The question What phenomenon causes “lunar waves”? links to YouTube videos posted by individual contributors, one laments being ignored by the scientific community.

The comment exchange is extensive and I don't think it's worth reproducing as it reads fairly standard, "this is crackpottery and not science" versus "you need to keep an open mind and not be so dismissive".

I've voted to close as have several others, but I am searching for a better way to articulate why "phenomenon" which can only be observed in certain YouTube channels are not the same as actual astronomical or atmospheric phenomenon as a way to better codify which questions are not on-topic here in Astronomy SE.

Should this question be considered on-topic here?

enter image description here Source

Think what happens when a video camera with one frame rate is pointed at a monitor with a different frame rate for example. (from this answer)

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    $\begingroup$ If this is about "crackpottery", then I guess this might be a similar case on Physics.SE: Is non-mainstream physics appropriate for this site?. However, that's Physics.SE, not Astronomy.SE. Feel free to decide the site's policy independent of Physics.SE's policy. $\endgroup$
    – Andrew T.
    Commented Apr 20, 2019 at 7:02
  • $\begingroup$ @AndrewT. Thanks for your comment. I certainly hope Astronomy SE can continue to be more welcoming and less angsty than Physics SE. In Astronomy questions of the form "I saw X last night, what was it?" are generally welcome, and the concept of "mainstream" doesn't apply to personal experience. In a way, what I'm asking here is if questions of the form "I saw X last night on YouTube, what was it?" In this case the concept of "mainstream" can be applied, but the question is about the observation and not about the science forwarded in the videos, so it's tricky. Hmm... $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Commented Apr 20, 2019 at 7:49

1 Answer 1


I'm glad this has been asked on Meta, as it's a much more appropriate place to discuss how to approach such issues - comments or chat are limited in their usefulness.

My view is that this is shouldn't be about whether a question is based on evidence presented on "certain YouTube channels", but about whether the question itself has value.

So what is "value"?

Firstly, this is a science-based SE site, so there's no value in a question that has no basis in known physics. Any question that asks for confirmation or analysis of a non-science issue should be politely but quickly closed as off-topic. This would normally include questions about astrology, aliens, sci-fi time travel, sci-fi FTL spaceships, wacky personal theories, and so on.

However, the reaction on our part shouldn't be unthinking, uncritical or emotive: our response should be calm, rational and based on the individual merits (or failings) of that particular question. For example, a question about whether an astronaut on a round trip to one of Jupiter's moons would travel forward in time might initially look like (off-topic) sci-fi time travel, whereas I would argue it's a legit question about how time dilation works. However, I would VTC a similar question about a return journey to Proxima b using warp drive.

What about video clips?

It's a mistake to judge the message by the supposed worthiness of the messenger or the nature of their vehicle. There are plenty of high-quality video "channels" on Youtube that present sound science in a chatty or non-academic style: e.g. How to Take a Picture of a Black Hole (SciShow News). It would be absurd to close a question merely because it linked to such a channel. Equally, if an amateur uploads to Youtube their own video clip of a lunar eclipse and posts a question here about some issue with what they saw, I think most of us would be happy to treat that as a legit question deserving of an answer.

Yes, but astrology?

Our Astronomy community tends to be particularly sensitive to any post that even hints at an astrological angle. No doubt it's a similar thing to my physiotherapist's outrage at any mention of chiropractic manipulation, a palaeontologist's reaction to creationism, or an a sceptic's reaction to séances. Fair enough: astrology isn't science.

However, should an astrologer be barred from asking a question about astronomy? Should a question be closed because one of the two reference video clips was uploaded to Youtube by an astrologer? This seems like an overreaction. Again, let's look at the question itself, and the value it might have.

The actual question

We have multiple videos of a visual distortion smoothly propagating like a slow wave across the image of an astronomical object (mostly the Moon, but one of Jupiter as shown in this Meta question). What could be causing it? The original question is strictly about the science: is it "different refractive indexes" or "a wave propagating through the atmosphere?" No mention of astrology.

One source is an astrologer's Youtube channel, but the 10 clips he has put together include others posted independently on Youtube. All show the same visual distortion: either a "wave front" propagating across the whole image, or a "wave" slowly traversing the limb.

Suppose these clips had been compiled by a postgrad astronomy student instead of an astrologer: would we have had such a vociferous and denigratory reaction? I suggest instead that the reaction would have been "good question!" and the answers would have concentrated on the science and observations.

Is this question on-topic? Does it have value?

So, to the core of this Meta question... Yes, it's clearly on topic: it asks about a genuine anomaly in actual astronomical observations, and requests a science-based answer. The best answer (although by no means a good one, given such unnecessary polemics as "Smoke, mirrors and snake oil. Suckers are said to be born at the rate of one per minute. I have a feeling the con artist birth rate is up there as well.") provides a scientific explanation of the likely cause.

What diminishes the value of this question on our site is not the source of the videos but the quality of the comments and answers, which have given themselves up to unscientific prejudice, denigration, moralising and overreaction. If those involved were to edit out their personal denunciations and just stick to the science, the question and remaining answers would be a valid and worthwhile addition to this site, serving as a reference point for anyone who observes or reads about or views a video of this anomaly. And for those with a special tingling in their sceptic gland, the added value is that it clearly dismisses - in scientific terms - any possibility of etheric bubbles, alien thought waves, astrological pulses or other hocus pocus.

Downvote the question if you don't think it's useful, but it should only be closed if it fails to meet our site's criteria, and I don't see a convincing case being made for such a position.

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    $\begingroup$ We don't know that it is "a genuine anomaly in actual astronomical observations" or if it is calculated fakery, or something in between. I think it is misleading to call it that. Filming a monitor with mis-matched frame rates is not an "actual astronomical observation" in my opinion. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Commented Apr 20, 2019 at 3:21
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    $\begingroup$ @uhoh I can't rule out fakery, but it seems highly unlikely given the diversity of images, sources, and "wave" types. As I noted, would you assume "fakery" if the main collection had been posted by a PhD astronomy student? Why is there such an obstinate determination to assume image manipulation when the most obvious explanation is that it's a simple artefact of the image production process? $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 20, 2019 at 3:31
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    $\begingroup$ @uhoh Nonetheless, I appreciate you posting this Meta question, and I respect the balanced way that you asked it. You and I have both fought to save reasonable questions from closure on this site, even if we have brought different interpretations to each case. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 20, 2019 at 3:35

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