Man on the Moon

During my internship at NASA in 2009, I helped produce an elevation model and image mosaic from Orbit 33 of Apollo 15. This mosaic was later burned into Google Earth’s Moon mode. Earlier this week it appears people have found an image of a man walking in the region of the Moon I stitched together. Here’s links to articles about this supposed extra terrestrial at The Nation, News.com.au, AOL.com, and Examiner.com. Thank you to LROC’s Jeff Plescia for bringing this to my attention.

I quickly traced out that this section of the image mosaic comes from AS15-M-1151. This is a metric camera image from Apollo 15 that was scanned into digital form sometime in 2008 by ASU. What is shown in Google Earth is a reprojection of the image on to a DEM created by Ames Stereo Pipeline using said image. The whole strip of images was then mosaicked together using ASP’s geoblend utility. So this man could have been created by an error in ASP’s projection code. Below is the man in the moon from the raw unprojected form of the Apollo Metric image. Little man perfectly intact.

Unfortunately if you look at the next image in the film reel, AS15-M-1152, the man is gone. This is true also for 1153 and 1154. After that, the Apollo command module was no longer over looking the area. The metric camera takes a picture roughly every 30 seconds, so maybe the guy (who must be like 100 meters tall) just high tailed it.

These images come from film that had been in storage for 40 years. They were lightly dusted and then scanned. Unfortunately a lot of lint and hair still made it into the scans that we used for the mosaic. So much so, that Ara Nefian at IRG developed the Bayes EM correlator for ASP to work around those artifacts. Thus, this little Man in the image was very likely some hair or dust on the film. In fact if you search around the little man in image 1151 (in the top left corner of the image, just off an extension of a ray from the big crater) you’ll find a few more pieces of lint. Those lint pieces are also visible in Google Moon. However, it is still pretty awesome to find out others have developed a conspiracy theory on your own work. Hopefully it won’t turn into weird house calls like it did for friends of mine over the whole hidden nuclear base on Mars idea.

Update: You can find the Bad Astronomer’s own debunking of this man here. The cool bit is he tried to find the artifact in LRO and LO imagery. He then links to a forum where someone identifies that the dust was actually in the optics of the camera or in the scanner bed. So the man and other pieces of lint can be seen at roughly the same pixel location in consecutive frames.

Hah, it was even covered on SGU.

Man, I’m late to debunking my own work. 🙁