When astronaut Scott Kelly snapped a stunning photo of south India on the night of Nov. 15, Internet chatter speculated over what appears to be something else in the picture above India -- shown in the closeup above.
Kelly, who recently broke the record for longest time spent in space by an American, tweeted the picture back to Earth from the International Space Station. UFO hunters came out of the woodwork, alleging he also photographed a bright, tubular-shaped UFO in the upper right of the image (as seen below).
Adding to the growing mystery of the object in the picture was a video posted to YouTube on Nov. 16 by "sonofmabarker" that reached nearly one million viewers. In his commentary, he says, "I would find it hard to believe that Scott Kelly did not know that this object was in his frame ... it really sticks out like a sore thumb. It's got a couple lights, one on each side, it's obviously some kind of a structure and also looks very large."
Here's the video:
This is the sort of thing that, for years, has incited many people to automatically believe that any unusual-looking lights or glowing objects photographed near the space station must be aliens.
But it usually turns out not to be ET looking to borrow some equipment to phone home.
If you take the original picture by Kelly and simply bring up the contrast levels on it, look at what you suddenly, magically see:
That's right -- the UFO is, in fact, a UHF antenna, part of the International Space Station, which is probably why Kelly didn't notice it as anything unusual.
The really odd thing about all of this is that UFOs-at-the-space-station aren't new. What initially seem to be visitors from far away are mostly space debris, window reflections, or parts of the space station that are illuminated in unusual ways.
Regarding this and other UFO reports from the space station, Forbes Magazine cautions against too much speculation:
When it comes to science, and especially when it comes to explaining something unexpected: before seriously considering any novel explanations for an unexpected phenomenon, you must rule out all mundane explanations. What this means is, before we're even willing to entertain the possibility of aliens, UFOs or other explanation that would entail a new discovery of any sort, we've got to rule out all the things that we know exist."
In keeping with the topic of astronauts and UFOs, TIME Magazine recounts the 1965 dual flight of two Earth-orbiting spacecraft. Gemini VI astronaut Tom Stafford reported seeing a UFO to Mission Control. They were part of a mission to practice rendezvous maneuvers with Gemini VII.
According to Time, Stafford was "explicit about what he was seeing."
'We have an object,' he radioed down. 'Looks like a satellite going from north to south, probably in polar orbit. Looks like he might be going to re-enter soon. I see a command module and eight smaller modules in front. The pilot of the command module is wearing a red suit.'
And the next thing NASA heard was a tiny but unmistakable rendition of 'Jingle Bells,' played on a miniature harmonica and a set of bells. It was Dec. 16, the heart of the Christmas season, and Gemini VI commander Wally Schirra, who had smuggled the instruments aboard, reckoned the occasion ought to be marked in some way.
In 1967, Schirra donated that Hohner harmonica to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.
If you'd like to spend part (or all) of your holiday leisure time trying to catch a glimpse of possible UFOs, check out NASA's live camera on the International Space Station.
You might get lucky.
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