NASA boffins have released a short video clip of the huge dead-black spaceball YU55, roughly the size of a nuclear aircraft carrier, which barrelled past Earth inside the Moon's orbit last night. They say it shows "puzzling structures" on the surface of the mysterious cosmic spheroid.
As YU55 is blacker than charcoal to human eyes, astronomers have mainly been looking at it using radar. The vid above was generated by the 70-metre Deep Space antenna at Goldstone, California, with each frame needing a 20-minute look by the big radar as the spaceball zoomed tumbling into the Earth-Moon system.
"The movie shows the small subset of images obtained at Goldstone on November 7 that have finished processing. By animating a sequence of radar images, we can see more surface detail than is visible otherwise," says radar boffin Lance Benner of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
"The animation reveals a number of puzzling structures on the surface that we don't yet understand. To date, we've seen less than one half of the surface, so we expect more surprises."
From the vid, it's uncertain just what Benner means by "puzzling structures" on the hurtling space spheroid. Naturally we here on the Reg space desk are hoping that in fact YU55 is in fact an alien spaceship or habitat podule of some kind, or possibly home to a secret offworld human space outpost established by Nazis fleeing the end of World War II in rocketships developed from the V2 missile; or of course Tibetans, Elvis etc. Or maybe some kind of ancient evil blobosphere along Fifth Element lines.
Sadly we fear the reality is probably more mundane - curiously shaped craters or ditches, probably, if we're lucky - but one can live in hope. ®