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PASADENA, Calif. (CAP) - Researchers with the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory say they've finally identified the "puzzling structures" observed on the surface of Asteroid 2005 YU55 as it whizzed past the Earth this week. Thanks to data retrieved by the Goldstone Solar System Radar, astronomers believe the objects to be a red Members Only jacket, an iPod, and some beef jerky wrappers.
"Although, they could be turkey jerky - it's tough to tell with these grainy images," said Lance Benner, the lead scientist on the project. "They are definitely terrestrial in origin, though I can't imagine anyone would be caught dead in that coat."
Benner said the discovery makes sense in light of an earlier observation of what appeared to be a misshapen piece of the asteroid breaking off and hurtling toward the Earth's atmosphere. Astronomers said they thought it was simply a meteoroid that just happened to look a lot like A-list actor Tom Cruise.
"Turns out, it was him," said Robert McMillan, the scientist who first noted the similarity. "Hitching a ride back to Earth from the Sun, or wherever it is his people go on retreats and other such religious excursions."
CAP News contacted Tom Cruise at his Beverly Hills home where he did confirm his arrival on Asteroid Flight YU55, departing from the Galactic Confederacy with a brief layover in Teegeeack. The Scientologist said he was hoping for a direct flight, but John Travolta's plane was having engine trouble so he had to go standby on the barren rock.
"I just flew in from Uranus and boy are my arms tired!" Cruise cackled during the phone interview. "No, wait. Make that ... Jupiter. I flew in from Jupiter. I'm not gay, really. Just ask Katie."
When asked about the beef jerky wrappers he left behind on the aircraft carrier-sized asteroid, as he is a self-proclaimed vegetarian, Cruise responded by noting that "interstellar rules don't apply." He then said that leaving the jacket behind was a necessity because of how hot it gets upon re-entry to the Earth's atmosphere, but is "bummed" he won't be able to retrieve his iPod until the asteroid returns to Earth in 2075.
"Maybe I'll just hop on over to Venus and grab it when YU55 swings by in 2029," Cruise said. "Then again, maybe I'll have a hit movie between now and then and can just afford to buy another one. Maybe."
NASA scientists did dispatch a remote crew to Cruise's residence to fetch the clothes he was wearing when the asteroid dropped him off so they could collect and study any cosmic dust remnants for additional clues as to the origin of the solar system.
"Well, we thought it was cosmic dust, anyway," said Benner. "Let's just say Tom could use a little Head And Shoulders."
While the scientific community is generally relieved to have a better understanding of the asteroid and Cruise's presence on it, critics say the Hollywood star has merely added to the growing problem of space junk by leaving his belongings behind to orbit around the sun for all of eternity. They say if someone of Cruise's stature does it, others will think it's okay, too.
"It's like we always tell the Scientologists," said one intergalactic activist, "please leave the asteroid in better shape than when you arrived. Give a hoot - don't pollute."
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