[meteorite-list] re: All Hail Eris and Dysnomia (2003 UB313)
From: Marco Langbroek <marco.langbroek_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Fri Sep 15 12:07:22 2006
Sigh. I am getting tired of this. Sterling, will you please:
1) inform yourself of what are proper procedures in minor body research instead
of just quoting Brown, as if it is Brown who sets the standard (he surely isn't,
see below, as this is a real issue concerning Brown);
2) realize that in our democratic, free, civilized society people are innocent
untill proven otherwise.
A step by step answer to points you bring up below. I hope the discussion is
finished after this.
Please do read with attention the part about what and what does not constitute
the only correct way to claim discovery credit for Solar system minor bodies.
> In Ortiz' letter posted by Marco 09-15-05, Ortiz says:
> "A regular google internet search on K40506A leads to a
> public internet web page with what appears to be
> coordinates of many things. This is no hacking or
> access to private information..."
And this stands. Period. Since when is finding your way to internet-available
data with Google hacking?
> As soon as word of this situation broke, I tried to
> duplicate Ortiz' "innocent" discovery by doing just
> what he did, Googling "K40506A" before everybody
> involved shut down the websites described.
> It was not an easy process. It not a matter of
> clicking on one of a small number of Google returns
> and Voila! the coordinates appear.
> As you can see, this is NOT
> a casual Google, one-click-away exercise. It takes a
> long time, and you have to be intent on extracting the
> data by any means possible, using techniques similar
> to those employed in intelligence work. The SMARTS
> logs of IP addresses shows that Ortiz performed
> exactly these techniques, accessing those pages in
> that order to reconstruct hidden data in the manner
> described above.
An astronomer would be well used to finding his way about in a telescope log. So
once arriving at the entry to that log, the rest is just usual procedure for
him. Might seem creepy sleuthing for you, but not for someone who is running
professional observation programs.
You seem to try to suggest somehow that Ortiz et al. already knew all details,
"no real googling here, they went straight for the dough!" is the essence of
what you write. But why did they have to start with Google at all then, as you
yourself say earlier:
> also found that Google, the world's most widely used
> search engine, was used to find this file by using the
> search terms "K40506A."
If they were doing so with malicious and well-aimed intent, you can actually
also wonder why the hell they didn't mask their IP.
You also write:
> In his now vanished website, Ortiz claims to have
> a) discovered the object, b) found three archival
> images of the object at past dates in NEAT, DSS,
> and POSS data, c) calculated its orbit to great
> precision, and d) used that calculation to enable
> his collaborator Stoss to successfully re-acquire
> the object at another observatory, all after accessing
> the SMARTS data, but, he says, without using it.
> Yet, at this point in time when Ortiz claims to
> essentially know more about 2003EL61's orbit and
> position than Brown does,
....and I am sorry, but this last statement of you is ridiculous. As is your
suggestive wording of point (c). You have never done any of this orbital
calculation and pre-covery image sleuthing yourself (I have on the other hand,
so know what is possible and not, and what is easy and not). Otherwise, you
should have known what you mention above was no miracle feat, as you seem to
suggest, and your last paragraph is plainly laughable.
They had a slow moving object on their Spanish imagery, providing them several
positions. That alone is well enough to look for (and find, if images are
available covering the relevant positions) prediscovery imagery in NEAT, DSS
etc. imagery archives, creating an observation arc of many years. This is
everyday work for people dealing with this kind of thing. People like Rob
Matson, or me, do such things with much more shaky orbital arcs for fast (as
opposed to less difficult slow) moving NEA's, main belters etc. Same with the
recovery by Rainer Stoss et al. Really no miracles here.
If at this point they "essentially know more about 2003EL61's orbit and position
than Brown does" this is simply because they did what Brown et al. apparently
failed to do (looking for precovery imagery in archives).
> c) calculated its orbit to great precision
Their own data and those prediscovery data obtained from the DSS, NEAT archives
were **well suited to that purpose** (emphasis!).
If you insist (as you seem to do with your insistence on the precision and other
comments) that would only have been possible by including Brown et al's data,
that is a plainly ridiculous notion not matched by any facts. Period.
> Ortiz is AGAIN (20
> minutes later after the Stoss confirmation sighting)
> accessing the SMARTS Consortium website and the
> same collection of webpages he previously accessed,
> for more positional data! Why? Marco says merely
> out of "curiosity." I can conceive of less charitable
> explanations for the same sequence of events.
Such as? They clearly did not need it for their recovery imagery, these already
having been taken.
The most parsimonous explanation, and the only reasonable at this stage of the
events I can think of actually, is that they wanted to check how the Brown et
al. positions compared to the orbit they gleaned from their own data. Which
underlines that they did not use Brown et al's data up to that point, contrary
to what seems to be the suggestion by you. So: sheer curiousity, yes, just as I
> Other than the initial claim of discovery, not since
> repeated, Ortiz has published nothing on 2003 EL61,
> done no work on 2003 EL61, has not investigated 2003
> EL61 in any way.
So what? He works on small budgets. His project aims at searching for new TNO's.
By finding 2003 EL61 and establishing a long enough orbital arc with his own and
prediscovery archive imagery, he has fulfilled that task. Your comment here has
absolutely NO bearing on the discussion about who should get the discovery credit.
You cite Brown with:
> "It is worth asking: if the observing records were on
> a publicly accessible web site, is it wrong to look at
> them? The obvious answer is that there is nothing
> wrong with looking at information on any publicly
> accessible web site, just as there is nothing wrong
> with looking at books in a library.
Let us first note this point as established.
Then Brown as cited by you continues:
> But the standards
> of scientific ethics are also clear: any information
> used from another source must be acknowledged
> and cited. One is not allowed to go to a library,
> find out about a discovery in a book, and then
> claim that discovery as your own with no mention
> of having read it in a book. One is not even
> allowed to first make a discovery and then go
> to the library and realize that someone else
> independently made the same discovery and then
> not acknowledge what you learned in the library.
> Such actions would be considered scientifically
> It is not clear from the timeline precisely
> what Ortiz and Santos-Sanz knew or how they
> used the web-based records.
(this last point should be well taken. All accusations that they inappropriately
used these records are and remain unsubstantiated, non-proven)
> They were required
> by the standards of science, however, to acknowledge
> their use of our web-based records if they accessed
Here, Browns argument fails, because the analogy he is using is inappropriate.
Moreover, the suggestion that Ortiz et al first learned of 2003 EL61 from Browns
work before finding it in their own data is unsubstantiated.
Considering discovery credit for and reporting new minor objects, there are
well-established standars, as issued by the MPC, mandated by the IAU to be the
official clearing house for such. Ortiz et al complied to these rules by the
letter. They did nothing wrong. Please, take well note of this.
The rules state that you should supply an adequate, properly (and strictly)
formatted set of astrometry to the MPC (and Ortiz et al. did this: Brown et al.
on the other hand did not). The first who does so, is the discoverer:
** and publication along with a provisional designation by the MPC in an MPEC is
what constitues a discovery announcement and te ONLY valid way of doing so.**
THAT is the standard in this particular field of science.
Brown et al. chose not to follow this formal way. They kept their object secret
and they were then ousted by another team discovering the same object. They can
only blame themselves. Now they whine and people around them try to bend the rules.
And those who followed the established rules are now under attack (Ortiz et al.).
Note that Brown et al. have a history of not following established rules. Their
initial announcement of the now abolished name "Xena" for Eris (2003 UB313) was
such a case. They completely ignored the standing formal rules for the naming of
I repeat from my previous post:
Independant co-discovery of objects is very common in astronomy. Standing rules
are clear: the first one who announces it the formal way, gets discovery credit.
There's nothing unethical in this, its just how the game goes in science.
The director of the IAA, Dr. Jose Carlos del
> Toro Iniesta has promised to investigate what
> precisely happened. We have confidence in Dr.
> del Toro Iniesta to clarify the situation and determine
> the appropriate actions."
> Brown, unlike Ortiz, has gone to refine the orbit, to
> discover that 2003 EL61 has a moon, then to discover
> that it has a second moon, to discover its unusual shape,
> to determine its period of rotation, to determine its density
> and composition, to analyze its periodic atmosphere...
> 2003 EL61 is an object unlike any other in the solar system.
> What name does this strange dwarf planet deserve?
> I suggest the Norse god Loki, a trickster and shapeshifter,
> a kind of celestial con-man, always playing tricks on the other
> gods. Loki was said to be lame and "crooked of shape" and
> to move in crazy whirling motions; 2003 EL61 is 2000 x 1500
> x 1000 km and does some pretty crazy whirling of its own.
> Loki also married a goddess named Sigyn who bore him two
> sons: Narfi and Vali, which makes naming the two moons
> Oh, yeah, one other thing: Loki is the God of Thieves!
> Sterling K. Webb
> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Marco Langbroek"
> To: "Sterling K. Webb" <sterling_k_webb_at_sbcglobal.net>; "meteorite list"
> Sent: Thursday, September 14, 2006 6:11 PM
> Subject: Re: [meteorite-list] re: All Hail Eris and Dysnomia (2003 UB313)
>> This has been a very contentious issue. Your story is just one version
>> of the story, another version is not so negative and equally viable,
>> perhaps even more likely.
>> Point is that currently the MPC officially designates the discovery
>> credit to Ortiz et al. So by standing rules they have the naming right
>> too. That's how it currently stands, accusations or not. Discovery
>> credit currently has NOT been denied to Ortiz et al.
>> As I see it, and will point out step by step below, it has never been
>> proven Ortiz et al. are guilty of scientific misconduct. Personally, I
>> doubt it.
>> What happened, a less negative version, following the FACTS instead of
>> unsubstantiated malicious suggestions:
>> Ortiz et al., processing their (2003) data, discovered a bright slow
>> mover in their data. Remember, they were running a project to look for
>> At that time, the object they found was a very unusual object (in
>> terms of unexpected brightness. The first of that kind, Eris existence
>> had not been reported yet). So, some discussion before submitting
>> their data, they don't want to make fools of themselves. This is very
>> sane and normal.
>> Please note: at that point, 2003 EL61 did officially not yet exist in
>> any way. There are strict rules about when a minor object discovery is
>> official, just like there are rules about official naming procedure
>> for minor objects. Rules which Brown et al. have shunned in the case
>> of Eris/"Xena" by the way.
>> An abstract by Brown had appearred around that time. It was *not* a
>> formal discovery announcement. It suggested they had observed just
>> such a bright object. Hence Ortiz et al., remembering it, checked it,
>> which again is normal and sane.
>> They then Googled the unofficial designation to see whether they could
>> find more written about it, as it seemed to concern a similar (not
>> necessary the same) object. Which again, is understandable and not
>> wrong in any way. You might even say it is sane to do when you have
>> something unusual.
>> Lo behold, in this way they ended up on a *publicly accesible* web
>> document, providing info on where in the sky the not yet formally
>> published object resided. Looking at it, their IP gets logged. Yet,
>> *this is still in no way scientific misconduct*. They return a few
>> times, being unsure about it all. Seems the same object yes: yet
>> nothing official on it to be found.
>> Independant co-discovery of objects is very common in astronomy.
>> Standing rules are clear: the first one who announces it the formal
>> way, gets discovery credit. There's nothing unethical in this, its
>> just how the game goes in science. It happens often that rumours about
>> an independant discovery arive over the grapevine, leading a research
>> team to quickly publish their finds to take credit before someone else
>> (rightfully!) does.
>> Ortiz et al. then therefore decide to publish *their own* data,
>> constituting an independant co-discovery, in the formal way, through
>> the proper procedure of reporting astrometry to the MPC, leading to an
>> MPEC with temporary designation (2003 EL61) for the object. They are
>> earlier than Brown et al. And hence get the credit: its after THEIR
>> report with THEIR data the object "exists" formally. There is NOTHING
>> unethical or wrong in this, mind you. That Brown et al. did not report
>> earlier, is Brown et al.'s own responsibility.
>> Shortly after this, a fuzz breaks out and people start to accuse Ortiz
>> et al of scientific misconduct, trying to transfer discovery credit to
>> Brown et al. In this process the Ortiz et al team is accused of
>> "hacking" into Brown's data server (which is by no means true!) and
>> somehow the suggestion is made that their following the officialy
>> established route, with their own data, suddenly is "scientific
>> You see Sterling? This is quite another version. Which fits the
>> sequence of events completely as far as the established FACTS are
>> concerned (as opposed to malicious gossip), and acquits Ortiz et al
>> from any wrong-doing.
>> The fact that the MPC still lists Ortiz et al. as the official
>> discoverers of 2003 EL61 says enough.
>> By the way, a lot of bullshit has been said at the time about that
>> Ortiz et al. should have referrenced Brown et al. when making their
>> report to the MPC. Which is bullshit. The standard procedure, using a
>> strict format, for reporting astrometry on a (new, undesignated)
>> object to the MPC doesn't even allow for this. Nor where they
>> complied to. As far as the formal procedures for such are concerned
>> the Brown et al discovery did not exist a that time, period. There
>> were no data at all to refer to.
>> Ortiz et al. stole nothing, and they are the official discoverers of
>> 2003 EL61. Not Brown et al.
>> - Marco
>> Sterling K. Webb wrote:
>>> "Rights" and "credit" are neither right nor credible
>>> when stolen.
>>> "A week before Ortiz's discovery, on July 20, Brown et al.
>>> had published an abstract of a report they intended to use to
>>> announce the discovery, in which the object was referred to
>>> by the internal code name K40506A. Typing this code into
>>> internet search engines allowed anyone to find the observation
>>> logs of Brown's group, including the observed positions of
>>> the object. Third-party web server logs indicated that the
>>> page in question had been accessed by an IP address used
>>> by computers at the Instituto de Astrof?sica de Andaluc?a
>>> where Ortiz's group worked. Brown's group accused Ortiz's
>>> group of a serious breach of scientific ethics and asked the
>>> Minor Planet Center to strip them of discovery status.
>>> Ortiz later admitted he accessed the internet telescope logs,
>>> downloading the relevant information a day before making
>>> his announcement, but denied any wrongdoing. He concedes
>>> that it was Brown's team that had discovered the object."
>>> Sterling K. Webb
>>> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Marco Langbroek"
>>> To: "meteorite list" <meteorite-list_at_meteoritecentral.com>
>>> Sent: Thursday, September 14, 2006 12:17 PM
>>> Subject: [meteorite-list] re: All Hail Eris and Dysnomia (2003 UB313)
>>>>> Suggested names have yet to
>>>>> be submitted for two of Brown's group's other famous KBOs: 2005 FY9
>>>>> 2003 EL61.
>>>> ?? Naming rights and formal discovery credit for 2003 EL61 are not
>>>> Brown's: but Ortiz et al.'s....
>>>> - Marco
>>>> Dr Marco Langbroek
>>>> Dutch Meteor Society (DMS)
>>>> e-mail: meteorites_at_dmsweb.org
>>>> private website http://home.wanadoo.nl/marco.langbroek
>>>> DMS website http://www.dmsweb.org
>>>> Meteorite-list mailing list
>> Dr Marco Langbroek
>> Dutch Meteor Society (DMS)
>> e-mail: meteorites_at_dmsweb.org
>> private website http://home.wanadoo.nl/marco.langbroek
>> DMS website http://www.dmsweb.org
-- ----- Dr Marco Langbroek Dutch Meteor Society (DMS) e-mail: meteorites_at_dmsweb.org private website http://home.wanadoo.nl/marco.langbroek DMS website http://www.dmsweb.org -----Received on Fri 15 Sep 2006 11:48:16 AM PDT