Grassroots media is a wonderful thing. It gives small voices the chance to be heard, and provides space for small questions to be asked. People can explore interesting nooks and crannies of the world, and instead of keeping their explorations to themselves, they can share and see what others make of their discoveries.
One interesting little corner of exploration deals with the photographs that astronauts take as they spin around in orbit above the earth. UFO enthusiasts comb the photographs for signs of alien spacecraft, little blips that could be images of visitors from other worlds.
The images you see below were found this summer in a short series of photographs taken back in 1998, mission STS-88, looking down at a section of the Earth just off the coast of Africa.
These images are a bit tricky to interpret, because they’re taken in an unfamiliar setting, without much context to give us clues about what we’re seeing. In this way, they remind of the images of the supposed Virgin Mary of Samoa and the purported monster living in Cameron Lake. Some people are inclined to look at an image of something they don’t immediately recognize and interpret it to be something extraordinary.
So, with these images, the community of online UFO enthusiasts has declared the object pictured to be a spaceship that is capable of shapeshifting. They say that final image shows the ship firing its engines. One enthusiast claims that the object must be at least three miles long, but doesn’t explain the logic behind that claim.
NASA’s explanation of these images is a bit more ordinary. NASA says it’s a piece of space debris – junk left over from an old space mission, or perhaps a piece of a satellite that was wrecked in a collision of some sort. The apparent change of shape could come as the object rotates in space, or as the astronaut’s craft moves in relation to the object. The light in the last frame does look an awful lot like the reflection of sunlight off a piece of metal.
UFO enthusiasts say that the NASA explanation smells fishy. One believer in aliens asks, “NASA says these are ‘space debris’ but then why did they recently pull most of these images from their site?”
The truth is out there… and not very far away at all. NASA didn’t censor any of these photographs. You can find all of these images, and a great many others of interest, through the Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth.