At the beginning of the month, a camera on NASA's STEREO spacecraft recorded some unusual footage. It isn't the coronal mass ejection (CME) from the sun that has gained more than 1 million hits on YouTube in the last five days. The attraction is a strange planet-sized object that pops up, seemingly out of nowhere, next to Mercury.
Watch the solar wind blast into view and a glowing object appear on the right side of Mercury. (Note: Video includes some profanity):
As the poster of this YouTube video states, the object seems to be "cloaked" until the CME hits it and it appears next to the planet. siniXster describes the object as "cylindrical on either side and has a shape in the middle", looking like a manufactured object or ship.
But, holding true to the White House's statement earlier this year that there have been no cover-ups of aliens or UFOs, Russ Howard, head scientist of the Naval Research Laboratory group, and Nathan Rich, lead ground systems engineer, have a perfectly reasonable explanation for the mysteriously appearing object, according to Space.com:
Rather than a UFO mothership parked near Mercury, the bright spot is "where the planet was on the previous day," Rich told Life's Little Mysteries.
To make the relatively faint glow of a coronal mass ejection stand out against the bright glare of space — caused by interplanetary dust and the stellar/galactic background — the NRL scientists must remove as much background light as possible. They explained that they determine what light is background light, and thus can be subtracted out, by calculating the average amount of light that entered each camera pixel on the day of the CME event and on the previous day. Light appearing in the pixels on both days is considered to be background light and is removed from the footage of the CME. The remaining light is then enhanced.
This works great for objects far off in the distance, such as stars, which don't move much relative to the sun. But it gets a little trickier when trying to account for nearer objects, particularly moving ones, like planets.
"When [this averaging process] is done between the previous day and the current day and there is a feature like a planet, this introduces dark (negative) artifacts in the background where the planet was on the previous day, which then show up as bright areas in the enhanced image," Rich wrote in an email.
There you have it. NASA says it is not a UFO but simply an "artifact" left over from image processing. What are your thoughts?
[H/T Yahoo News]