An anonymous U.S. sailor and woman in a white dress kiss euphorically in the middle of New York's Times Square.Womens Air Jordan 11 Mystery clouds Times
That's the famous and often recreated image most commonly associated with the day Japan surrendered in WWII, ending the war on Aug. 14, 1945. America celebrated, and college students of the future got one of the most ubiquitous posters ever put up on a dorm room wall.
But while the photo is ingrained in pop culture, it's long remained a mystery, from who starred in the world's famous public display of affection, to when, exactly, the photo was taken.
Because their faces captured by photojournalist Alfred Eisenstaedt and later fanned across the nation on the cover of Life magazine are almost completely obstructed, lots of people have claimed to be the couple. Conflicting accounts are published in books, affirmed by facial recognition experts and sworn by dozens, decade after decade.
Now, just in time for its 70th anniversary, physicists at Texas State University have brought science to the debate and found a major piece of the puzzle: the exact time the photo was taken.
Shadows, buildings and an exact time
Physicist Donald W. Olson and his team, in an article published in the August edition of Sky and Telescope magazine, report that the photograph was taken at 5:51 p.m. ET.
To figure out the exact time the shutter went off, Olson's team used maps, archival photos and blueprints to interpret time based on the shadows of the buildings in Times Square. (Yes, Manhattanhenge is worth something beyond Instagram likes.)
"As the sun moves across the sky, the shadows of tall buildings in Manhattan move and can be used, just like the gnomon of a sundial, to determine the time of day," Olson explained.Womens Air Jordan 11
And while "astronomy cannot provide a positive identification of a person ... knowing the precise time of the photograph does appear to rule out some candidates," he told the USA TODAY Network in an email from a research trip in Scotland.Olson got pitched the project five years ago after online comments in a New York Times article questioned if "the kiss" was photographed at 7:03 p.m., the time President Harry S. Truman announced Japan's surrender, or around 6 p.m., as one person claiming to be in the background of the photo had told the Times. (Rumors of the surrender had been swirling throughout the day, hence the earlier celebrations.)Womens Air Jordan 11
The detailed maps of Times Square, circa 1945, was how they could "understand precisely how the shadow of one building will fall onto a nearby building." Once they figured out which building cast the shadow on the Loew's Building, which is the backdrop to the dramatic kissers, "the astronomical calculations are not difficult."
5:51 p.m. and the picture-perfect story
So what does this mean those claiming to be the poster children of post-war jubilation?
The leading belief is that the kissers are George Mendonsa and Greta Zimmer, accounts documented in The Kissing Sailor: The Mystery Behind the Photo that Ended World War II by Lawrence Verria and George Galdorisi, a book published in 2012 by the Naval Institute Press.
However, the book claims that Mendonsa and Zimmer locked lips at 2 p.m. three hours before Olson's scientifically proven timing.
"First of all, we welcome the information," said co-author Verria, a Rhode Island-based history teacher of more than 30 years. He became fascinated with "the kiss" after a student claimed to recognize the man in the photo during a history lesson.
But "as far as timing, this has absolutely no effect on who is in the picture," he said. Mystery clouds Times Womens Air Jordan 11
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