Victor Jorgenson, NARA via Wikipedia Commons // Public Domain
Victor Jorgenson, NARA via Wikipedia Commons // Public Domain

Astronomers Pinpoint the Exact Time of the V-J Day Kiss

Victor Jorgenson, NARA via Wikipedia Commons // Public Domain
Victor Jorgenson, NARA via Wikipedia Commons // Public Domain

There’s plenty of mystery surrounding one of the most famous photos in U.S. history. Alfred Eisenstaedt’s iconic Life magazine image of a couple kissing in Times Square in celebration of the end of World War II (as well as the similar image that ran in The New York Times, shown above) has been a source of debate for years, as multiple people have come forward claiming to be the subjects of the photo. In 2010, a new question emerged: when, exactly, was the photo taken? 

That year, one of the nurses in the background of the photo—which, it should be noted, probably isn’t as romantic as it might look on first glance—told The New York Times that the photo was taken in the afternoon, hours before President Truman’s 7 p.m. announcement that Japan had accepted the Potsdam Declaration, ending the war. Were the soldiers getting an early start to their celebrations? A trio of astronomical sleuths say yes. Steve Kawaler, a professor in Iowa State University’s physics and astronomy department, along with Donald Olson and Russell Doescher, a physics professor and a senior lecturer at Texas State University, have pinpointed the time of the photo as just before 6 p.m. 

One of the images used to determine the V-J Day photo's time-stamp. Image Credit: Courtesy Steve Kawaler via Iowa State University

The trio examined a group of images from Times Square, looking for the precise alignment of the buildings and the shadows they cast in the late afternoon, in conjunction with maps and sun data. They concluded that the photo was snapped at 5:51 p.m. on August 14, 1945—more than an hour before Truman announced the war was over. Their findings are published in the August issue of Sky & Telescope magazine. 

The exact time-stamp for a photo taken more almost 70 years ago may seem like a trivial piece of data, but it does help eliminate a few of the claims of would-be subjects of the photo. "Some of the accounts are inconsistent with the astronomical evidence, and we can rule people out based on the position of the sun,” Olson explains in a press release. George Mendonsa and Greta Zimmer, who are said to be the couple according to the book The Kissing Sailor, kissed around 2 p.m., several hours before. They may have had a chance encounter that day, but it wasn’t the one memorialized in national news. 

[h/t: Futurity]

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ESO, A. Müller et al.
Here's the First Confirmed Image of a Planet Being Born
ESO, A. Müller et al.
ESO, A. Müller et al.

One of the newest landmarks in the observable universe has finally been captured, according to the European Southern Observatory. The image, snapped at its Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile, marks the first time a newborn planet has been seen as it forms. 

The image was documented by SPHERE, an instrument at the VLT that's built to identify exoplanets. It shows a planet, dubbed PDS 70b, taking shape in the disc of gas and star dust surrounding the young dwarf star PDS 70. In the past, astronomers have caught glimpses of what may have been new planets forming, but until now it had been impossible to tell whether such images just showed shapes in the dust or the beginnings of true planet formation. The results of the research will be shared in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics [PDF].

This latest cornograph (an image that blocks the light of a star to make its surroundings visible) depicts the new planet clearly as a bright blob beside the black star. The two bodies may look close in the photo, but PDS 70b is roughly 1.8 billion miles from PDS 70, or the distance of Uranus to the Sun. SPHERE also recorded the planet's brightness at different wavelengths. Based on information gathered from the instrument, a team of scientists led by Miriam Keppler of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy says that PDS 70b is a gas giant a few times the mass of Jupiter with a surface temperature around 1830°F and a cloudy atmosphere.

Astronomers known that planets form from solar clouds which stars leave behind when they come into a being, but until now, the details surrounding the phenomena have been mysterious. “Keppler’s results give us a new window onto the complex and poorly understood early stages of planetary evolution,” astronomer André Müller said in a press release. “We needed to observe a planet in a young star’s disc to really understand the processes behind planet formation.”

This is just the latest history-making image captured by the ESO's Very Large Telescope. In the last 20 years, it has documented nebulae, light from gravitational waves, and interacting galaxies.

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iStock
Saturn and a Strawberry Moon Will Brighten Night Skies This Week
iStock
iStock

Summer has officially arrived. That means the weather is finally warm enough in parts of the country to lay down a blanket in your backyard and spend the night staring at the sky. This week is especially exciting for stargazers. According to Mashable, Saturn will be visible in the sky beside a "strawberry moon."

One of the first major celestial events of the season takes place Wednesday, June 27. The Earth will fall directly between Saturn and the Sun on Wednesday and a brightly shining Saturn will be visible in the eastern sky after the Sun goes down. The best time to spot the ringed planet is around midnight, and it will appear in the sky for the next several months.

On Wednesday, when Saturn is at its brightest, the sky will present another treat. A full strawberry moon will rise not far from Saturn's spot around 12:53 a.m. EDT that night and accompany the planet as it moves across the sky. The name isn't a reference to the Moon's hue, but to the time of year when it appears: A strawberry moon is the first full moon of summer, and it was once used by farmers to mark the beginning of strawberry picking season.

These two events are just the start of a promising time of year for astronomy fans. Sync your digital planner to this space calendar so you don't miss out on any other big dates, like the partial solar eclipse on August 11.

[h/t Mashable]

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