A camera on board NASA's STEREO A satellite seems to have captured video of an unknown object that looks like an actual spaceship. The unknown object appeared when a Sun's coronal mass ejection (CME) reached planet Mercury. Watch the video and judge by yourself.
Update: Whatever it is, it appears on the images taken by STEREO twin satellite too. Check out the new video, taken at the same time, taken from the opposite side of the action.
Make sure to run the video at full screen.
What is happening in the video?
The video shows a coronal mass ejection coming from the sun and reaching the planet Mercury. Coronal mass ejections are massive explosions of solar wind, radiation and magnetic fields that go well beyond the solar corona, deep into space. They are so big that sometimes they reach Earth.
You can see the gigantic solar wave reaching Mercury but, just as it goes through, something else becomes visible: a very angular shape that seems to be formed by two separate objects joined together. It looks as if the CME wave reveals a volume on impact, interacting with it.
You know, like a cloaked Klingon Birth of Prey revealed by the sun's radioactive fury.
What captured the images?
The images -- found by YouTube user siniXster in the US Navy's SECCHI site -- were captured by the heliospheric imagers HI-1A on board of one the Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatories: STEREO A.
The twin STEREO spaceships were launched on October 26, 2006. They are rotating around the sun, studying its surface and activity. They are also part of an early warning system that alerts scientists in case a CME is so strong that it may gravely disrupt satellites orbiting Earth. That's why the US Navy participates in the mission.
The heliospheric imagers are part of Sun Earth Connection Coronal and Heliospheric Investigation (SECCHI), a ground of five cameras: a telescope that works on extreme ultraviolet, two white-light coronagraphs and the two heliospheric imagers, HI1 and HI2.
Update: The heliospheric imager from STEREO B also shows the same thing. See below.
When was it captured?
The video shows a period of 24 hours captured on December 1st, 2011. It's made of 36 frames in total. I have repeated the 36 frames at different speeds (10 frames per second and 2 frames per second) so you can better appreciate the object and how the CME appears to interact with it.
What is that thing?
This is going to be a question for debate between scientists and ufologists.
It could very well be a glitch on the sensor, a ghost image from the planet Mercury itself. If you pay close attention, you can see that the two lines follow the same direction that the planet does. But if it's a ghost image, why does it end so abruptly? How is it so well delimited? Why does it look like a spaceship?
The answer, according to Nathan Rich, lead ground system engineer at the United States Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, DC, is in the way the images are post-processed.
Talking to Life's Little Mysteries' Natalie Wolchover, Rich said that these are "artifacts in the background where the planet was on the previous day" which then show up as residual pixels in the processed image:
The pixels which form the two parallel lines are where the circle from the planet and the bleeding pixels (cross-like features) overlap as it progresses across the field.
That seems to make a lot more sense than a cloaked alien mothership almost as big as a little planet.
In any case, Scully, I want to believe.
Update: Video from second satellite
This video shows the frames from the HI-1B camera, taken at the same time. This camera is in another spacecraft in a different position, opposite to the HI-1A.
Original source images: SECCHI