Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A Mysterious Object


Early yesterday afternoon I picked up my mother for a Sunday lunch together.  I took Normandie Avenue north to our favorite Mexican restaurant in East Hollywood.  It's not the best route to take to get there, as the road is narrow for much of the drive and the traffic is often quite heavy;  however, it so happens that Griffith Observatory is visible directly ahead for the whole length of the drive along Normandie, and some time ago I had seen a man painting an image of the observatory on a traffic signal control box at the intersection of Sunset Boulevard.  I had been planning to photograph the painting of the observatory with the actual observatory in view in the background.

The photo below is the first of three shots taken from inside my car at the intersection, while I was waiting to turn right.  In it the observatory is the small white building in the distance at the left, below and to the right of the red signal light;  its painted image is near the right edge of the photo, at mid-level.

Photo #1

While checking out this photo, however, I noticed something odd.  Floating in the air, positioned just above the observatory, is a blurry object, round and brownish.  It stood out because it's the only thing that's blurred out while everything else in the picture is in sharp focus;  and I don't think the blurring is due to its being much closer to the camera -- on the windshield of the car, for example.  The main reason for this will be made clear after an examination of the third photo -- but even aside from that, if the object were something that struck the windshield and stuck there, the part in contact with the glass would be flat;  all of that flat area would be in shadow and the shadow would be even throughout, with an abrupt boundary -- but the closeup below clearly shows the object has a gradual turning shadow, meaning it has a rounded contour, and is not in contact with the glass.  Also, it does not cast a shadow on the glass as any object with significant thickness, however small, would, if it were sitting on the glass with the sun shining onto the oblique glass from almost zenith.

Detail from Photo #1

According to the shooting data the first shot was taken at 01:02:51 PM.  Seven seconds later at 01:02:58, the second shot was taken.

Photo #2

Here the object has moved westward a little.  I am certain the movement is real, not a parallactic displacement caused by my car moving, as everything else has stayed in more or less the same relative position it occupied in the first photo.  There are some tiny differences apparent in the positions of some objects, but they are so small that they are almost certainly due to the movement of my hand holding the camera.  Below is a detail from the second shot.

Detail from Photo #2

Below is the last of the three shots.  It was taken at 01:03:07, nine seconds after the second image.  In it is a decisive reason for concluding the object was really a body floating 'out there', not a small blot on the windshield.

Photo #3

When I examined this photo, at first I thought the object had disappeared.  Luckily -- and I mean really lucky -- I had zoomed out for a wider shot;  the object is now at the top of the frame, above the white spot on the windshield (at first I thought it was gravel damage, but it turned out to be something filmy on the inner side of the glass).  Note that the windshield wipers are in sharp focus -- meaning anything else sitting on the glass should also be in focus.  It goes without saying that if the wipers are in focus and so are objects in the 'infinite' distance, everything in between should be, as well.  Below is a blowup of the image.

Detail from Photo #3

It's moving away upward and eastward, seemingly at a fair clip -- it actually looks as though the acceleration is causing the object to be flattened in the direction of movement.

What could it be?  It's clearly not a balloon -- a balloon does not flatten out as it gently floats away, nor does it maintain the same altitude without rising for seven seconds in calm weather (if it be a helium-filled balloon).  And anyway, a balloon (nor an empty plastic bag, a bird, a piece of litter, etc.) would not be selectively blurred out while everything else in the shot is sharply defined.  It's also a little curious I didn't notice it when I took these pictures, although I suppose that could just be due to the many distractions of the road -- or maybe it wasn't visible to the naked eye..?! (cue Twilight Zone music).

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