back to article 'Puzzling structures on surface' of YU55 spaceball

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 …


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  1. TRT Silver badge

    Buildings, you say?

    They look suspiciously like gun turrets to me.

    Let's see if I can pick up any transmissions... oh yes.

    "...Land...," " distance...", "...monitor it, and..."

    1. Hitco Tex



  2. Alister

    I for one...

    ...can only see big pixels.

    How clever of the builders to make the surface look like an early eighties computer animation when viewed by radar.

    1. Dorobuta

      They're using 8 bit technology, renewing my faith that unix can be used to overcome any alien technology - after all, AT&T derived it from code recovered from the crash at Roswell.

  3. Cowardly Animosity


    1. Ian Ferguson
      Thumb Up

      In that case it's OK that we missed it

      Ramans do everything in threes :)

    2. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart
      Paris Hilton

      No it's not, it didn't refuel by sucking up the sun

      Paris, who also has a novel method of refuelling

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Puzzling structures indeed

    They wouldn't be Golden arches would they?

    1. Peter Gray

      Yes, sandwiched in between severl Starbucks...

  5. Steve McPolin
    Paris Hilton

    over simplifying

    Too bad they couldn't have dropped a mars-rover type device on it as it passed by. I'm sure there are some horrendous difficulties, not the least the very low gravity, but a great chance to hitchhike around a bit, maybe look at its makeup, and see another part of the solar system.

    Paris? The free ride obviously.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Lack of basic understanding of Newtonian dynamics

      How do you "drop" a device on something that is hurtling past at more than 10 km/s? Presumably you have to accelerate your device to roughly the same speed. If you can do that, your device is then perfectly capable of following a trajectory similar to that of YU55 all on its own, so what's the advantage of travelling with YU55? In other words, what do you mean by "hitchhike"? And why don't they teach basic physics in schools any more?

      1. Chris Hance

        Well, you could intercept.

        I'd suggest calling the probe "Plecia nearctica" for all the members of that species that I have to scrape off my car's windshield every spring. Granted, it might not be in terribly useful condition after the impact.

      2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        > How do you "drop" a device on something that is hurtling past at more than 10 km/s?

        NERVAs that's how.

        Where are they? What are my taxes GOOD FOR?

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        Actually I don't think its that bad of an idea. Because if you'd wish to track it you'd need even more precise calculations in order to match its precise orbit. And only when a space agency would find out that they're off (because the "meteor rover" starts to follow a different trajectory than YU55) it would be too late to try and correct it.

        Another advantage of using the asteroid itself is its already proven lifespan. Doesn't have to mean much, but at least you can be sure it won't easily crash into something.

        As where speed is concerned; even the Apollo project (Apollo 10) once managed to gain a speed of 10.08 km/s. Granted; this was the highest speed attained by any manned spacecraft, but take away the manned part and you'll end up with a much lighter object anyway, thus one which would be easier to get "up to speed" so to say.

        Not saying that the suggestion is the best out there, but IMO its also not as impossible as you make it seem.

        Also note that they have been able to approach Halley's comet. Its not fully comparable, and only at a distance of approx. 300km in a fly by, but still...

        1. Peter Rathlev

          @ShelLuser 16:31

          According to Wikipedia the escape velocity from LEO is ~10.9 Km/s, so wouldn't must of the manned moon missions* have acheived velocities at least in that range?

          *) I know they were faked of course.

          1. Random Yayhoo

            Not so fast...

            @Sheluser: "According to Wikipedia the escape velocity from LEO is ~10.9 Km/s, so wouldn't must of the manned moon missions* have acheived velocities at least in that range?"

            First, that 10.9km/s escape velocity applies from the *altitude* of LEO, not an object *orbiting at* LEO, which is already moving around 7.8km/s angular velocity or typically around 7.33km/s relative to the Earth's surface if flown southeastward from Florida, which is rotating at around 420(?)m/s about a different axis.

            Anyway, you don't want to hit escape velocity unless you want to escape and never get back! Better to stay in elliptical orbit wrt Earth, do some brief orbits of the moon (assuming you meant moon missions) then mosey on home, wot.

      4. Rob Dobs

        Makes perfect sense

        I believe the suggestion was very valid and lucid.

        You are correct that by "drop" you would need to rendezvous with the object at a similar speed.

        The benefit of "hitchhiking" is getting a free ride. Its an easier task to make a sensor array and recording device that could be fired from a launching device at close to 10 km/s for a survivable impact with the object. Your device doesn't need to steer, or track and follow the object, it just hops on board. further it doesn't have to quite reach the same speed, or maintain it (granted it not dealing with wind drag to slow it down, but being on the surface of this larger object might give it some protection) Then it could go traveling through the near universe on a course that is apparently (since its still flying around) free from obstructions. If it were able to securely anchor itself (or even tunnel down) it would be better protected, and much less likely to be knocked off course by impact with some very tiny bit of space debris. Not to mention if the device could have a mobile exploratory unit it could travel around the object and investigate it further.

        Perhaps under that coat of coal there YU55 is made of pure Gold! Or maybe the last image we would see is a tentacle smacking our camera non-operational....

        1. vic 4
          Thumb Up

          Add a bomb too

          So if it comes too close in years to come it could be easily be deflected/destroyed.

  6. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge


    Flee! The Space Nazis are coming!

  7. Little Me

    6 frames?

    and that's a movie? not sure I can finish my popcorn in that time...

    1. Tom 7

      and repeated 5 times to take up more bandwidth

      how much bandwidth does stupidity require?

      I just hope adobes html5 moves can include slow backwards and forwards buttons that use local memory - or has apple patented them?

  8. AndrueC Silver badge

    Maybe there's two more coming along soon..

    Mine's the one with the AC Clarke novel in the pocket :)

  9. Jelliphiish


    this is a rock on a known orbit.. it ain't anything else. as for structures.. they must be smaller that the 4m resolution could pick up i guess..

  10. Robert E A Harvey
    Thumb Down

    How very odd

    The telescope appears to have picked up an advert for a Reebok video and a bright yellow square.

    1. Hardcastle the ancient

      From here it looks like 'fixed price repair centre'

  11. G2

    my opinion: it looks like a hairy spinning ball :p

    1. Hardcastle the ancient

      Not a spinning hairy ball, then?

  12. Heironymous Coward

    That's no asteroid!*

    It's a space station!

    *Yeah, moon, I know, but that was a long time ago in a galaxy far far away...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      i think you will find...

      it is in fact, dark matter :P

  13. Rob Beard

    So how fast is it going? Anything near ludicrous speed?

    Mine is the one with "Spaceballs the Toilet Roll" in the pocket.


  14. Ian Stephenson

    Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn.

    nuff said.

    1. FredScummer

      You Wot?

      Any Welsh people around here who could decipher the gibberish please?

      1. SteveK

        I wasn't aware the Welsh were fluent with the Water Beings. Explains the weather though.

      2. UkForest

        Dothing cap to Wikipeadia...

        Proper noun

        "ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn"

        A fictional occult phrase from H. P. Lovecraft's The Call of Cthulhu, said to mean "In his house at R'lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming".

        Usage notes

        While this phrase appears in English fiction, it is intended to represent an ancient (fictitious) language as conceived by H. P. Lovecraft.

        There is no formal pronunciation for this phrase: Lovecraft left it up to interpretation.

        1. Ru

          "Dothing [sic] cap to Wikipeadia [sic]"

          Don't explain the joke.

          The followup may, just possibly, have been humourous in intent, too.

      3. Ian Stephenson


        Too many vowels for it to be Welsh.

  15. Francis Boyle Silver badge

    Get It Right!

    Every one know that the Nazis fled the Earth in anti-gravity powered flying saucers not rocketships.

    Doesn't anyone car about factual reporting anymore!

  16. Portent

    No-one would have believed...

    No-one would have believed, in the early years of the twenty first century, that human affairs were being watched from the timeless worlds of space. No one could have dreamed we were being scrutinised as someone with a microscope studies creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. Few men even concidered the possability of life on other planets. And yet, across the gulf of space, minds immesurably superior to ours regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly but surely, they drew their plans against us.

    1. AndrueC Silver badge

      If you're about to impersonate David Essex you can quit it right now.

    2. Alister
      Thumb Up

      @No-one would have believed...

      10 / 10 for remembering the passage

      2 / 10 for spelling

      Still at least it proves you didn't just copy-and-paste...

      1. BoldMan

        Dun dun duuuuhhhhhh dun dun duuuuuhhhh

        Dun dun duuuuhhhhhh dun dun duuuuuhhhh

    3. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart
      Thumb Up

      You left out the

      DaDa Dah Dah Da Dahhh

      DaDa Dah Dah Da Dahhh


      1. lpopman

        titular musings


  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    We live in a world of HD, even my phone will do it - why on Earth did NASA use such shite cameras to film it?

    1. Gold Soundz

      And your phone has a zoom capable of photographing a moving, black rock from 860,000 miles away? Right.

    2. Filippo Silver badge

      Your phone can get HD pictures of objects 300000km away? Objects that are black on a black background? Amazing!

      1. Stoneshop


        No, but Chuck Norris could have thrown the phone into a trajectory that intersected YU55's, and caught it on the way back.

        1. MyHeadIsSpinning

          Boomarang phone?

          Nah, he would have done a flying kick into the sky...

      2. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

        AH, A CLUE

        If they have buttons which are labelled black on a black background which when pressed let a little black light up black to show that you have done it, it must be the HAGUNEMNONS!

        Look out for horribly beweaponed, chameleoid death-flotillas!!

      3. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Re: black on a black background

        Can't you just select it with the mouse and one of the blacks gets inverted to white? Or am I thinking of government-grade document redaction?

    3. MacGyver

      Hubble? The space-based telescope, not the corspe of the dead astronomer.

      A better question would be "why don't we ever point the Hubble at things. Now, understand I have no idea where the Hubble is other than "in space", I have no idea if it can move, no idea if it can focus on things less than millions of light years away, and no idea if anything like "the Earth" would have been between the Hubble and the flying rock.

      So it really was just a question, I would like to know why we never see pictures of Mars or anything else other than galaxies far-far away.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @ everyone who responded and downvoted me

      Haha, you 'tards... I thought that was soooo blatently sarcastic everyone would spot it was a joke! Either you're all American, or evidently people are sleepvoting on Wednesdays.


  18. Christoph

    What's puzzling?

    The structures are obviously the lids over the Clanger tunnels.

  19. goats in pajamas

    Cheated again.

    I thought it was the Big Breasted Space Amazons from How'sYerFather Prime come to rescue me from mundanity.

  20. Nick Gisburne

    It's a potato

    Keith Lemon can presumably confirm it.

  21. Anonymous Coward


    Way to work the word "nuclear" in there to ramp up the FUD, Reg. :) How big is a nuclear aircraft carrier compared to a regular one? (What do the other ones run on anyway?)

    BTW, us yankees only understand how big things are if you measure them in football fields. :)

    1. Chris 244

      Stupid Merkin or Obvious Troll?

      Nuclear carrier ~100 000 tons

      Non-nuclear carrier ~10-20 000 tons powered by gas turbines and/or diesel engines

      I would be interested in knowing how you would convert from a unit of mass into "football" fields.

      1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

        A fully-occupied stadium surrounding a football would have a particular, known mass that could be short-handed to "football field" in a pinch.

      2. Rob Dobs

        you wouldn't

        But really when trying to "see" the size of this object the actual size and not mass may be easier to visualize. You could measure its diameter and divide that by 100 yards. Pretty simple really

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Warren James Palmer wrote a trilogy about an alien race that quickly conquered our earth by towing huge asteroids behind their ships and then releasing them to fall upon the major cities of our planet. Saves money in the long run I guess. Are we sure there's just the one asteroid and nothing else distorting the stars in the inky blackness...?

    1. Chris 244

      Ever heard of Robert A. Heinlein?

      Many years ago I read a certain book called The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. I'm pretty sure Mr. Palmer read it, too.

      1. IsJustabloke

        I CHOOSE to enoble a simple forum post!

        Not to mention Messrs Niven and Pournelle's Footfall

  23. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

    To put the resolution into perspective

    resolving 4m at 300,000 km is an angular resolution of 0.00275 seconds of arc. My 8" telescope does just 0.57 seconds of arc.

    So yeah, HD would be possible easily, if you pad the image with a sufficient number of black pixels

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Blacker as charcoal ?

    What might be interesting here is that this description was also once used to describe the surface of Halley's comet.

    Just saying'

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      How much more black could this be?

      None. None more black.

      1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

        So black it hurts the eyes!

        According to Zaphod Beeblebrox, at least

    2. John 62


      Is it as black as a priest's socks? Those priests' socks you get in Habithat are properly black. Any other black socks are just really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really dark blue. You shouldn't get black socks from anywhere else: they're only out to shaft you.

  25. Graham Dawson Silver badge

    Putting on a serious face for a moment, I have to assume that the "puzzling structures" refers to the apparent, enormous crater that seems to be just about visible on the right, almost facing us as it rotates in to view. A lot of very small objects in the solar system appear to have these very large craters and they're quite a problem for current models, as the force required to make such a large crater would generally be enough to pulverise the object being impacted.

    The most well known is Phobos, which has a crater on one end that almost can't be explained. Theories have been mooted as to how such a crater could be formed but none are really quite adequate. Research, as they say, is ongoing.

    1. Rob Dobs

      Very simple

      YU55 is Solid Gold (or more realistically solid Iron) it was struck by a large granite (or softer) type rock.

      Did the people who make current models not consider the general idea that things can be made from different substances with different strengths?

      Another very simple proposal. Large moon sized object (with existing crater in its surface) it blasted into several large pieces by very fast moving hard object. One piece (with crater still on surface) goes shooting through galaxy and over time of colliding with many tiny objects in the universe gets a relatively round shape, with large surface crater in-tact.

      Or maybe its a cleverly disguised Ion cannon..?

      1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

        Not so simple. It's stupendously rare for objects in space to meet at anything other than relatively enormous speeds, which is why the problem exists - at such speeds the objects in question would shatter regardless of their composition.

        And, whatever idea is picked, it has to explain why there are so many of them here in our solar system. If it were just one or two it could be put down to fortuitous meetings and unusual circumstances, but the number of objects that display these characteristics has moved well beyond the realms of random chance into "good god that's scary". That's why there's a somewhat unacknowledged problem with the current models. They can't account for the number of these objects with craters so large that they should have been destroyed by the impact.

        For asteroids there are proposals that many are actually loose conglomerations of material held together by microgravity, which works to a certain extend but can't explain Phobos and other solid objects with similar features.

        So research is ongoing. :)

        1. Rob Dobs

          still seems simple

          OK so as you say these multiple objects we've seen are just bits of debris from larger objects held together in a sphere, why can't some of the larger pieces of debris still carry the scars (craters) of impacts with their previous larger body (before it was broken up)

          Also maybe there used to be more objects moving at a slower speed, but more of them got captured by planets and other objects, and now we only see more object moving at a higher speed.

          Don't stop the research or anything, but really not a terrible bit mystery to me.

  26. David Kelly 2

    Phineas & Ferb?

    I expected to see "Phineas & Ferb" etched on the surface. :-(

  27. TS

    Mass of Aircraft carriers


    "I would be interested in knowing how you would convert from a unit of mass into "football" fields."

    Sorry, we Americans don't understand mass, only size. Bigger'n aircraft carrier, we understand. As massive as an aircraft carrier may get through. 3X the mass of an aircraft carrier will draw blank stares.

    As for nuclear vs. non-nuclear, the JFK wasn't that much smaller than Nimitz class. It displaced less, but again, we don't understand mass, only football fields.

  28. Anonymous Coward

    The puzzling structures.....

    Are acne. Don't stare at the zits, YU55 is self-conscious about them.

    I for one welcome our poorly complexioned, humanity-harvesting overlord, and I would like to remind him that as a marketing professional I am ideally placed to entice my fellow humans into his digestive tentacles!!

  29. John McCallum


    Isn't that one of the reasons that the Russians are trying to get a sample return mission to Mars orbit?

  30. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    but does it have rounded corners?

  31. Stu 18

    Damm fault on the black

    And the set goes to Alexandar Demtetri Schamozzacoff... what a night he is having...

  32. Charlie van Becelaere

    I for one

    welcome our puzzlingly structured asteroidal overlords.

  33. Crasho

    It's not an asteroid, it's an advertisement

    For your information, that is a 3D holographic projection of a minecraft sphere as part of a huge advertising campaign put out by a partnership with Pixar and Madison avenue for Apple. Since minecraft is the cool game, Apple has co-opted it as a platform for Steve jobs to make his last Keynote address and to make it one no one will ever forget. As it gets closer the 'structures' will become more apparent until it stops spinning and is stationary and Steve Jobs will speak from the grave announcing the latest product from Apple. The ultimate in presentations. Why do you think they rolled out the 4S and not the 5?

    Now you know. And soon the whole world will as well.

  34. I am the Walrus

    So it's a black object on a black background.

    Do the interesting structures on the surface spell out "Disaster Area" by any chance? I'll grab my coat, or should that be towel?

  35. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Impact crater?

    To me it looked like there could be a large impact crater, like Mimas has. This would at least be a bit odd.

  36. Fr. Ted Crilly Silver badge

    erm who's lifted my disaster area deathship


  37. Andrew_b65

    Time travel

    It's clearly what's left of Moonbase Alpha transported back from the, er, past in 1999 after it so cruelly exploded, whilst in some strange time paradox our own version of the Moon still exists.

  38. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

    Is This a Cosmic Design?

    What are the dimensions of those... structures?

  39. Wombling_Free


    Oh, they're just ditches.

    In neat, rectangular rows....

  40. Winkypop Silver badge

    Jesus, I've told you once before!

    ....don't throw stones in space!

    - God *

    * were it to exist

  41. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Extraordinary CodeXSSXXXX Rendering

    Does anyone else, watching that short looped video clip, see it as a glans penis? For NASA shafting of ...... well, their revenue stream is drying up and sexy alien play would certainly be a universal game changer. They will have to admit though that the mysterious East has fabulous hidden treasures which can easily attract leading master pilots/space cadets/ to their fantastic programs which are bound to have learned from the expensive mistakes that delivered so very little with all that has gone before, ergo can one expect a wholly different program to be produced and broadbandcasted with definite vision in an indefinite discipline.

  42. Mark Berry

    It is clearly

    an Apple logo. They like to mark the things they patent.

  43. Matthew 17

    Russion Mars probe failure, coincidence?

    I think not, clearly more to this story.

    We've removed the ability to put people in space and will have everyone off the ISS in the next few weeks.

    The recession is obviously all part of the plan, to be revealed next year.

    Game over man, game over!

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