A passing coronal mass ejection from the sun caused an illumination response from an otherwise invisible object near Mercury that was captured both by NASA’s Heliospheric Imager 1 satellite and by the SECCHI-A spacecraft. Initially, SECCHI staff explained it as a video afterimage of the planet on the previous day, but other imagery of Mercury taken during other coronal mass ejections do not show the same effect, and the explanation has since been removed from their website. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s wrong, as a similar ‘object’ has been observed near Mars by SECCHI-B. It could well be that what is being seen is an after-image of a previous day’s run, just as NASA says.

It is also true that there are many different types of natural objects that might briefly react to a CME in this manner, in particular cometary matter and some asteroids, depending on their composition. The speculation that the object must be an alien spacecraft is just that–speculation. There is no indication that this is other than an awesome natural phenomenon or, as NASA contends, a camera effect.

If it is an object, it does appear to be quite large and irregular in shape. Unless it is in orbit around Mercury, its close proximity to the sun would mean that that it has probably already been drawn into the solar mass. Now you see it, now you don’t. UFOs often "wink out" instantaneously, after performing complex maneuvers (NOTE: Subscribers can still listen to this provocative interview).

There has been a great deal of speculation on the internet about this object–or video artifact, if that’s what it is. It has been described as cylindrical in shape and looking like a gigantic spacecraft. But there is no evidence beyond the speculation that it is anything but a natural object, if it is an object at all.

The primary way we explore for objects in the solar system is to look for their sunlight reflections. It is known, however, that there are objects out there with low reflectivity, or albedo, that may not reflect the sun except under certain conditions, if at all. One of those conditions could be if the object was being struck at close range by a coronal mass ejection, as is happening here. The coronal mass would have caused the surface temperature of the object to increase dramatically, resulting in a bright, short-lived glow, as happens here. But once the CME had passed and the object had returned to its normal low albedo, it would once again be all but undetectable. 

As to the shape, neither camera has the resolution to make out a definite shape of something as small as, say, an asteroid, that is that far away. In any case, its appearance depends entirely on what parts of it were being excited by the CME as the video was made. So the claims that it is a cylinder or some other definite shape are unfounded.

COULD it be a spacecraft? This is a big universe and it would be very premature to say that something like that is impossible. Not only that, a CME contains an enormous amount of energy, so a sophisticated, star-traveling ship might conceivably be equipped to tap it when available. But, also, because the universe is so huge, the likelihood of this being a spacecraft is much smaller than that of its being a natural object–or, for that matter, a camera effect.

Don’t get left behind–KEEP UP with all the latest news about the sun–and everything else. To pre-order Whitley Strieber’s dynamic new nonfiction book "Solving the Communion Enigma," available January 5th, click here. Once you have purchased the book, you’ll need to either forward the e-receipt or send it as a jpg, screenshot (etc.) to the publisher. You will then receive an autoresponse that will include a link to a page where you can input your address. Tarcher will send a special "Communion Enigma" bookplate out to the recipients shortly before publication date. To learn more, click here.

And if you want to make sure we’re still here tomorrow (with MORE great news), you need to subscribe today!