Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Surface Of The Sun (TSOTS): The Strange Solar Claims of Michael Mozina. II.

Here I continue exploring Mr. Mozina's bizarre claims about the nature of the Sun (my first article is here).

[Note: With the release of the first article in this series, I received an accusatory email from Mr. Mozina.  Apparently someone in one of the forums where he has not (yet?) been banned has been pointing out many of the same flaws which I address in the first post of this series (thread at ChristianForums).  Mr. Mozina seems to think this other individual is me.  Nope.  In addition, Mr. Mozina claims he is 'updating' the content on his site, so some of the links presented in this series may break at some point in the future.  We'll see what happens.]

Update March 3, 2013: After almost three years, the flaws pointed out by myself and others for the claims on his site have become so glaringly obvious that even Mr. Mozina could not ignore them.  Considering how long Mr. Mozina used references to this on various forums, I include a link to the previous version of the page archived on the Wayback Machine from January 21, 2013.

Selecting Uncalibrated Data (or Worse!)

From Mr. Mozina's website blog page, (revised per above note) there is the strange claim about the 'First Light" SDO imagery showing a displacement of the solar surface.
The single most important distinction between the standard solar model and the Birkeland solar model relates to the location of the origin of iron ion light from the sun in relationship to the surface of the photosphere.  The Birkeland solar model “predicts” that the iron ion light from the sun comes from inside of electrified coronal loops that actually originate underneath of the highly ionized neon photosphere. 
Now I can find no reference that the Birkeland model predicts this.  It is also unclear where Mr. Mozina gets the idea that the photosphere is composed of neon.  While we know neon is in the photosphere and solar atmosphere from spectroscopic measurments (the same way we know about the iron), the amount of neon and iron is a tiny fraction compared to the amount of hydrogen and helium.  Suggesting the photosphere is composed of neon is not supported by measurements.

Nonetheless, Mr. Mozina uses an SDO image from the AIA instrument which is actually a composite of multiple filters.  Here's the original 4Kx4K image in question from the NASA SDO First Light release:


Here's a closeup on a region with the claimed 'displacement' framed by arrows:


Initially I thought the problems I saw with this image were strictly instrument calibration.  It appeared to be three AIA images, one of them being the popular 304 Angstrom wavelength of ionized helium, which often sports a yellow-to-red color table, overlapped with a possible offset.   This view was reinforced by examination of other regions of the image which did not show the displacement and also exhibited other artifacts.

In this subset of the image, on the right limb of the Sun, the gap is virtually invisible (yellow arrow).  But there is also the horizontal line (violet line).

Having worked with many solar images from SDO, TRACE, SOHO and others, this did not look right and there was clearly something strange about this particular image.  I searched the public archives of the instrument teams in an attempt to find the same filter combinations at other times but could not find anything similar with the 304A filter, which shows prominences.  With this simple act, I apparently had done more research than Mr. Mozina.

Here's my initial complaint (violet) about Mr. Mozina's comments, and his response (red):
TB>>3) I see a number of errors on your page you reference. SDO first light images were not completely calibrated for intensity or scale information. Have you looked at more recent images on their site?

They were certainly "calibrated" by the engineers that designed and build the equipment to give their best approximation (from the ground) prior to launch. I've looked a *years* worth of SDO images at this point in time and I've talked about some of the correlations between the activity observed in various wavelengths, particularly between the loops and the surface of the photosphere. Those loops leave bright areas on the surface of the photosphere where the exit and reenter the surface of the photosphere. The magnetic field alignments observed by SDO are directly related to the direction of the flow of current in the loop as it exits or enters the surface. In fact with Helioviewer it's possible (and I showed some examples) to put several wavelengths and magnetogram images together to see how they all align with one another, right down the the loops aligning themselves with the penumbral filaments around sunspots.
SDO, like many satellites, has some calibration in the basic design of the instrument.  Due to launch vibrations, outgassing, temperature variations, etc. some alignments and even focusing must done after 'first light'.  The goal of a 'first light' release is to demonstrate to the taxpayers that the instrument basics are working (some people might remember Hubble 'first light' fiasco - Wikipedia).  More precise calibration is done later, such as fine focusing of the telescopes.  In some of the early datasets, such as the one above, you can see the boundaries of the four individual CCD panels (actually you can see them in the calibrated data if you map a wacky color table on the Level-1 data) because CCD panels are not identical and a correction must be computed to remove/reduce their differences. 

Ideally, once the satellite is on-station and stable, you do the calibration such that you don't have to fiddle with adjustments a lot.  The AIA instrument even has small focusing motors on each of the four telescopes (see The Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) on the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO)).  However, most instruments have various degradations in performance over time, so occasionally the satellite operators recalibrate the instruments.  Sometimes instrument changes can be more common than we'd like.  For example, see this story of how SDO scientists and engineers are trying to reduce the amount of HMI observing time lost after the satellite is eclipsed by the Earth.  In the Earth's shadow, the lenses of the HMI instrument cool sufficiently to change their focus (see Getting NASA's SDO into Focus).

A check with the AIA Science Team about the details behind the original image revealed the real problem with this AIA 'image'.  

It turns out the image is actually a MANUAL composite of FOUR different wavelengths, in this case 304 Angstrom (30.4 nanometers), 211 Angstroms (21.1 nanometers), 193 Angstroms (19.3 nanometers), and 171 Angstroms (17.1 nanometers).  The 211, 193 and 171 Angstrom images have enough features in common to use special algorithms to accurately align them.  However, there was a desire to show the 304 Angstrom image for its spectacular prominences, but which did not have common features on the disk to do the precision alignment.  So the solar disk was cut out of the 304A image and MANUALLY aligned with the other three images.  This is the source of the sharp edge visible on the limb.  The difference around the disk is due to error in the manual alignment of the mask and is the origin of this offset!  If you look closely around the 45 degree angles around the disk, you can even see characteristic 'stairstepping' created by antialiasing of the mask used to block out the solar disk in the 304 Angstrom image!

And the horizontal lines? You'll find some on the opposite side as well as vertical lines at the top and bottom limbs.  These are due to the fact that the 4Kx4K CCDs in the AIA imagers are actually 2x2 grids of 2Kx2K CCDs.  The seams are artifacts of slight calibration differences between the CCDs. 

Since the image was generated for promotional purposes of SDO First Light (for instrument team flyers, logos, etc) and NOT for scientific analysis, it was not a big deal.  I have generated similar composites for promotional material and visualization development and often mark such composites as not suitable for data analysis.

After all, WHO would be foolish enough to attempt to do science analysis on a non-science-grade image?  

Here's a hint: if it is a JPEG, or an MPEG or Quicktime or similar movie, it is pretty much by definition not science grade!  

These image formats are acceptable for publishing final results for release to the media, but if you're using these as your analysis source data - you'll probably end up looking foolish.  To see more on how amateurs fool themselves with sloppy image analysis, check out some of Stuart Robbins' posts on these topics at "Exposing Pseudoastronomy".

Mr. Mozina states on the blog page at the end of the post for 4/27/10:
Thanks to SDO, the Birkeland solar model has passed its first and most important empirical test with flying colors.
Since Mr. Mozina uses an (artifical) offset as evidence for his interepretation of a Birkeland solar model, this pretty much kills his claim.

The AIA team regularly produces images combining 211A, 193A and 171A filters (AIA: The Sun Today)
February 8, 2013.  Click to Enlarge.

and you can construct your own using tools like Helioviewer and JHelioViewer.

Note that in the quote above, Mr. Mozina says he has looked at years of SDO data.  Considering SDO has only been up for three  years as of this writing, that's a bit of a stretch, and I still have him beat, and those who study the Sun for a living have me beat as well.

But then what does that say?  Others have 'looked at' way more SDO data (and that from other solar-observing satellites) than Mr. Mozina.  They have conducted measurements that determine positions, velocities, temperatures, compositions, etc. of loops, active regions, bright spots, etc. on the Sun.  Mr. Mozina has not only not conducted ANY measurements of similar caliber to back up this claim, but he is made glaring errors that can be identified by relatively simple examination by anyone with a little bit of training.

Why should we regard Mr. Mozina's interpretation of solar operation and structure over that of professional scientists who have not only conducted actual measurements of the solar data itself, but been able to check various theoretical models against laboratory experiments?

Mr. Mozina could have saved himself some embarrassment by checking his claim against data collected at other times - but apparently he did not bother to do this (AGAIN!).  Why not?  The data are freely available (see The Many Ways to Access SDO Data) so it appears that his only excuse may be laziness.

With these two posts, I've demonstrated Mr. Mozina has a very careless 'research' style makes it easy for him to jump to incorrect conclusions.

That in itself is not a problem, scientists make errors all the time.  If they are competent, they check with other data, colleagues, etc. to determine if they might be fooling themselves.  Many catch these errors before they make it into publication.  A few make it to publication.

But the cranks not only try to push their flawed claims into publication, but accuse others of conspiracy/incompentence/persecution/etc. when their errors are pointed out. 

Addenda: Mozina's Flux Rope Claim

Mr. Mozina has emailed me a link to a 'rebuttal' on a forum:
FYI, in case you missed it, this is your chance to reciprocate graciously.

I've shown you two completely different, and very recent mathematical modelling studies which both insist that the flux ropes originate underneath of the surface of the photosphere. Mathematically speaking, you've offered me nothing whatsoever to refute that position.

I've also shown you that there is a continuous alignment pattern related to the magnetic field signatures on the surface of the photosphere, and the bright areas of the surface seen in 1600A and 1700A images, which directly correspond to the flux ropes penetrating that surface. I've shown you time dated Helioviewer movies of sunspots that show the flux ropes following the contours of the penumbral filaments over hours, just like those mathematical models of sunspot studies "predict".

Thus far the only thing that you've presented as "evidence" to support your claim that we cannot observe flux ropes *underneath of the surface of the photosphere*, is an apparent *misconception* that you have about the term "opaque". Even by the mainstream standards of that term "opaque", it is possible for light that was emitted hundreds of kilometers underneath of the surface of the photosphere to be seen in SDO images. You have not provided a single legitimate piece of evidence that supports your assertion that flux ropes do not originate *underneath* of the surface of the photosphere, or that these ropes cannot be observed *underneath* of that surface.

Care to provide some actual data to support your claims, or come clean on this issue?
Mr. Mozina still apparently thinks, incorrectly, that this forum poster is me (I'm much too busy to spend that much time on forums!) where he seems to be claiming that with my exposure of his error in the first post, I am saying flux ropes do not extend below the photosphere.

1) The point of the first post is Mr. Mozina's claim that the solar surface in visible light (the photosphere) is actually above the solar surface visible in EUV light. and that the penumbral filaments of sunspots (Wikipedia) are where the structures visible in EUV are penetrating below the photosphere.   I demonstrated that this interpretation is incorrect because all measurements demonstrate the photosphere is BELOW the EUV 'surface'.  According to Schrivjer et al, 1999, the EUV loops originate at the boundary between the sunspot umbra & penumbra, not the filaments themselves.  To refute this, Mr. Mozina must do actual measurements on the images (with images from STEREO) to re-construct the loops in 3-D space to show where they intersect the photosphere.   I'm not holding my breath for that.  Because the difference in altitude of features in HMI (or AIA 1700A) with any of the EUV loop images can be thousands of kilometers, projection effects mean the visual correlation has major credibility problems.  I presented a sample result of this process in the first post, so Mr. Mozina's repeat of this claim is already proven wrong.

2) Plasma moving along collections of intertwined magnetic field lines (i.e. flux ropes), have been a part of standard solar theory for decades. 
I was involved in development of some of the visuals linked above showing some aspects of the magnetic field in the standard solar model.  Coronal loops are flux ropes loaded with plasma that is emitting some light.  It is possible to have flux ropes without emitting plasma.  I know very well that flux ropes extend below the photosphere (coronal loops do not), so Mr. Mozina's claim that I have said flux ropes do not go below the photosphere is clearly false. 

3) Mr. Mozina claims that SDO can 'image' below the photosphere, yet provides no evidence of that.  It should be noted that the photosphere is about 500 km thick, which corresponds to a little more than one pixel at AIA and HMI resolution.  By defintion, the photosphere, corresponds to an optical depth of 2/3 (Wikipedia) which means only half the photons make it through the boundary without scattering.  Optical depth increases dramatically below that. We also can easily see that the photosphere in the 1700A band is still below the 171A photosphere so we are still not seeing the coronal loops below the photosphere.

4) The closest thing to 'imaging' below the photosphere is helioseismology analysis which can 'see' below the photosphere but at very poor resolution.  It is a leading edge technique where it's capabilities, and limitations, are still being explored.  I'll go into Mr. Mozina's delusions on that topic in the next post of this series.

5) After promoting claims that involve radical differences with the standard solar model, to rescue himself, Mr. Mozina tries to cram some aspect of the standard model (solar coronal flux rope models) into his.  He does this with no regard to the fact that the radical change in solar composition he advocates (replacing a plasma that is predominantly hydrogen & helium with much heavier elements) would largely make those components inapplicable to his model without radical changes.  Kind of like having a boat that works on the ocean, and then claiming the boat will work the same on land.  By relying on components of the standard model without demonstrating they are still applicable, he basically invalidates his own model.

6) The most disturbing aspect of Mr. Mozina's post is he has falsely attributed a claim to me which he expects me to retract as an act of reciprocity.  Mr. Mozina seems to treat the facts of Nature and Science as if they are something that can be negotiated or traded around like debate points.  Nature does not plea bargain.

Again, Mr. Mozina makes claims which are easily demonstrated as blatantly false with just a little research.  

Again, hard up for facts in favor of his model, Mr. Mozina is apparently resorting to making up stuff.

Note: Since this is a multi-part post and commenters (this particularly means Mr. Mozina) may raise issues that will be dealt with in a future part, I will not release any comments to these threads until the complete series (currently three entries) is posted.
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