Saturday, September 15, 2012

Casting Call for Astronomy and UFO Enthusiasts

Most of the people I follow on twitter are involved in science, and I don't follow any celebrities, with the exception of Neil deGrasse Tyson, who probably qualifies as both. This means I don't hear a lot of news about entertainment and reality TV via twitter. However, this tweet by Kate Becker went against this trend:

Kate Becker @kmbecker
A disturbing definition of what it means to be an "astronomy enthusiast" - http://ow.ly/dJ95f 

How could I resist looking at that URL? I expected to read about someone making fun of astronomers for being nerds or lacking fashion sense, but I found something quite different. The link is to a casting call web-site for reality TV shows, and the article's title is "MAJOR REALITY CABLE NETWORK SHOW SEEKS ASTRONOMY ENTHUSIASTS FOR RACHEL, NV FILMING". You can read the article yourself, but here's how it starts:

"Do you love watching the stars? Have you been down the Extraterrestrial Highway? Are you passionate about UFO watching? Have you ever wondered what goes on at the infamous AREA 51?"

It then goes on to mention two more times that they're seeking "ASTRONOMY ENTHUSIASTS" (their capitalization).

Who wrote this crap? I tweeted a complaint about the article and only a few minutes later *actual* astronomy enthusiasts started expressing their astonishment, even though it was late on a Friday afternoon.  The irony of course is that this is supposed to be about "reality" TV, not fictional TV.  They also didn't name the show - apparently in its 3rd season - which makes me wonder what's too embarrassing or off-putting about the show to mention, when their standards are low enough to link astronomy to UFOs.

A quick message to the show's producers: the "X-Files" was not a documentary. The movie "Armageddon" was science fiction, of the bad variety. "Contact" was a much better science fiction movie, and although it involved alien intelligence, no actual UFOs came to visit the Earth.

Here are some UFOs that real astronomers are interested in: "Ultra Fast Outflows" from rapidly growing black holes. How's that for a cheeky abbreviation?

What about a galaxy that looks like a UFO? It's clear that astronomers have a sense of humor.

Forget about Area 51. When I think of the number 51 in astronomy I think of M51, otherwise known as the Whirlpool Galaxy, a beautiful spiral:

M51: Credit: NASAESA, S. Beckwith (STScI), and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)
I also think of 51 Peg, the first star like the Sun that was discovered to have a planet orbiting it. Hundreds of exoplanets have now been found, showing that planets are common and increasing the chances that conditions suitable for life as we know it are common. But, that's very different from aliens conquering the vast challenges of interstellar travel and visiting us, resulting in orifice probing and government conspiracies across the world.

Astronomers have a diverse set of interests and beliefs, and sometimes they   can be eccentric, but one thing they don't support is fantasy and pseudoscience. I think the same applies to the vast majority of real astronomy enthusiasts, whether they are professional, amateurs or fans.

I leave you with a real flying saucer visiting another planet:

Mars Heat Shield in Detail. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS


6 comments:

  1. If it's any compensation, many people I know are getting rid of their TVs because of the level of this kind of garbage.

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  2. If you notice, the first "related link" is from (obviously0 the same show, asking for people who have "encountered extraterrestrials" and refers to this episode as "our Rachel/NV area 51 shoot". So, yeah- they aren't much interested in actual astronomy.

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  3. It's sad to see comments from people on various space-related clips in youtube, showing their unbelievable ignorance of the modern science fundamentals, which were discussed and acknowledged by the whole science- related community long time ago...

    Sad to see that UFOlogists are called 'space experts' on TV and invited to different dubious shows.

    Thank you for the article, will translate it and publish on my blog, if you please.

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  4. It could bring the quality up on honey boo boo, although only slightly

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  5. This stuff is very frustrating for amateur astronomers too. I once had a midnight phone call, breathlessly informing me of a light low above the horizon, the clear implication being that it was a "UFO" and I had to go investigate it. We have had "Ufologists" (!!) join our astronomical society

    During 'International Year of Astronomy 2009', our local council decided they would celebrate this by asking an AstroLoGer along to give a talk at the library.

    If there is any certainty in this world it is that amateur astronomers - who spend a lot of time outside, at night, staring at the sky - will NEVER be the ones reporting alien spaceships in the night sky.

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  6. Thanks for the interesting comments. I hope they aren't able to find any volunteers at all but that's being hugely optimistic. In wandering around the dark corners of the internet it's easy to see there are a lot of people who believe in UFOs and related ideas. There also may even be some people willing to feign an interest in this stuff in the hope of getting a break and making a name for themselves on TV.

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