Did Spanish Astronomers Use Google To Discover "Santa"?

from the finding-windmills dept

Last month, the discovery of a large Trans-Neptunian object (TNO) was reportedly hastened by a hacker. It turns out now that the “hacker” might actually have been Spanish astronomer Jose-Luis Ortiz, who announced the discovery of 2003 EL61, dubbed “Santa“, in July. Caltech’s Michael Brown had found the object months prior, but was waiting to announce it until after he had published a paper. After reviewing access logs on his website, Michael Brown noticed requests originating from the Spanish astronomers’ computers. Now, there is a public brawl emerging over who rightfully “discovered” the object, as well as some ethical accusations over whether or not the Spaniards accessed (and properly attributed) the Caltech data. If the accusations do prove true, it’s ridiculous that a bona fide astronomer would try and pull such a farce; even Don Quixote would have come up with a more believable tale.
Correction As pointed out by an astute reader, 2003 EL61 was incorrectly referred to as the “10th planet”. 2003 UB313 is the “10th planet” whereas 2003 EL61 is merely a TNO (but still significant). We apologize for the confusion.

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Did Spanish Astronomers Use Google To Discover "Santa"?”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Landon Curt Noll (user link) says:

The object in dispute is not the so-called 10th pl

The object that the article references is 2003 EL61, a KBO object ~1500km in diameter.
It is NOT the 2003 UB313 object ~2900km that is larger than Pluto.

Discoverers Michael E. Brown (Caltech), Chad Trujillo (Gemini Observatory), and David Rabinowitz (Yale University) first imaged the object on October 21, 2003, but didn’t see it move in the sky until they reimaged the same area 15 months later, on January 8, 2005.
As far as I can tell from the IAU notices, the so called “10th planet” is not in dispute.

This is not to say that 2003 EL61 is not important. It is
a significant object given its size, makeup, and that is has a moon which allowed its mass
to be directly measured.
But 2003 EL61 is not the so-called “10th Planet”.

For additional information see:

chongo () /oo/


p.s. For what it is worth, I am happy to
call 2003 UB313 a planet.
I don’t mind living a solar system with 10+ planets!

Anton Berezin (user link) says:

There is another possible interpretation of this

The original story can be found here.

This section of the page has changed at least couple of times before (at least that’s what I noticed). At some point Brown has described the incident in almost identical terms, but nevertheless said that he believes that the Spaniards did the discovery independently, and that someone else has accessed the data at almost the same time, coincidentally.

Anyway, I just think that it is possible to interpret the story in a different way. Let’s suppose that:

1. Spaniards did the discovery independently.
2. Then they saw the abstract from Brown.
3. Then they decided to do a verification to see whether Brown is talking about the same object (one of them) that they discovered.
4. When the answer turned out to be “yes”, they rushed with their announce, just as Brown rushed with his announce two days after.

I believe it is a good idea to consider this alternative before accusing anybody of misconduct.

Rob says:

Re: There is another possible interpretation of th


I concur with your observation but I sure would like to hear from the Spanish team. There silence on the matter does not look good. Brown’s charge would still stand even if your scenario were true. A scientist is supposed to cite another scientist’s work if he used it in any way. It would be interesting to hear from some members of the scientific/legal community regarding this issue!

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...