The technologies allowed scientists to take the closest photos of the Sun and obtain the most detailed images of the solar surface. However, the latest images from the SOHO space telescope fueled conspiracy theories since they recorded something strange.
The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), a spacecraft developed by NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) that has taken stunning images of the Sun since its launch in 1995.
Lately, it captured a black cube about ten times bigger than the Earth in front of the Sun.
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However, Bernhard Fleck, SOHO project scientist and mission manager, has a simple answer to speculation about UFOs in our solar system.
“This is, of course, a complete and absolute nonsense,” Fleck noted. “The black square is due to the lack of a damaged telemetry block.”
In other words, the strange dark cube in the image is not an object, much less a huge alien spaceship. It is a failure in the image itself, caused by transmission errors between SOHO and Earth.
SOHO is in a halo orbit more than a million kilometres from Earth, and the images it sends us across that distance understandably lose a few pixels from time to time. Those gaps are normally plugged when the spacecraft forwards its data.
“Most missing blocks are filled with our pipe processing, but this doesn’t always work, and not all missing blocks fill up properly,” Fleck explained. “The final level 0 scientific data are not affected by this.”
Missing blocks are common in new SOHO images.
“I can send dozens, if not hundreds of similar images with even bigger ‘UFOs’,” Fleck proposed.
“The missing blocks are multiples of 32×32 pixels, which is the smallest unit of a telemetry block,” he added. “So even if only one byte is damaged, an entire 32×32 block will be darkened,” he explained.
Likewise, Fleck said that he is not sure that “our conspiracy theorists who use aluminium foil are convinced” of the gaps in telemetry when it is so much fun to believe that extraterrestrial cubists are lurking.
NASA normally shares the novel images of SOHO after removing light waves from space, so the agency warns that the data is “intended only for visual inspection, not analysis, as it is not of scientific quality”.