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UFOs in space:

The alleged Hayabusa UFO:

The affair seems to have been born on a French ufology forum in December 2006. Space probe Hayabusa, approaching asteroid Itokawa on November 20, 2005, took this photograph:

The sphere being on the left of the asteroid then caused the puzzlement on that forum and was declared to be a UFO. It was said that the object had disappeared on the later photographs.

No source being given for the original publication of the image, I asked what the source was and obtained the information that the photograph came from the web page

It was pointed out to me at this occasion that the sphere-shaped UFO cannot be the contact beacon (or Target Marker) sent by the probe to guide its automatic landing, because this small probe measures only 10 centimeters in diameter. The remark probably came owing to the fact that the web page about the space mission precisely mentioned the Target Marker, the simple explanation of this object!

The apparent size of this object, considered to be too large to be the target marker, is only a very simple illusion: the thing seems posed on the asteroid, but it is only an effect of perspective; the probe in fact is just sent towards the asteroid, it is still close to the Hayabusa probe and not posed on the asteroid. On the following images, it naturally apparently "disappeared" since it is indeed too small to be spotted on the asteroid from this distance.

Hayabusa carried three of these small spheres, which are in fact simply inert reflective objects - hence the white aspect - with three fixation points, on which the probe can shoot a beam to obtain by telemetry its exact distance to the surface of the asteroid, for a correct automatic approach of its surface.

Left: Photograph taken at the time of the approach. The target marker is at the top left corner on the surface of the asteroid. On the right, the shadow of the approaching Hayabusa probe on the surface of the asteroid.

Left: The three target markers and their points attached under the Hayabusa probe in the Japan Space Agency laboratories.

The strange side of the affair had been reinforced by a communication incident between the probe and ground control; which had been interpreted implicitly as an incident related to or caused by the "UFO"; actually, this type of incident just happens, also in the absence of UFO, and it was solved by the ground controllers.

The probe thereafter succeeded in "landing" on the asteroid, unfortunately, the mission controllers think that the sampling operation did not function correctly. Even worse, some of the probe's thrusters seem to have been damaged during the operation, and the return to the Earth seems compromised.

Photographs credits: All images from JAXA, Japan Space Agency, 2003-2005.

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This page was last updated on December 20, 2007.