What the hell is that thing?

Spider-Man Pointing

NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spotted a bizarre sliver of an object speeding above the lunar surface last month.

And as it turns out, we're not looking at a UFO — or, uh, maybe an Unidentified Lunar Object — because there's a perfectly human explanation for the lunar apparition.

It turns out that the LRO's image was photobombed by the Korea Aerospace Research Institute's Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter (KPLO), otherwise known as Danuri, which is "traveling in nearly parallel orbits," according to a NASA statement.

Despite their similar orbits, it still took impeccable timing to catch a glimpse of the spacecraft — an engineering feat in and of itself.

Moon Blink

Danrui launched in August 2022, becoming South Korea's first Moon mission. The spacecraft, which entered lunar orbit in December 2022, is designed to help plan future missions to the lunar poles. It was also used to demonstrate a "lunar internet," which is a delay-tolerant network that could one day allow landed assets to communicate with Earth.

Scientists at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center "needed exquisite timing in pointing LROC to the right place at the right time to catch a glimpse of Danuri," per NASA.

The reason why Danuri appears as a tiny sliver — rather than a conventional-looking spacecraft with two solar panels and an antenna — is because the LRO's camera exposure time was extremely short at just 0.338 milliseconds. As a result, Danuri appears "smeared to ten times its size in the opposite direction of travel because of the relative high travel velocities between the two spacecraft," according to NASA.

Apart from freezing an orbiting spacecraft in time, the LRO has also spotted remains of crashed lunar landers. Earlier this year, it even shot and bounced a laser off India's Vikram lander in an effort to improve future landers' positioning systems.

Last year, Danuri's NASA-developed ShadowCam spotted the LRO in a perfect role swap, showing the spacecraft's behind perfectly reflecting the Sun's rays.

More on the LRO: NASA Probe Shoots Indian Moon Lander With Laser

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