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article imageNew 'UFO near the Sun' NASA photo re-ignites old speculations

By JohnThomas Didymus     Apr 28, 2012 in Science
NASA's Solar Heliospheric Observatory has captured an image that looks like a large spacecraft hovering close to the Sun. UFO enthusiasts say the photo is proof of an alien spacecraft equipped with technology that can withstand intense heat of the Sun.
Live Science reports that a blogger describes the "alien spacecraft" parked near the Sun as a "metallic, jointed spaceship with a gigantic extension, perhaps a boom arm, anchored off its lower end."
UFO enthusiasts speculate that the alien craft parked near the Sun probably "pulled into the gas station" to fill up by harvesting solar energy.
The image has gone viral online. It shows what looks on casual observation like an object with arm-like mechanical projections.
But Live Science reports that a scientist at the Naval Research Laboratory says the image is probably a collection of streaks created by cosmic rays impacting on the camera's CCD sensor. Nathan Rich of the NRL's solar physics branch, explained to Live Science: "The streaks in question are consistent with energetic particle (proton) impacts on the CCD, something which is apparent in just about every image. These artifacts do not persist from image to image." The scientist says the fact that the streaks do not persist in other images is evidence that the purported UFO is only a "momentary blip on the camera sensor" and not a real object in the field of view.
Rich explained to Live Science how a bright streak could be formed on a space photograph: "As a cosmic ray passes through a camera's image sensor, it deposits a large amount of its electric charge in the pixels that it penetrates. If the particle passes through at a shallow angle to the plane of the camera, it affects several pixels along its path. The result is a bright streak on the image."
The scientist explained that cosmic rays hitting the camera lens could create the form observed. The arm of the "spacecraft" could have been formed from "cosmic rays streaking through the camera sensor diagonally and at a shallow angle, depositing charge in several pixels along a diagonal line."
According to Alfred McEwen, director of the Planetary Imaging Research Laboratory at the University of Arizona, cameras on Earth are less susceptible to such interference because the Earth's protective magnetosphere blocks charged particles from space from hitting the planet. McEween said: "But with space images that are taken outside our magnetosphere, such as those taken by orbiting telescopes, it's very common to see these cosmic ray hits."
New photo revives old claim about alien spaceships harvesting solar energy
The new photo revives previous speculations that erupted in December last year when some UFO enthusiasts claimed that NASA images had revealed a massive planet-size alien mother ship hiding in the "shadow" of planet Mercury. According to Digital Journal, in December 2011, what looked to UFO hunters like a massive alien ship parked next to planet Mercury appeared on a sequence of images of Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) from the Sun taken by a NASA telescope.
Digital Journal reported that "The image appeared next to Mercury as a massive blob on the sequence of images by NASA telescopes." UFO enthusiasts insisted that there is absolutely no "explanation for the nearly Mercury-size mystery object other than that it's a spaceship. What object in space cloaks itself and doesn't appear until it gets hit by energy from the Sun?"
However, scientists explained the observation saying that "the 'alien ship' really is the 'ghost' of the image of Mercury taken the previous day. According to the experts, to ensure that the CME being tracked stands out clearly visible, astronomers compare new images taken with previous ones and eliminate or subtract images that appear twice as 'interfering background light.'" Scientists explained that "the image is simply an artifact left over from the way raw HI-1 telescope data gets processed. Rather than a UFO mothership parked near Mercury, the bright spot is 'where the planet was on the previous day.'"
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