A Cloaked Alien Spaceship Orbiting Mercury?

SECCHI ("OMG!" added for dramatic effect)

While watching a coronal mass ejection traveling from the sun, one of NASA's solar observatories would appear to have discovered a massive alien spacecraft docked in orbit next to the tiny planet Mercury!

As described by YouTube user siniXster, who used the U.S. Navy's SECCHI website to gather the images and create a video of the extraordinary extraterrestrial encounter on Dec. 3, it is "definitely some sort of manufactured object."

"It's cylindrical on either side, has a shape in the middle … It definitely looks like a ship to me. Very obviously it's cloaked," he continued.

"There's really, absolutely no other explanation for that than some sort of ship."

Here's the video:

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Sadly for siniXster, conspiracy theorists, ufologists and Star Trek buffs, there's no Klingons off Mercury's starboard bow. There's actually another explanation (shock!) for this bizarre video.

Those pesky scientists have done it again; why do they have an answer for everything? So annoying.

Feeling the pressure of the world's media bearing down on them, the experts at SECCHI who produce imagery from NASA's twin Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory, or STEREO, felt compelled to respond with a crystal-clear explanation as to what is going on in this curious video:

In these HI-1 images, a daily median is used as the best near-real-time method to get CME enhancement. This results in dark spots from planets such as Mercury. When we derive the background, we do an interpolation between two daily median images. Since we make these images the day we receive them, we do not have a daily median for the next day, just the previous day. When the interpolation 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.

What? I think I preferred the "it's a cloaked alien spaceship" explanation.

In plain English, the UFO isn't a UFO, it's actually a very well-known artifact that appears when processing images from spacecraft, particularly when tracking CMEs' travel through interplanetary space in real time.

During the image-processing phase, just before delivering imagery to the Internet, a quick calculation needs to be made comparing observations from the previous day with that day's observations. Therefore, background noise can be subtracted, allowing us to see the structure of solar phenomena.

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For a very rough analogy, it's like standing right at the back of the noisy New York Stock Exchange and  trying to listen to your buddy whisper a stock tip on the other side of the room.

Of course, you can't hear him. But, if you took the recording of the previous day's business hours, and subtracted that from the noise you're currently hearing, the noise would slightly dull. This would give you an opportunity to hear your friend's whisper.

(In real life, the stock exchange "noise" isn't "random," so technically this wouldn't work. But for now, assume it's random noise, and by the looks of our economy, that might actually be closer to the truth.)

However, you'd need to take a measure of several days' worth of exchange noise to really hone in on the whisper to avoid any inconsistencies in the "random noise" interfering with your hearing the stock tip correctly.

So, going back to Mercury's UFO, it's actually a false "stock tip" — more days of random noise subtraction are needed before the planet's ghost is removed from the image. Mercury is basically acting like the loud guy standing right next to you who keeps screaming the same stock tip over and over again; he introduces a huge uncertainty in what your friend is whispering.

It's purely a nuisance factor caused by a computer program trying to deliver images quickly. In the case of SECCHI, it's delivering images in near real time, so for any in-depth analysis to be made — and any claims of cloaked Klingon Birds of Prey — you should wait until several days of data is assembled and the noise is effectively removed.

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OK, so this little anomaly was spotted using data from STEREO A, but what about its twin, STEREO B, on the other side of the sun? If STEREO A can see the artifact, can STEREO B? As reported by Gizmodo, yes! But this isn't "proof" of something odd floating near Mercury, it's "proof" that both STEREO A and B's data is processed by the same computer algorithm. Hardly surprising.

How Klingon warbirds are usually dealt with:

Sources: Gizmodo, SECCHI

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