Where In The Universe Challenge #27

Article written: 29 Oct , 2008
Updated: 24 Dec , 2015

Here’s the latest image for the “Where In The Universe” challenge. Take a look at the image and try your hand at guessing where in the Universe this image is from. Give yourself extra points (or a cookie) if you can name the spacecraft responsible for the image. The new way we’re doing this challenge is that we’ll provide the image today, but won’t reveal the answer until tomorrow. This gives everyone a chance to mull over the image and provide their answer in the comment section. Check back tomorrow to see how you did!

UPDATE (10/30): The answer has now been posted below. If you haven’t made your guess yet, no peeking before you do!! From now on, the answers will be given in the same post instead of a new one…so you need to come back and check the original to find out the answer!

Are all your guesses in? It’s now time to reveal the answer to this week’s challenge. This image comes from the STS-115 space shuttle mission in September 2006. Crew members spotted an unidentified object floating away from the shuttle. No one ever really figured out what it was, but it was believed to be debris that floated out of the shuttle’s payload bay. The image was taken by astronaut Daniel Burbank onboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis (here’s the original). It caused a little stir because earlier in the day, the crew recorded a video shot of another object tumbling away from the shuttle.

How did you do?

Some of you had the right answer — great job! The other answers? Well, I commend some of you for your creativity! Come back for another WITU Challenge next week!

46 Responses

  1. Andy says

    Jellyfish at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, taken by you on a family trip.

  2. I KNOW SPACE says


  3. Dan says

    Neptune, photographed by Voyager 2?

  4. Will says

    A dust particle from the comet Wild 2 captured within a cube of aero-gel?

  5. Vedran V says

    Exhaust plume of rocket in high altitude?

  6. MetalDave says

    It appears to be a scary ghost, just in time for halloween.

  7. Don says

    Most likely Space Ship One spinning from its second launch

  8. Jorge says

    What the heck?!

    My only guess would be something artificial that fell off the ISS or the shuttle, with Earth’s blue in the background. A bit of translucid plastic? Or perhaps something shot from the ground, since the ocean photographed from space tends to be much darker than this.

    If I had to make a guess would be Earth’s orbit, shot from the International Space Station, but this time I’m far, far from certain.

    Seriously weird stuff. Can’t wait for the answer.

  9. Thomas says

    Oh right! I think I remember that object on a past shuttle mission. It was seen floating away. I don’t think it was ever positively identified though, but I’m unsure.

  10. Haplo says

    I don’t know but I bet is on Eath.

  11. Astrofiend says

    It’s a jellyfish in the underwater sea on Europa. Oh wait – it’s only 2008.

    Looks like it could be a plasma filament or a shock boundary even. False colour SOHO image of a Solar prominence? Plasma jet lobe of an active galaxy or Herbig-Haro object perhaps? Aurora on Jupiter or Saturn!?

    I think I’ll go with false-colour Aurora on Jupiter, snapped with Galileo.

    I think you’ve got me though Nancy – that’s a goodun.

  12. Member

    Richard Garriott’s underpants. He dropped them from the space station “for a laugh”…

    As you can see, I have no clue what this picture is! Nancy you are a devil! It’s been bugging me all day! (I’ve even been cheating and scouring the space sites, and I still haven’t found it!)

    Cheers, Ian

  13. whirledsol says

    A failed parachute experiment in Earth’s atmosphere?

  14. Weehamster says

    Where = Orbiting Earth
    Spacecraft = Atlantis (STS-115)
    Item in question = Plastic Bag

  15. Angus says

    I’d have to go with an aurora somewhere far away!

  16. Vincent says

    A time lapse photo’ of something ? Lets guess – Earth seen from Mars perhaps?

  17. harrybody says

    Quite difficult object.

    I definitely believe it’s a man made object. Due to it’s structure I think it’s a nano technological thing. It must somehow have something to do with astronomy – I believe. Maybe a part of an experiment going on, on the ISS. Testing a future nano component – could look like at mounting to go into connection with other components.

    The purpose – if I’m on the tread, could then be with the purpose to create future instruments with much lighter weight, to reduce the cost for both the manufacturing and the lunching expenses.

    Can’t wait for the answer.

    The picture will then have been taken on the ISS through a microscope.

  18. Chilinuttz says

    Dead pixels says modern era,my guess would be an elongated object falling through earths atmosphere,taken from ISS ?

  19. LLDIAZ says

    Looks like the new spacecraft just distorted somehow.

  20. Rick Havoc says

    some deep sea creature like jellyfish, either that or a ghost

  21. Vino says

    False colour image of some Aurora is what i am going with even though i have no clue what so ever…
    Nancy you are too good…

  22. Ruben says

    I’m going for rocket fuel exhaust or something else in the sky. Plastic bags don’t look like this and neither do jellyfish, but maybe it’s a jellyfish in space having big trouble with the vacuum.

  23. Chris Farmer - Adelaide, South Australia says

    Gee you guys are stupid it’s obviously a white squiggly thing in front of a blue background,:)

  24. Chris says

    My guess is it’s a part of the Surveyor (3?) lander brought back to Earth by Apollo 12 for x-ray analysis…… I’ll have to check tomorrow!

  25. Eduardo says

    Iceberg in the ocean (maybe Antartica) shot from the ISS.

  26. Huygens says

    Piece of debris from a recent Shuttle mission floating in space.

    I can’t recall which mission exactly because they all seem to be the same.

  27. Dominion says

    A Dementor from Azkaban? No, wait. They’re all black. I get the same sense of hopelessness from this picture though cause I just have no clue what it is.

  28. Leland P. Scott says

    This is a loose bracket lost out of the payload bay of the Shuttle Orbiter on a recent mission.

  29. Stinger says

    I welcome our new jellyfish overlords 🙂

  30. Alan says

    I think this is a picture of a weather balloon or parachute taken from the ISS.

  31. Val Taylor says

    It`s something left over from the ISS/Shuttle mission, most likely packing material.

  32. RL says

    I’m gonna take a wild guess and say its sun (a flare maybe?) and imaged by SOHO.

    This one is tough! Now I’ll scroll up and see what everyone else guessed.

    Great picture (as always).

  33. RL says

    Err..bad grammar. Sloppy typing. I meant The Sun.

  34. Jari says

    A long shot, but…. A negative of time-lapsed staple moved around colored paper with magnet?

  35. Rafael says

    Some of the above guesses are good, I’ll venture this maybe fading comet, distant sun or galaxy taken by the Hubble telescope.

  36. Vincent says

    Another guess prompted by a colleague – High altitude cloud seen from the Shuttle during launch or Spaceship 1

  37. Spunjee says

    This is so obvious, it’s the flying spaghetti monster from the crab nebula.

  38. Sci-Fi Si says

    You’ve got us all stumped on this one Nancy:

    So just where is the Universe is it?

  39. Karlo says

    This is a peace of trash or something similar (bag) that drifted away from Space shuttle or ISS not so long time ago! Media speculated what that might be. The picture was taken either from earth cameras or from recon. planes during filming shuttle reentry . I could find even the mission (sts) but that is not important. The object was in earth atmosphere. The picture was taken within a year from now, just few shuttle missions back.

  40. Fst says

    Earth’s ocean

  41. neoguru says

    OMG I’ve seen this pic before but cannot place it. I’ll stab at it: It’s an unusual high altitude aurora. If not an aurora, it’s a high altitude object on earth. I’m not confident with this guess, but I’ve seen it before I tell ya! It’s gonna drive me nuts until tomorrow. Good one! Nobody’s confident with their guess.

  42. voraciousveggies says

    Wow what happened to all the “this is too easy” whining from last week? All of a sudden everyone just quits and goes for a joke when the answer doesn’t fly into their head immediately. I’ll be back after I do some sifting through NASA images.

  43. Jorge says

    Heh… not 100% correct, but pretty close. I’m proud of myself… 😀

  44. Aodhhan says

    This format is definitely much more fun.
    Thank you Nancy!! Great pic!

  45. Ax-Master says

    O.K. So they never knew what it was. My new guess is, since it was “floating” out of the cargo bay, it is “somebody’s Depends” that they didn’t want anyone else to know they were wearing. Apparently Depends is now a mainstay with all Astronauts.

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