A NASA spacecraft has captured the image of a huge "cloaked" alien ship near the planet Mercury. Unless, of course, it didn't.
On Dec. 1, NASA's Heliospheric Imager-1 telescope photographed a huge coronal mass ejection (CME) streaming from the sun.
But ever-observant, keen-eyed ET hunters claim that the short video also reveals a previously hidden or cloaked giant spaceship.
Probably not, says a scientist at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C.
"I'd rather not comment on what other people are thinking," said Nathan Rich, a ground systems engineer for the Sun Earth Connection Coronal and Heliospheric Investigation, a group of scientific telescopes that observe the sun's corona, a region where solar wind and X-ray radiation originate.
"We get this kind of reaction quite frequently," Rich told The Huffington Post. "The Naval Research Laboratory has provided the telescopes that are on the NASA spacecraft. We built and operate the instruments."
He explained that the CME took place while Mercury happened to be in the center of the image.
"The camera wasn't focused on Mercury. It passes through the field of view on a regular basis. (Image left) By going to our website, you can get a movie for any day from this telescope.
"On the video, you're observing what we call coronal mass ejections -- basically refraction from electrons and other particles coming off the sun. It's part of the solar wind and it's a very dynamic place called the heliosphere," he said.
But as this solar wind material streamed across Mercury, something very large and bright appeared to the right of the small planet -- something that UFO enthusiasts are hoping and claiming is the real alien deal. (Image left)
"It's cylindrical on either side and has a shape in the middle. It definitely looks like a ship to me, and very obviously, it's cloaked," suggested YouTube user sinXster, who uploaded the short video to the video site.
While UFO enthusiasts hope the video reveals something akin to a cloaked Romulan or Klingon ship hiding out in the shadow of Mercury, Rich explains that, in essence, the "alien" image is a visual after-effect or ghost artifact of Mercury that was photographed the previous day.
"It's a complicated effect," Rich said. "It's basically the background that is removed from the image to bring out the faint coronal signal. It's a negative imprint on the background."
Those who believe otherwise -- that the video really does show an ET craft playing a cosmic game of hide and seek -- will be hard to convince there's a purely scientific explanation for the unusual telescopic imagery.
But others may be interested to check out Rich's more detailed analysis of the "alien ship" on the SECCHI website.