Dec 10 2011

A cloaked ship the size of Mercury? That’s the BEST explanation?

I want you to watch this video with the sound off, ignore the title on top, watch it a bunch of times, and figure out what you think is going on. Hold that thought. Then play it again, stop brain-filtering the title (if you can manage this trick, tell me how!), then compare notes.

So a ship the size of Mercury is supposedly less than one Mercury-width away from it, following along behind it, while a coronal mass ejection blasts the planet and accidentally exposes the cloaked ship. This is obviously the most parsimonious explanation, since these instruments are obviously perfectly analogous to a human’s eyes, right?

Which also explains the huge shafts of light emerging from the top and bottom of Mercury! Those must be aliens too! Sending message beacons to their home planets! It’s the only explanation that makes any sense!!1

Only, this image is actually a composite, taken from two probes on opposite sides of Mercury, and the images both produce are edited together to form a sort of “interference map” of that area of space. That weird image is a shadow caused by perfectly comprehensible anomalies in the interference when the two specific angles taken are overlayed. Nathan Rich of the US Naval Research Laboratory says these are “artifacts in the background where the planet was on the previous day”:

The pixels which form the two parallel lines are where the circle from the planet and the bleeding pixels (cross-like features) overlap as it progresses across the field.

Sure, that’s not as glamorous as us having discovered a cloaked ship that’s about 4879.4 km across — you know, the same size as Mercury. But it makes a hell of a lot more sense, just understanding it’s an oddity of the camera process rather than what would be one of the most transcendentally important events in human history when said ship-that’s-about-18%-Earth’s-mass paid a visit.

I know. I’m such a party pooper.

Kylie posted it first, but the hat tip on this one belongs to reader, occasional antagonist and guy I know in real life James Carey.


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  1. 1
    'Tis Himself

    There’s a 90 million mile long spaceship in Cordwainer Smith‘s short story “Golden The Ship Was Oh! Oh! Oh!”

  2. 2
    James Carey


  3. 3

    These aliens must have some very impressive technology. Clearly they have the ability to counteract the gravitational pull of their ship on Mercury (otherwise their presence would have been revealed by perturbations in the planet’s orbit). A rough calculation shows that this gravitational pull is roughly 1.9*10^22 N (assuming the ship is about a quarter as massive as Mercury). That’s two orders of magnitude greater than the gravitational force between the Earth and the Moon! Yet, in spite of all their unbelievably advanced technology and in spite of all the trouble they went to to avoid detection, they were stupid enough to get caught right in the middle of a coronal mass ejection which besides revealing their presence most likely also barbecued everyone on board.

  4. 4

    In fairness, just because the ship’s volume is the size of Mercury doesn’t mean that it has the same mass. It could be hollow inside. (it could be like Pellucider, or a mini-dyson sphere).

  5. 5

    True, my assumption of 1/4 of the mass of Mercury was perhaps excessive. But even if the ship’s mass is only 1/1000 of the planet’s mass, the force is still about 7.6*10^19 N, which is probably more than enough to have a measurable effect on the planet’s motion.

  6. 6

    OK, it occurs to me that the gravitational force might be irrelevant. The location of the centre of mass of the Mercury-Ship system is more important. Assuming the ship’s mass is 1/1000th that of the planet, the centre of mass would be roughly a kilometre from the centre of the planet. I suspect that should result in a measurable effect on the motion of the planet.

    (Disclaimer: I am a computer scientist, not an astronomer.)

  7. 7
    Midnight Rambler

    But even if the ship’s mass is only 1/1000 of the planet’s mass, the force is still about 7.6*10^19 N, which is probably more than enough to have a measurable effect on the planet’s motion.

    You’re neglecting to take into account the aliens’ anti-gravity field, which also helps hide their presence.

    It actually does look strange though, the way the spot appears and brightens when the CME hits it. It’s not flaring up around MESSENGER, is it?

  8. 8

    Anti-gravity – exactly. I mean the ship is probably a lost colonizing ship on auto-pilot, with millions of inhabitants inside who don’t know it’s a spaceship. See, the auto-pilot is actively trying to hide the ship, until the aliens take control. (see the Starlost, Orphans in the Sky or at least one Star Trek episode for further reference)

  9. 9
    Jason Thibeault

    jakc: For Mercury is hollow, and I have touched the sky?

  10. 10

    Indeed you have Bones.

  11. 11
    Michael Swanson)

    “Since I don’t know what this is, then, as a layman and conspiracy-minded jackass whose entire understanding of science stems from misunderstanding various Star Trek and X-Files episodes, there can be no other feasible explanation: this object is, with all certainty, [fill in random wad of sci-fi/New Age/apocalyptic horseshit here]!!!”

    Side note: Am I the only one that thought “Rama” when he said it was a large cylinder?

  12. 12

    Consider the “aliens” have mastered certain techniques of space flight that are unknown to us, is room for thought who are we to say it is not a spaceship, being that mercury is 1/4 size of mars it grav force is 1/.566 less that being said it could be stationary object in suspense, acting just like a moon, for that also might need this CME energy for continue solar power there are a host of reasons beisdes Nasas reason!

  13. 13
    Kevin, 友好火猫 (Friendly Fire Cat)

    I saw it and immediately knew it was a photographic element. That’s right. No government cover up or anything like that. Just photography. Carry on. I mean seriously, why would a gigantic colony ship just happen to be the size of Mercury and just happen to be resting nearby absorbing energy from the sun so it can continue its voyage to a planet that properly supports dextro-amino acid lifeforms?

  14. 14
    Jason Thibeault

    That’s just a little too specific, Katherine. You must be in on the conspiracy!!!!1

  15. 15

    well i’m pissed. the valet parking manager *guaranteed* me that my dreadnaught was safe and would remain undetected. i’m afraid i have no recourse other than to destroy the earth.

    but don’t worry–since i am enjoying an extended vacation in north america, i won’t be able to get to desroying the earth until december 21, 2012.

  16. 16
    Greg Waggoner

    If you look when he has it freeze framzed you can see the shield emitting from the ship to protect it from the sun. It took a second to notice but you can clearly see it.

  17. 17

    Its ronald regeans star wars mission

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