When Hubble Space Telescope first photographed the strange comet-like object p/2010 a2 I just knew it would get attention among the X-Files crowd.

The "X" pattern of dust debris, presumably from an asteroid collision, is simply arresting.

Last week's release of the Hubble picture spurred a lot of spirited speculation on Internet discussion boards that the "X" was something other than a natural phenomenon:

"Finally, they are coming to take me home, yippee!"

"This has actually gotten me ******* excited."

"It's the Loch Ness Monster."

"Holy ship!"

"Hey… it's planet 'X' its about time we can see it"

"Its baby Kal-El! Soon he'll grow up to be Superman."

Folks on UFO sites didn't buy the asteroid collision story:

"Just some speculation from science dudes grasping for straws, still"

"Relax people – this is just a weather balloon according to the Air Force."

"Although they (scientists) continuously shout and scream for UFO evidence, they don't BUY it when it's presented."

"Why can't someone just astral project and go and check this UFO out?"

"This is definitely not a normal comet. It could be debre (sp), ship, or even an entity."

Some people smelled a government conspiracy. "Just what is discretionary time?" asked one reader. Well, if something unexpected and transitory is happening in the sky, the Hubble observatory director can bump scheduled programs and re-aim the telescope for a "target of opportunity."

"What the hell in NASA hiding?" asked the producer of the YouTube video shown here. Say what? The Hubble image was released to the world just a few days after the observation was taken! You just can’t make government conspiracy folks happy unless they have a conspiracy to chew on.

Other comments:

"How do they (Hubble) get crystal clear images and somehow this is as clear as they can get for us? Cannon fodder!"

"Notice how they didn't say who spotted it, and go on to give it a government scientific name like p/2010 a2."

But no UFO sleuths took the time to calculate the feature's size. The “X” pattern is 1,000 miles across -– that’s quite a wingspan. It would be the mother of all motherships, and get terrible gas mileage!

Assuming extraterrestrials are bound by conventional physics to propel a ship, the more massive the payload, the more fuel is needed to accelerate and decelerate the vessel. So the only way to keep fuel costs down is to keep the payload mass very low.

Therefore, extraterrestrials would forget about signing up starship passengers but instead send a robotic emissary across interstellar space. Nanotechnology would be crammed into something perhaps no bigger than an automobile, or even a soup can, as former NASA Administrator Dan Goldin once speculated.

Such a probe would tour the solar system and dutifully report back to its flesh and blood creators. The undetectable probe would gather needed resources from the asteroids. Uh-oh, did I say it would hang out in the asteroid belt?

For example we've been exploring the Saturnian system with the NASA/ESA Cassini mission since 2004 (and the spectacularly successful grand tour was extended to 2017). Any intelligent life on the giant frigid moon Titan would be oblivious to Cassini streaking overhead and flitting from moon to moon. They would need a survey telescope capable of detecting objects just a few meters across. (Yes we did land a probe on Titan, but Titan Strategic Air Command would have shot it down if anyone lived there – or brushed it off as burning swamp gas because there is a lot of methane on Titan.)

So there’s no doubt P/2010 A2 is a bizarre but naturally occurring event. Either that, or a continent-wide alien colonization ship has arrived. I hope they have more luck than those stranded aliens in the film "District 9." 

Anyway, sell your house now because values are going to plummet when the Overlords from Carina take charge.

Illustration Courtesy Paramount Pictures