On May 28 2022, a Facebook user shared an image captioned, “Saturn as seen from a backyard telescope” to the large public group “Physics and Astronomy.”
Commenters on the post seemed to believe the sharer captured the image personally, responding:
“What wonderful detail you were able to pick up. First time I saw Saturn in my telescope was breathtaking as well even though my image wasn’t as beautiful as yours”
“Doesn’t take a very flash telescope to see Saturn with your own eye, and the first time you do, well words can’t describe it. Nice picture.”
“What telescope , this is a fantastic image”
In response to the third comment, the sharer explained they hadn’t taken the photograph themselves:
“I haven’t clicked this photo sir..I found it on the internet and shared here..”
An initial reverse image search was unproductive. TinEye.com returned the following error message:
Whoops, we are sorry.
Your image is too simple to find matches. TinEye requires a basic level of visual detail to successfully identify matches. Please upload a more detailed image.
Google Lens didn’t return many results, primarily links to Twitter timelines — not tweets. One match was a May 8 2022 post by the page Astro Universo, with a caption translated to English from Spanish:
Saturn photographed from Earth through a telescope
On May 14 2022, a Twitter account tweeted the image, attributing it to photographer Daniel Borja:
— MúsicaY (@MusicaY) May 14, 2022
A search for “Daniel Borja” and “Saturn” led to a Reddit profile for u/DanBorja. On April 30 2022, that account shared the image to r/interestingasfuck (after which it landed on r/all).
That post was titled “Saturn through my 6″ telescope,” and the image matched the one in the popular Facebook post:
🔭Celestron Nexstar 6SE
📷 ZWO ASI290MC
TeleVue Barlow 2x
Optolong UV/IR Cut filter
In the Reddit thread, u/danborja reiterated the equipment used, adding a bit more context about the image’s processing:
Stacked in Autostakkert
Sharpened in Registax
Added background stars from the Flaming Star Nebula, taken at 250mm
Added glow in Photohsop [sic]
In that subthread, u/CrankyPelicans asked what the image looked like “before processing.” In response, u/Kid__A__ clarified how images like the viral Saturn one were created:
I do astrophotography as well- it takes 1,000’s of video frames stacked to make this. Each individual frame is much blurrier [because] of atmospheric turbulence, but when averaged together the details pop out. A single frame would look much less crisp but probably still pretty rad. He also added in a background field of stars, so that wouldn’t be there.
Borja (@spacebydan) also tweeted the image on April 29 2022. In the tweet, he described it as a “composite image”:
Taken with my 6" #telescope
— Dan Borja (@spacebydan) April 29, 2022
A circulating Facebook post of “Saturn as captured from a backyard telescope” created the impression the image shown was a single-shot photograph. The image was originally shared to Reddit on April 30 2022 by u/danborja. In the comments, u/danborja explained that the image was stacked, sharpened, and enhanced using various programs; “background stars from the Flaming Star Nebula” were also edited in to the composition. Borja shared the image in a popular tweet, and noted that it was a composite image.