AidSpace Blog

Photobombs at the Observatory?!

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It was just another day at the National Air and Space Museum’s Public Observatory… The Sun was shining, birds were chirping, and we ended up seeing both! This incredible footage was caught purely by accident as Smithsonian staff tried to image the Sun.

Birds flying in front of the Sun.

The imaging process begins with a video capture of the Sun using one of the Observatory’s telescopes (in this case, the Lunt 100mm Hydrogen-alpha telescope) and a camera that attaches to the telescope. A video is essentially a series of still images, and because of the haziness of our atmosphere, some of these images show sharp details while others are blurry. We use software that “stacks” the best individual images to create a clearer and more accurate final image.

However, it’s a little hard to get good footage of the Sun when you have birds dancing in front of it.

We think the chances of capturing such a scene are astronomical! The Sun actually takes up a very small portion of the daytime sky, so to see anything other than clouds crossing it is pretty extraordinary. It’s even rarer to record events like this!

Here at the National Air and Space Museum, we’re always interested in things that incorporate both Air and Space. As you can imagine, an example like this had our jaws on the floor. So we thank you, high-flying birds, even if you did “ruin” our footage.

John Malloy is an intern in the Education Department of the National Air and Space Museum.

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