The photo looks too good to be true, alright. That doesn’t mean it was Photoshopped, though. Photographer gm_astrphotography posted a photo of the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn that sparked discourse about its authenticity. The image contains ‘spikes’ seen around the two planets, which looks too good to be true. It is true, as PetaPixel confirms:
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“Diffraction spikes in astrophotography are “artifacts” that show on images of brighter stars where beams of light run through an obstacle on the camera lens and are bent, causing the light to spread out to capture a better image of the sky, according to Photographing Space. Said another way, in an image of a star or planet, they are the straight beams of light that point out in four directions from the object.”
Garret explains that he made those prominent spikes by using tape and rubber bands that he stretched across the front of the refractor in a cross pattern as a kind of practical effect. So while the image is enhanced by the photographer, it was not done in post-production: what is seen is really how the camera captured the photos.
“If you’re into telescopes as much as I am, you’re probably asking yourself how did I capture these spikes with a refractor?” Garret writes. “The best way I found to do this is with tape and rubber bands stretched across the front of your refractor in a symmetrical pattern (I did a plain cross). I feel like it adds something a little extra to the image!”
USA Today accepts his explanation and has rated this viral image as “true.”
Image via PetaPixel