Just how ridiculous can 2012 doomsday theories get? Well, according to the Examiner.com (a rather dubious, yet expansive news website), 2012 could be filled with an alien invasion fleet after “3 very large, very fast moving objects” were spotted in some astronomical images.

But there’s a problem. The “UFO Examiner” reporting this nonsense appears to have made the whole thing up, using a fictitious astrophysicist as a source, a dodgy astronomical photograph and a whole truckload of delusional imagination to communicate the fantasy.

ANALYSIS: Can Science Beat the Doomsday Hype?

WATCH VIDEO: Will the real ET be little green men or little green bacteria?

It’s been a while since I last tackled the nonsensical 2012 doomsday claims — and I used to do it a lot, culminating in my appearance on the Discovery Channel documentary “2012 Apocalypse” — so this “alien invasion” theory really piqued my interest.

This is the first real attempt for some time that I’ve seen someone trying to indicate there will be an alien invasion in 2012. It’s been done before, but the invading aliens — involving Zecharia Sitchin’s comical “Annunaki” — are supposed to be traveling aboard a fictional planet called Nibiru (set to arrive on Dec. 21, 2012, of course).

Although Bad Astronomer Phil Plait does and awesome job of smacking down this latest 2012 tomfoolery, I thought I’d add my skeptical 2c-worth.

ANALYSIS: Nibiru – Armageddon Planet or Astronomical Baloney?

As Phil clearly points out, the flimsy piece of evidence being used by the “UFO Examiner” (sadly, this is a position that the Examiner considers to be a journalistic position) is actually an image defect on the observation plate. This happens a lot!

What makes this particular example (pictured top) susceptible to image defects is that the original image was captured on a physical photographic plate and then scanned and digitized (i.e., copied onto a computer for easy access) through the 2nd Generation Digitized Sky Survey.

During the scanning process, it is nigh-on impossible to remove all dust and other debris from the plates, so dust and other debris can often be found floating in some digitized images. Also, chips and cracks in the emulsion of the plates will be scanned.

But how do you know if what you’re looking at is a chip, scratch or coffee stain and not a ginormous alien space ship flying toward Earth? Apart from the simple application of logical thought, astronomers will often photograph the same part of the night sky with several different filters. If the object is in the blue filter, say (as the above photo was lifted from), and not in the red filter, then it is highly likely that the object isn’t real and it’s just a fleck of dirt on one of the plates.

Or, you could just take an experienced astronomer’s word for it:

“To my very experienced eye (30+ years as an astronomer, and well over a decade dealing with digital imagery including staring at raw Hubble data in excruciating detail) that’s what we have here. The other images are similar, showing blobby stuff that looks like lint or some other foreign object that got stuck in the plate when it was scanned.”

ANALYSIS: New Zealand Government Opens UFO Files

There are many other claims in the Examiner article (that I won’t directly link to as it is highly the author of this “alien invasion” rubbish will make money through links to his article, but if you really want to read it, Google it), but all are incorrect.

Probably the most scary part is that the author appears to have fabricated his only source. SETI astrophysicist Craig Kasnov doesn’t exist.

Although Craig Kasnoff (not Kasnov) does exist and he was associated with the SETI@Home distributed software, he isn’t an astrophysicist and even denies everything the Examiner article is implying:

“If this discussion, or the article, is inferring that I, Craig Kasnoff, (and not Craig Kasnov) made an announcement regarding ‘large objects rapidly approaching Earth’, then that is just plain false.”

Why Bother?

If this Examiner article has about as much integrity as every other false 2012 claim, why am I even bothering to write about it?

The key component of the vast majority of doomsday theories is to whip up fear in the aim of making money. If you (incorrectly) believe the world is going to end via some cosmic purveyor of death and destruction on Dec. 21, 2012, in all likelihood you found out about it in a doomsday book, on some doomsayer’s website or some horribly edited YouTube video. They aren’t publicizing the end of the world as some helpful public service announcement, they’re doing it to make money.

The doomsayers who aren’t doing it for money are doing it because they have a dubious grasp on reality.

The fear being generated by the end of the Mayan calendar and the scores of fake 2012 astronomical events being predicted is deeply saddening. At its peak, when I was writing for the Universe Today tackling this 2012 guff, I would receive a dozen emails per day from genuinely worried people. This in itself was enough to make me realize that debunking 2012 doomsday theories was a worth-while venture.

ANALYSIS: 2012 Mayan Calendar ‘Doomsday’ Date Might Be Wrong

We might be scraping the bottom of the barrel here — come on, aliens? Giant spaceships? Alien invasion in 2012?! — but it is absolutely right to expose these doomsday theories for what they really are: complete and total bunkum with little or no scientific foundation.

If you’re ever in doubt about the validity of any doomsday claim, follow the rules I list in my 2009 article “How Do You Spot Science Abuse in the Social Media Soup?“, they are applicable to any doomsday claim with our without the presence of invading alien hoards.

UPDATE: At the request of one commenter below, I’ve included two images from the 2nd Generation Digitized Sky Survey that I mention in the post. They have been grabbed from NASA’s image archive SkyView using their handy interface. Feel free to try it out for yourself. I’ve used the “cylindrical object” as an example (as described in the Examiner post with the coordinates: 16 19 35 -88 43 10). The image defect can be seen clearly in the blue filter, but absent in the red filter (it is also absent from the infrared filter, in case you were wondering):