Scott Kelly, the commander of the International Space Station crew, recently tweeted a photo that made UFO theorists cry Roswell.
Kelly tweets images from space every day, making his Twitter feed one of the best in the galaxy. But this one riled up conspiracy theorists because in the upper right corner, there appears to hover an unidentified flying object.
UFO Sightings Daily posted the photo with its idiosyncratic insight:
"When an astronaut tweets a photo of a UFO, you can bet people notice it. Scott Kelly likes to send out photos of the view from the windows of the space station ... and they look cool. This one, however, has a cigar-shaped glowing UFO with a metallic body in it. The UFO is about 25 meters long and 150-200 meters away. It looks like Scott was trying to hint at the existence of aliens. Message received Scott, and thanks."
There's a funny thing about UFOs: If something is flying, and you don't know what it is, technically it is a UFO by definition. It's flying, it's an object, and you haven't identified it. So on one level, you can say every UFO theorist is right. But of course, they usually mean more than that. The implication here is that the object is a spacecraft, and that that spacecraft is manned (womanned? alien-ed?) by extraterrestrials.
But for those of us who have been following Kelly's photography for the last several months, that object looked a lot more like something we'd seen before: the Space Station itself. Check out this tweet by Kelly a few days later. Notice anything familiar?
So what is that funny thing in the top-right? Is an alien space ship following Scott Kelly around, trying to get his autograph?
The mysterious double-ended Q-Tip is almost definitely a piece of the International Space Station itself. As many, many science fans were quick to point out, the object looks a lot like the High Definition Earth Viewing System and its adjacent antenna.
We tweeted at Commander Kelly to ask him to confirm that the object is, in fact, an antenna, which is a quick way to get a bunch of conspiracy theorists and tireless, pedantic skeptics to tweet at you for a week straight, trying to convince you of something you already believe.
There's been no official word from Kelly, who might be doing more important things. But we're putting our money on not-aliens.