was not my intention for you to have your reputation ruined or for you to be ostracized from the community. I was writing more about the horribly competitive nature of this hobby and getting an APOD and how it is damaging the hobby for years to come.

I emailed the APOD author beforehand and explained to them that this image was put together from separate videos taken at different times and that the pasting of the ISS was simply done with Photoshop. They told me in a one line email "there is proof that the image is real in the discussion link" which of course was not the case and blew off my email and several others notification of this. I credit the authors of this site as much as you, or maybe even more, for allowing this to explode the way it has by their inaction.

It has become what it has become because of two things...1) you submitted a video and image on your site and to APOD that didn't actually occur as described or at the same time at all. 2) the APOD authors ignored the several notifications from planetary imagers around the world that this was obviously fake and did not occur in a single imaging run or even at the same time and did nothing to maintain the credibility of this site.

Thierry and I, and many others film these transits routinely and know every possible aspect of correctly imaging them and what things look like during these events. We are a tight knit group and communicate routinely about astronomy. We, and many others on the net have been doing this for decades and there is no way that a hoax like this could possibly go more than a few minutes on such a popular astronomy website as APOD without being exposed.

The problem is this: On your website you proclaim what a "lucky incredible catch" this was and went on to give all of the relevant data in screenshots which also confirmed that this was not in fact real or a "lucky catch" but a cobbling together of several videos and images. APOD also represented the image as being an incredible lucky catch of an actual event which it obviously wasn't. All of the data needed to confirm this wasn't a single imaging run or a super lucky catch is readily available to anyone who knows how to use Google. Your admission that this was a composition came days after you basked in the glory of the highest internet honor one can have in this hobby and you seemed to think that we were all stupid because we didn't know that there "weren't 22 ISSs in the sky at once". We are not talking about the fact that you had shown every frame in one image, we were talking about the obvious fact that this entire video and image was concocted by you using software and wasn't actually recorded in real time as you claimed. There are so many obvious contradictions and impossibilities in the video, in the image and the descriptions by you and APOD, from the local weather at the time, to the stated angular diameters of objects, to the position of the Sun ,etc... that It's hard to believe anyone could have thought that this was a real video or image.

The fact that you have thus far refused to respond to numerous requests for clarity and that you have now deleted the video and image from your website, your Youtube account and your Facebook page, it only confirms these suspicions. Everyone in this comments section understands the drive to be the best and to catch that one great image for an APOD. Everyone here has the ability to manufacturer better shots than reality could provide and everyone here immediately recognizes inconsistencies in these images. It's not a crime to embellish your images or to sell prints of your images as you do on your site. (By the way, the legitimate images on your site are spectacular the way they are and you show great promise in this field.) There is however, a line which you musn't cross in this hobby between reasonable post-processing and outright forgery of an image. You crossed that line by a longshot, as I believe you knew when you were doing it, and now you have become the focal point of the frustration that a lot of us who spend years trying to perfect our imaging feel when this sort of thing happens and you are seeing the worst side of the intense competitive attitude that exists in this hobby, unfortunately.

Everyone with any experience knows that this was pieced together from other video captures. It is still a beautifully done composition, no doubt. The problem is in the way in which you presented it and described it. I really hope that you just blow this off and continue learning and improving your skills in this great hobby. I wish that APOD would just remove the image and speak nothing more of it and I really believe that the people in this hobby are more than willing to excuse this as an overzealous attempt to get recognition. If you would simply come clean to the community and move on, no one will remember it in a month or two and you can continue to dazzle us with your actual images.

Stephen

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Re: APOD: ISS Transits Saturn (2016 Jan 22)

Postby avdhoeven » Sun Jan 24, 2016 10:58 pm

Very nicely written Stephen! Everybody can make a mistake and now it's time to correct and move on. Don't give up and learn a lesson, because the hobby is really great!

Ian Ridpath

Re: APOD: ISS Transits Saturn (2016 Jan 22)

Postby Ian Ridpath » Mon Jan 25, 2016 2:36 am

Stephen, Thierry,

For those of us without your expertise, can you tell us where this leaves JW's ISS/Jupiter transit sequence? Is this fake too? If so, two mistakes would be unfortunate...


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