Thursday, 14 January 2016

V shaped UFO

UFOIt's an intriguing looking UFO photo (right). It shows a brightly-shining lopsided V-shaped object in a twilight sky. So what exactly is it?

Whenever I see a anomalous photo, like this one, my first question is not what is the anomaly but what is unusual about this photo? The answer to the latter question generally answers the former. It is easy to waste a lot of time concentrating on the odd object itself when, in many cases, the answer lies with the photo.

That is definitely the case here. The trees at the bottom of the picture looked blurred whereas the UFO appears relatively sharp. The shutter speed was 1/15s which is slow for a hand-held exposure. So the trees are most likely blurry because of camera shake.
If camera shake, is affecting the trees it must also affect the UFO too, meaning it is not really a lopsided V shape at all. If the UFO was a point light source (like a star), the V shape would represent a very large degree of camera movement. But that degree of blurring would, in turn, make the trees pretty much unrecognizable. So the object is most likely larger than a simple point source, or it might be moving, or both. As it happens, the object was identified by the photographer at the time of exposure. It was an aircraft, moving with multiple lights showing. The light trail appearance arises from the blurring together of the aircraft lights. The V shape follows the way the camera shook during the exposure and the motion of the aircraft.

What is interesting about this photo is that it demonstrates how some objects can appear more blurred than others in a photo affected by camera shake. By comparing the blur on known objects in the photo it is possible to make an educated guess as to what an unblurred version of any unknown object might look like. In any case, where there is motion blur in a photo you cannot take the apparent shapes of any objects literally.

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