The Internet Freaks Out Over Bizarre Video Showing Glowing Light Approaching the Sun

by Shelby Scott
(Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images)

The internet is in a frenzy over a new viral video that shows a strange light approaching Earth’s sun. But, truthfully, it’s nothing to worry about. The strange phenomenon, which you can view below, is simply one of our planet’s neighbors, Venus, traveling across the night sky. The clip sees the planet as it moves from a morning to an evening star. The light looks strange in the video as the tool that captured the scene typically examines activity on the sun.

Keith Strong, a solar expert according to Newsweek, shared a video of a coronagraph to Twitter on Thursday night. The clip shows the Sun at the center, surrounded by other stars. But then, on the very edge of the frame, we see a bright light moving toward our solar system’s star.

“WHAT ON EARTH IS THAT?” Strong tweeted. “It is Venus on the opposite side of the Sun from the Earth. It is moving from being a morning star to an evening one.”

Viewers, mesmerized by the strange clip, took to the comments to share their wonder.

One stargazer excitedly commented, “And we have Mercury (left) and sungazer comet (right side).”

A second viewer commented, “Looks like it might be something very important!!”

Per the news outlet, a coronagraph, the instrument used to capture the beautiful video of Venus above, blocks out the direct light of the sun. This enables astronomers to better see its corona — not to mention other surrounding phenomena. These instruments are useful because they not only allow scientists to better examine activity on the sun, including solar flares and coronal mass ejections, but it also allows them to see non-solar objects near the sun. That includes occasional appearances from Earth’s neighbor Venus as it moves into position to become an evening star.

Why Does Venus’s Light Appear Brighter Than the Sun’s in the Video?

If you watched the video above closely enough, you’ll notice that Venus’s light toward the right side of the frame actually shines brighter than the sun’s corona. Given the size, light, and temperature typically exhibited by Earth’s sun, why does Venus appear so much brighter?

Well, according to Martin Archer, a space physicist and science communicator, “Coronagraphs are designed to look at the very faint solar corona.” Comparatively, he explained, “Planets, on the other hand, are very bright and tend to saturate in the detectors. Because of this, they generally end up looking much larger than they really are, and are often surrounded by lens flare effects.”

In the clip above, Archer continued, “That is likely what is causing the bright light patterns around Venus in the video, with these effects being particularly strong as Venus is on the opposite side of the sun from the Earth—highly illuminated.”

Matthew Owens, a professor of space physics at the University of Reading in the U.K. explained the mechanics of the coronagraph more simply. Of Venus’s appearance, he said, “It’s a bit like wearing night vision goggles and looking at car headlights.”