A physicist blew the controversy behind this iconic American photo wide open again

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Couple Re-Enacts Historic Times Square Kiss to Celebrate VJ Day

For 67 years, the identity of the two kissers in one of America's most celebrated photos — the "V-J Day in Times Square" or simply "The Kiss" — remained a complete mystery.

The photo was taken by Life Magazine photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt in Times Square in New York City on August 14, 1945 — a day that Americans will forever remember as the "Victory over Japan Day" when Japan surrendered, putting an end to World War II.

In 2012 the book "The Kissing Sailor: The Mystery Behind the Photo that Ended World War II" identified that sailor as George Mendonsa and the nurse as Greta Friedman.

Mendonsa and Friedman's story of how the iconic kiss happened was announced to the world, and the decades-long controversy was finally put to rest.

At least, until now.

See the iconic photo and people recreating the famous kiss:

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V-J Day Kiss in Times Square 1945 & recreations
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A physicist blew the controversy behind this iconic American photo wide open again
In this photo provided by the U.S. navy, a sailor and a nurse kiss passionately in Manhattan's Times Square, as New York City celebrates the end of World War II, on August 14, 1945. The celebration followed the official announcement that Japan had accepted the terms of Potsdam and surrendered. (AP Photo/U.S. Navy)
German-American photographer and photojournalist Alfred Eisenstaedt poses at the opening on May 5, 1986 of an exhibition of his famous pictures taken for "Life" magazine at the Kultur Kontor der Hamburger Hanse Vier, in Hamburg, Germany, with one of his best know photographs taken during the celebrations of V-J Day in Times Square, New York on August 1945. (AP Photo/Jockel Finck)
Carl Muscarello and Edith Shain recreate their original pose from the famous 1945 Life Magazine photograph by Alfred Eisenstadt, in New York's Times Square Sunday, August 13, 1995. Times Square, billed as the Crossroads of the World, will again be the site as the city throws a block party to commemorate VJ-Day, 50 years ago. Times Square is where the moving headlines broadcast the words "Japan Surrenders," "War Ends" and "Peace" on Aug. 14, 1945. The messages touched off an impromptu celebration that had people kissing and hugging and dancing in the streets. (AP Photo/Frank Ross) <%% 0 PICTURE_OK HEADER_OK 0 2 %%>
UNITED STATES - AUGUST 14: Army National Guard Capt. Ben Summers and girlfriend Elizabeth Booher kiss as they join dozens of couples in Times Square for a group kiss on the anniversary of the end of World War 2. Summers, an Afghanistan War veteran, also proposed to his lady friend as the couples mimicked the famous shot, captured by photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt, of a sailor kissing a nurse on Broadway on V-J Day, 62 years ago. (Photo by Michael Appleton/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO, CA – September 7, 2008 : Per and Dorene Piencka, (CQ) of Norwalk, CT, make a kissing pose for their scrapbook next to J. Seward Johnson's sculpture 'Unconditional Surrender' next to the USS Midway Aircraft Carrier at the San Diego Embarkadero. Unconditional Surrender, which is 25 feet high and weighs 6,000 pounds, is a three–dimensional interpretation of a photo taken by Alfred Eisenstaedt of a Sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square, New York City on Aug. 14, 1945, following the announcement of V–J Day. TheEmbarcadero is a popular scenic section of waterfront located next to the downtown area. It has sweeping views of San Diego Bay and many tourist attractions. (Photo by Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
A couple kisses beneath "Embracing Peace", a 25-foot-tall sculpture by Seward Johnson, Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015, in New York's Times Square. The sculpture is inspired by Alfred Eisenstaedt's iconic photo of a sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square on V-J Day. Aug. 14, 1945, was the day fighting with Japan ended. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
UNITED STATES - AUGUST 14: Gredorieo Smith and Berity Rees (right), a couple on lunch break, join dozens of other couples in Times Square for a group kiss on the anniversary of the end of World War 2. The couples mimicked the famous shot, captured by photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt, of a sailor kissing a nurse on Broadway on V-J Day, 62 years ago. (Photo by Michael Appleton/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
Edith Shain, foreground right, the nurse in the famous photograph taken by Alfred Eisenstaedt of a sailor kissing a nurse in New York's Times Square on V-J Day, tries to imitate the photo's embrace with Nick Mayo, foreground left, a member of the cast of the musical South Pacific as they pose with other South Pacific cast members at the Vivian Beaumont Theater in New York, Sunday Nov. 9, 2008. Shain, 90, is in New York to serve as the grand marshal of the 2008 New York City Veterans Day parade. (AP Photo/Tina Fineberg)
People speak next to a famous photograph taken by Alfred Eisenstaedt of a sailor kissing a nurse in New York's Times Square on V-J Day, right, as they visit the exhibition of German-American "Life" magazine photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt at Moscow's Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, April 14, 2015. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
The June 17, 1996, issue of The New Yorker magazine, with a cover showing two male sailors locked in a passionate kiss in Times Square, went on sale Monday, June 10, 1996. The provocative sketch is a lampoon of the famous Life magazine photograph by Alfred Eisenstaedt, who shot a euphoric World War II sailor kissing a nurse in the square on V-J Day. (AP Photo)
Imtiaz Zainule, right, of New York, looks up as he poses for a picture with Nicole Dhillon, of New York, under the sculpture "Unconditional Surrender," on Friday, May 21, 2010 in San Diego. The sculpture, by J. Seward Johnson, commemorates the iconic image by photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt of a sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square on Aug. 14, 1945, during the celebration to mark V-J Day, the end of World War II. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
NEW YORK - AUGUST 14: Carl Muscarello and Edith Shain, who claim to be the nurse and sailor in the famous photograph taken on V-J Day, kiss next to a sculpture based on the photograph in Times Square to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II August 14, 2005 in New York City. Alfred Eisenstaedt took the famous photograph in Times Square but did not note the names of the people in the picture. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
The statue entitled Unconditional Surrender stands tall in the parkway along the waterfront Monday, Feb. 13, 2012 in San Diego. The statue, which was modeled after a photograph by Alfred Eisenstaedt taken in Times Square on V-J Day at the end of World War II, is schedule to be moved at the end of the month. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)
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The controversy has been blown wide-open once again because Mendonsa and Friedman's story couldn't have happened at the time they said it did, according to Texas State physicist Donald Olsen and his two colleagues, Russell Doescher, an astrophysicist at Texas State, and Steven D. Kawaler, an astrophysicist at Iowa State University.

The three scientists pointed out a flaw in the story when they sought to answer another question about this iconic photo that few people think to ask: What time of day Eisenstaedt took the photo.

Olsen scrutinized the length and angle of the various shadows of people and buildings in the photo to help him get an idea of the time of day. He also built scale models of some of the buildings in Time Square back in 1945 based from measurements he found in old maps and blueprints of the square, as well as aerial photos to determine the time, once and for all.

But what ultimately clinched it was the length of the shadow on a clock in the photo. The shadow, Olsen realized, was generated by a sign above the clock. By calculating the distance between the clock and sign, he determined the location of the sun in the sky, which then gave him the time of day.

After four years working on this project, Olsen and the team announced beyond any doubt that the famous kiss happened at 5:51 p.m. According to Wired, you can read a report of their findings in the upcoming August issue of Sky and Telescope Magazine.

The problem is that Mendonsa and Friedman's story place their kiss at around 2:00 p.m. Mendonsa said that the kiss happened shortly after he left a movie at 1:05 p.m. and Friedman said that she was on a late lunch break.

While the two purported kissers might just be misremembering the time of day — after all it happened nearly 70 years ago — Olsen's study brings their story and subsequent claims of being the famous sailor and nurse into question.

Although he's solved the time of day, Olsen told Wired that he still hasn't a clue as to the identity of the people in the photo. That mystery is one that will have to remain unsolved, for now.

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