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This video came out a couple hours ago (around UTC 9pm 2020-11-29), showing China already landed Chang'e 5. Is this video real? I find it hard to believe because I could not find sources confirming that it already landed.

Someone (Tau Shet Yoi) in the comment of the video said

This video isn't true, changer 5 hasn't landed yet.

Other said that this is of Chang'e 4, which landed on the back side of the moon. I also don't really believe it because you can obviously hear motorcycle and other city sounds, sounding like it was videoed on Earth.

The video description said

This is what happened as I pointed my telescope northeast of Mons Rümker!

I believe this high resolution can only occur (if at all) with those ELTs (Extremely Large Telescopes, instead of those commercial ones for the everyday people, no matter how good those are.

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    But it's still "mission accomplished," if the mission was to have views of that video. :-| – T.J. Crowder Dec 1 '20 at 10:49
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    The description also contains an Amazon affiliate link to what it suggests is the telescope used. It's a $60 children's toy telescope. – Alpha Draconis Dec 1 '20 at 14:44
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    That's trivially easy to spot as CGI, look at the repeated identical horseshoe shapes in the upper left. – aslum Dec 1 '20 at 15:40
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    CGTN reported China's Chang'e-5 successfully landed at around 11pm Beijing time (15:00 UTC) December 1. – Henry Dec 1 '20 at 18:16
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    Video has been removed... ;-) – DevSolar Dec 2 '20 at 8:17
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Edit at 2nd Dec 2020: Now It has actually landed!


On the 30th November 2020 at 08:09 the CGTN, which is China's state broadcaster, reported as follows (emphasis mine)

The mission team said the lander and ascender are waiting for a perfect timing for a soft landing, while the orbiter and returner will continue to fly around the moon and adjust to a designated orbit, getting ready for the docking with the ascender.

The landing operation is expected in three days. Once it touches down on the lunar surface, the lander will collect two kilograms of lunar samples.

It will shovel some surface material, drill a two-meter-deep hole and extract the soil from inside it, which will act as an archive of the moon, with the bottom recording information from a billion years ago, and the top more closely reflecting the present day.

Which, as this is future tense, would imply to me that it has not yet happened as of today, the 30th November.

The video in the question was posted on 29th November, which would imply that it does not show what it purports to show. If the lander had touched down earlier than expected, and seemingly perfectly, China would be the first to report it to the world.

  • If it was supposed to land 3 days after Nov 30, why did it land last night? – Barmar Dec 2 '20 at 16:39
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    @Barmar The only timescales I ever saw was "within 3 days". – Jamiec Dec 2 '20 at 16:41
  • I didn't notice the part about waiting for perfect timing, I guess it occurred sooner than expected. – Barmar Dec 2 '20 at 16:47
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    Is it just me or does that "footage" from the Dec 2nd link look really, very fake? – Onyz Dec 2 '20 at 19:16
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    I am worried about the two-meter-deep hole it drilled; won't all the cheese leak out now? – Mark Stewart Dec 2 '20 at 20:08
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So how big a telescope would it take to see a moonwalker? To get less than 2-meter (6-foot) resolution when the Moon is closest, we’d need a telescope able to resolve angles as small as 0.001 arcsecond. That translates into a diameter exceeding 100 meters (4,000 inches). And this behemoth would have to be in space, too, since atmospheric seeing limits even the biggest ground-based scopes to an angular resolution of at best a half arcsecond or so, corresponding to lunar features no smaller than about 1 km(0.6 mile).

Could you see astronauts on the Moon? - Sky & Telescope - Sky & Telescope

Even if it is a real telescope in use, the video is obviously not taken from space (e.g. birds), and the telescope is obviously not 100 metres in diameter (it's an amateur's home setup).

And even if this video wasn't obviously faked, the lander would have to have been more than a kilometre in diameter for it to be detected even as a single pixel.

  • With adaptive optics, ground based telescopes can in principle reach much higher resolutions. (However, the video is clearly not from something like the VLT.) – mmeent Nov 30 '20 at 16:41
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    The car noise indicate this is in an urban area. All the adaptive optics in the world would not solve the light pollution and heat distortions to see a tiny lander. We can barely see the Apollo landing site from lunar orbit. – Schwern Nov 30 '20 at 22:16
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No

That is somebody superimposing an extremely large dot over a video of the Moon... or perhaps a concrete wall.

The scale is quite wrong

The Chang'e 5 decent module is, at most, 5 meters wide; the size of the Long March 5's payload fairing. The lander would cover about 0.0000001% of the surface. While we don't have a scale, I can safely say the dot is far, far, far too large.

For comparison, here is the Apollo 11 site.

enter image description here

Looks about the same size, right? Except that was taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter in orbit about 100 km above the surface. The video was taken from the surface of the Earth 400,000 km away. The Chang'e 5 descent module is significantly smaller than Apollo 11, but let's assume its about the same size. For the scale to work out we have to believe an amateur telescope in daytime (chirping birds) in a populated area (motor noises) has zoomed in 4,000 times further than the LRO.

Real landings look very different

Once you watch a few real landings, its very, very easy to spot a fake. When we look at the surface of the Moon and asteroids and planets it's very difficult to get a sense of scale. Things which are "small" in the photo are very, very, very large. The surface appears to be fairly smooth. As the lander approaches more details appear, more craters within craters, which get larger as the lander descends revealing more detail and more craters within craters, until finally actual rubble is seen just before touch down.

For a sense of scale, Scott Manley matched the Chang'e 4 landing video with photos of the landing site and made estimates about the sizes of the craters in the video.

enter image description here

The image above is about 3 minutes into the video. Scott Manley estimates the lander is about 2 km up and the crater on the left in the video is about 300 meters across.

enter image description here

The image is at about 4:20 in the video. Scott Manley estimates it's about a thousand feet from the surface and the craters are a few meters across. Still quite larger than the lander itself.

enter image description here

And here it is just before touching down.

The shadow is wrong

The shadow is always a give away. The shadow indicates the Sun is above the object, slightly below, and to the right. The Moon is lit also indicating the Sun is above the object. Yet we hear birds chirping and engine noises indicating daytime. This means the Sun is above the horizon in front of the camera past the Moon. You can't have it both ways.

Daylight full Moon?

Speaking of daylight, the Moon was nearly full on the 29th. Depending on the location the Moon would either be invisible, or so low in the sky to make for very poor viewing conditions. Daylight plus the Moon being low makes the idea of an amateur astronomer taking a video of a 5 meter object at 400,000 km even more implausible.

UPDATE: Scott Manley did a short piece on Why is it Impossible* For Telescopes On Earth To See Spacecraft on The Moon? discussing how reflected light from the Moon makes it nigh impossible.

The lander should have some detail

Note that in the real Apollo 11 photograph we can see some detail. With the Sun above it, and at this scale, Chang'e 5 should be similarly lit and show some differentiation. Instead it's just a black dot.

The descent module is still in orbit

According to CGTN

The landing operation is expected in three days [after Nov 29th]. Once touched down on the lunar surface, the lander will collect two kilograms of lunar sample.

This is Skeptics, so maybe you don't believe Chinese state media. NASA stated the same thing, the descent module separated on Nov 29th but remains in orbit.

The Chang'e-5 spacecraft went into orbit around the Moon on 28 November at 13:15 UT after a 17 minute thruster firing, and then lowered into its nominal 200 km circular orbit. The descender craft separated from the orbiter at 20:40 UT on 29 November and is planned to head to the lunar surface within 3 days. Landing will take place in the Mons Rumker region of Oceanus Procellarum (roughly 41-45 deg. N, 49-69 deg. W).

This is something that professional and amateur astronomers can verify.

I expect the hoaxster mixed up the separation with landing. Or just didn't care.

  • @DevSolar Yes it is, but the shadow is wrong for a daylight Moon. Oh, the Moon was nearly full on the 29th making a daylight Moon impossible! Thanks! – Schwern Dec 1 '20 at 8:56
  • @DevSolar I sit corrected. Being so low in the sky would make terrible viewing conditions. – Schwern Dec 1 '20 at 10:15
  • @DevSolar How do you find it now? – Schwern Dec 1 '20 at 10:25
  • Minus an "is" it's better now. – DevSolar Dec 1 '20 at 11:03
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    @dan-klasson Moon landing conspiracy? – Schwern Dec 5 '20 at 4:38

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