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Our future, our universe, and other weighty topics


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A Look at the New "UFO Near the Sun" Claim

The Mysterious Universe web site came out yesterday with a story entitled “NASA Photo Shows Earth-sized UFO Orbiting Sun.” That is quite a sensational claim. Let's take a close look at the matter.

The photo given to support this claim is the one below (the alleged UFO is on the right edge of the sun, in the vertical middle of the photo):

UFO near sun

The photo is part of this NASA photo:

 
Now, at first glance the photo may seem fairly convincing. It basically looks like half of a gigantic bowl, one that is either entering into the sun, or orbiting behind it. Seeing this “half a bowl” shape makes one think of a flying saucer, but it actually is not half of the classic flying saucer shape, but merely half of a bowl shape (as the visual below shows).



But there is at least one problem: the “half a bowl” shape does not look any different than the nearby solar material. The “half a bowl” is a shade of green very similar to nearby solar material that is part of the sun.

So we must consider that this “half a bowl” shape may be merely a solar prominence, which is when the gas from the sun gushes out beyond the outer circumference of the sun. But is it very improbable that we would see a solar prominence as big as this given the current solar conditions? I could show a photo of a solar prominence showing gas shooting out much farther than this “half a bowl” shape. But that might not be fair, because perhaps such a photo was taken at a different stage in the solar cycle.

But it would be fair to look for very recent solar prominences, to see whether any of them jut out as far as this “half a bowl” shape. As it happens, on Oct 19th there was such a prominence. It is shown below on the left side of the sun:

 
This prominence is about the same size as the “half a bowl” shape. The photo below compares both of them:

 
The “half a bowl” shape and the Oct 19th prominence are about the same shape, size, and color. The only difference is that the Oct 19th prominence is a little more irregular-looking, and has a little kind of curl at its end.

Is this little difference enough for us to conclude that the “half a bowl” shape is actually a UFO? Certainly not. What we simply seem to have here is a solar prominence that coincidentally seems to have a somewhat artificial-looking “half a bowl” shape. You are unlikely to see something this artificial-looking if you look at solar prominences on ten or twenty consecutive days. But if you look for fifty or a hundred days, you would have a decent chance of seeing something as artificial-looking as the alleged UFO.

In short, we do not have any sufficient visual basis for concluding that this “half a bowl” shape is an extraterrestrial spacecraft. Moreover, there are three credibility problems with the “giant UFO” hypothesis:
  1. It is hard to believe that extraterrestrials would create a spaceship the size of an entire planet.
  2. If they did create such a spaceship and send it to our solar system, we probably would have detected it, because it would be so huge it could hardly escape the attention of astronomers.
  3. If extraterrestrials did send such a spaceship into our solar-system, it is very hard to believe that they would send it so close to the sun, where it would presumably be damaged by the extreme heat, and would be in great risk of being dragged into the sun by the sun's enormous gravity.
As indicated in previous posts, I am certainly quite open to ideas that extraterrestrials may be running around here and there in our solar system. But because of all these reasons, I must for the moment reject this “earth-sized UFO near the sun” theory.