4.11 - Apollo 10 and 11 BOMEX data.

As an evolving project, this researcher has always been keen to look for new sources of data that support the idea that satellite meteorology provides conclusive proof that the pictures of Earth taken by Apollo are absolutely genuine. One such proof recently emerged with the discovery of a book compiling satellite images as part of the BOMEX study.

BOMEX (Barbados Oceanographic and Meteorological Experiment) was a research project looking at the interaction between the Ocean and Climate in the Carribean, as detailed here. It ran between May 1st and July 28th 1969, and thus covered the Apollo 10 and 11 missions. Some data from this research was found when looking into Apollo 11 (see here), but recently a more detailed collection of satellite images from the ATS-III and ESSA-9  was uncovered using the top secret hush hush method of ‘Googling’. The document in question is this one, and is useful because with the ATS images it not only gives several taken in quick succession but actually zooms in much closer than the hemispheric view we usually get. It also presents ESSA images in the original format, rather than the circular projection used for much of this research and these were used by BOMEX when ATS had a transmitter problem. Additional studies of the ESSA and ATS images can also be found here, here and here and and are included where possible. ATS images were also produced for this conference paper in 1972. We’ll also include NIMBUS-3 tiles where available, and a couple of ESSA images from this 1971 PhD thesis, and this 1973 MSc dissertation.

The time sequence of photographs allows us to pick the image that matches most closely the times that we have estimated for selected Apollo images to see how they compare.

Rather than overcomplicate the existing structure, and to avoid having to do a lot of renumbering of figures, I’ve added this as a new section.

So, let’s start with Apollo 10.

4.11.1 - Apollo 10

The BOMEX study was focused on the Caribbean, which means that the first image available to us from Apollo that is any use is actually from May 23rd - AS10-27-3889. This is the first date where we have images available from Apollo 10 and ATS-III that cover the area we need to see, and is actually one of the first Earthrise images from the mission.

Observations given here suggest a time for the photograph of around 18:45, based on the terminator position and the weather data available in other satellite images. We also have this from the mission transcripts:

122:05:53 Stafford (onboard): Hit it, quick. Go, baby, go.

122:05:56 Young (onboard): What?

122:05:57 Stafford (onboard): The Earth. Hit it. Again, baby…

Followed by some suggestions about with camera settings would work. This converts to a time of 18:54 on the 23rd.

The BOMEX document has 3 close up images from that date, taken at 11:41, 16:04, and 17:54 GMT, so we have one taken within an hour of the Apollo image. As Earth’s climate is a dynamic and evolving thing, a photograph taken 7 hours before the Apollo one is likely to contain a broad similarity to it, but the finer details should be different.

Let’s see how that works out by looking at figure 4.11.1.

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The square on the ATS photographs represent the location of ocean going research vessels. At the bottom of each image is the coast of northern South America. The details in the Apollo image are slightly affected by the difference in viewing angle.

So - which one do we think contains the most similarity to the Apollo picture? The answer is, quite obviously the one taken an hour before the Apollo one. The most obvious feature showing this is the one in the top right of the satellite observations, which can be seen developing over time. I’ve not used arrows here - if you can’t see the resemblance there’s no point nailing it on a mast for you!

The next available shot of the Caribbean is covered by an ESSA-9 image, and while we only have one it is considerably more detailed than the one available when writing this section. The Apollo photograph in question is AS10-27-3952, and in figure 4.11.2.

Figure 4.11.2: AS10-27-3952 compared with an ESSA-9 image from the BOMEX report.

The estimated time here  for the Apollo image is 18:45, which compares well with the 16:32 time for the ESSA-9 frame.

As this image is relatively low quality, I’ve added some indicator arrows so you can work out what’s what, and I’m sure you’ll agree the correspondence is very good.

The next ESSA-9 shot 24 hours later has a better quality Apollo image, AS10-35-5269, and this is shown in figure 4.11.3 below. In this example I have compensated for Apollo’s viewing angle by stretching the Caribbean area to match the ESSA perspective more closely. You are welcome to try this yourself to ensure it doesn’t introduce image artefacts.

The Apollo picture is estimated here to have been taken at 18:00, compared with an ESSA time of 17:29, and the correspondence is obvious enough not to need illustrating with arrows. Amazingly, the closer the satellite image time to that of the Apollo image, the greater the degree of correspondence between them.

That’s all we can do for Apollo 10, time to look at Apollo 11.

4.11.2 - Apollo 11

The first photographs we can look at for Apollo 11 were all taken within a short time span on the way out towards the moon. As discussed here, AS11-36-5357, 5362 and 5366 were taken at around 17:30, 18:30 and 20:30 respectively on July 17th 1969. The ATS photograph used in the earlier analysis was the larger view taken at 14:55 on that day.

The BOMEX document supplies additional 2 additional images from ATS taken at 11:15 and 20:17, so we have one image taken almost at the same time.

Before we look at those, let’s see how Caribbean weather patterns develop in the three Apollo images in figure 4.11.4.

Figure 4.11.4a: The Caribbean area in AS11-36-5357, 5362 and 5366 (left to right).

The first thing to point out is that the three images are not identical. The broad patterns of weather are the same, but there are notable subtle differences between them, particularly in the movement of the horizontal strips of cloud in the top right, and the development of the clouds over the South American landmass bottom left.

We know that the closest image to any of the ATS ones is the one on the right, taken at almost the same time, so how does the Apollo image compare with the satellite ones?

It’s obvious really, and it shouldn’t have to be pointed out, but the ATS photographs very clearly show that the nearer you get in time to the Apollo photograph the closer the degree of correspondence. As you would expect, the last one in the ATS sequence (bottom left), while it has suffered from the fading light as the region nears the terminator, shows an exact correspondence with the Apollo photograph taken at the same time. The NIMBUS image does not quite cover the same area, and was taken at 15:38 and is a match for the earlier ATS images  but less so for Apollo. ESSA’s view at 18:18 is an extremely good match for the Apollo photograph taken at 18:30, and still pretty good for the later view.

Another ESSA image (taken from this report) shows a different part of the Apollo image (figure 4.11.4c).

As before, the development of weather systems is very obvious from the sequence of ATS photographs, and as before the closer in time the ATS image is to the Apollo one, the greater the degree of correspondence between them.

As well as BOMEX collecting satellite data, it also collected photographs taken from the ground. One example of that can be found in this report, which shows advancing cumulus clouds viewed south from Barbados. Barbados’ location, and the photographs themselves, are shown in figure 4.11.6.

Despite the fact that the Apollo image was taken nearly 3 hours after the last ATS one, it bears much more resemblance to that satellite photograph than the one taken 6 hours earlier. Most notable is the separation of the long cloud mass running along the bottom of the image into several distinct masses, a developmental process that is seen to be complete in the final (Apollo) photograph in the temporal sequence.

A similar theme can be seen in the final image available to us showing the BOMEX study area, AS11-38-5706, which I estimate to have been taken at 19:30 on the 23rd. Figure 4.11.8 shows the sequence.

Figure 4.11.8: ATS images taken at 11:25 (top left) 14:26 (bottom left) and 16:11 (top right) compared with AS11-38-5706 (bottom right). Below this is the NIMBUS-3 IDCS tile, taken t 14:49, and an ESSA 9 image taken at 14:24.

The Apollo image has been perspective corrected.

As before, the Apollo image can be seen as part of a logical developmental sequence showing weather patterns evolving over time, and it bears much more similarity with the image taken a couple of hours before it compared with the one taken several hours before it.

So, until I get round to buying the actual book (copies are available but aren’t cheap) or getting hold of images, that’s all we can do here. What we have managed to is provide more evidence that the unique meteorological fingerprint represented by the Apollo images are indeed time and date specific and that the Apollo images are part of a temporal sequence showing the continuous evolution of weather systems - they aren’t just a one off scene existing in isolation or part of some set designer’s imagination.

It also shows that the data supporting Apollo are, and have always been, publicly available to anyone who cares to look, and if you want you can even buy the books (figure 4.11.9).

Figure 4.11.9: BOMEX books published in 1971 and for sale on eBay.

Figure 4.11.1: ATS-III images take at 11:40 (top left), 16:04 (top right), 17:54 (bottom left) compared with AS10-27-3889.

Left is a NIMBUS-3 image taken at 14:33.

Figure 4.11.3: AS10-35-5269 compared with an ESSA-9 image from the BOMEX report. Below that is a NIMBUS-3 IDCS tile, taken at 14:53.

Figure 4.11.4b: ATS-III images compared with AS11-36-5366. Below this is a NIMBUS-3 IDCS image (left) and an ESSA 9 image (right) .

Figure 4.11.5: ATS-III photographs taken at 11:37 (top left), 15:31 (top right) and 20:17 (bottom left) compared with AS11-36-5381 (bottom right). Below this is a NIMBUS-3 IDCS image taken at 14:54. Right of the NIMBUS image is an ESSA 9 image taken at 13:25, and right is an ESSA 9 image taken at 17:21 showing a slightly different area.

Figure 4.11.4c: Section of AS11-36-5357 compared with ESSA 9 image

Although taken earlier, there is still an excellent match with Apollo’s earliest view.

We have another sequence of ATS photographs taken on the 18th and an Apollo image (AS11-36-5381) taken at around 21:00. Figure 4.11.5 shows the sequence.

Figure 4.11.7: ATS images taken at 11:35 (top left) and 16:10 (top right), a detail of the ATS view at 14:54 centre left) compared with AS11-38-5684 (centre right). Left is a ESSA 9 image. Above is a section of AS11-44-6669, taken at roughly the same time as the B&W image - note the sunglint off Lake Brokopondo in Suriname.

The Apollo images have been perspective corrected.

Figure 4.11.6: Map showing the location of Barbados, cumulus images photographed viewed south of Barbados, and close up of the ATS satellite view of that area.

The ground based images were taken around an hour before the ATS view (10:07 - 10:22 GMT), and therefore roughly seven hours before Apollo’s photograph. That combined with the relatively low resolution would make it very unwise to say “these are the same clouds in the Apollo image”, but the ground images match the satellite ones, and the satellite ones match Apollo. If anyone wants to prove they don’t, feel free to try.

Most of the Apollo images taken during the landing itself show the Pacific, so sadly we don’t get the opportunity to repeat this exercise for images taken at the moon itself. The only two that do show the relevant area of the Caribbean are either too out of focus (AS11-37-5442) or the ATS sequence isn’t available (AS11-44-6642) so we wouldn’t be able to reveal much more than has already been done here.

The next clear image of the region was taken on the way home. There are three ATS images from two different sources, and the view of the Caribbean is very clear and worth examining. Figure 4.11.7 shows the ATS images together with AS11-38-5684 which I estimated here to have been taken at around 19:00 on the 22nd.