What Is It? #4

So, another week, another testing image for you. Take a look at Prof. Dowling’s latest submission, and see if you can tell us what we’re looking at. Leave your answers below, and we’ll announce the winner next week.

Last week we showed you this photo and asked you what it was. The correct answer was the HR 8799 system. In the center, you can see the host star HR 8799. Further investigation shows that three of the specks surrounding the star are planets (marked): Starting at 11 o\’clock, clockwise: HR 8799b, HR8799c and HR8799d. The other specks and patterns are artefacts, which are unavoidable in a challenging observation like this one – star and planets are extremely close, and the star is a few thousand times brighter than the planets. The distance from the star to HR 8799c corresponds to 38 times the average Earth-Sun distance. This image is the latest taken by European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile, in particular its combined camera/spectrograph CONICA, which was developed at the MPIA and at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics (M-PIES, which is quite a funny acronym). Image credit: MPIA/W. Brandner (MPIA = Max Planck Institute for Astronomy)

Which you guys knew, because you Googled the filename, like dirty rotten cheats. Still, credit where credit’s due, king amongst those cheats was Jon D, who first to correctly guess/Goggle the right answer. No Googling this time, people!


  1. #1 by Lukasz on February 13, 2010 - 02:35

    I would say it’s dust on lens/negative. Or scratched negative before processing. I didn’t use Google!

  2. #2 by Jon d on February 13, 2010 - 12:18

    Fair and square I think we’re looking at light from the camera’s flash reflected off particles of dust suspended in the air and bounced back into the camera lens. You see it more often these days because the flash is mounted closer to the lens on compact digital cameras and the cameras are so complex people can’t work out how to switch the auto-flash off. They look blurry and possibly a bit 3 dimensional because they’re out of focus due to being too close to the lens.
    The other explanation is that they are ‘orbs’, and the camera has captured faries, guardian angels and ghosts. Noel Edmonds claims to believe in the spirits and angels explanation, my ex bought a (expensive) book which purported to name the various sizes, shapes and colours of ‘orb’ and what the spirits might be trying to tell us by their position in relation to any people in the photo… I’m a tolerant guy and that’s not the main reason she is my ex.

  3. #3 by Andy Wilson on February 13, 2010 - 15:35

    I cheated. I typed in “image of Marsh early in his porn career” to Google and it told me that they are dust motes in the air being caught in a certain light.

    Still busy with the other results. Will let you know when I’m finished. I may be some time….

  4. #4 by Betty D on February 13, 2010 - 22:46

    I would have said it looks like specks on the reflection of a particularly dirty bathroom mirror, but from the perspective the picture’s taken from… Dunno. Looks like he’s standing in front of a counter, though.

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