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Ontario man's 2003 blackout photos gain international recognition and a spot at the Smithsonian


When Todd Carlson snapped a photo of the night sky during the August 2003 blackout, the Ontario man saw it as an opportunity to indulge in his passion, capturing something uniquely special, and it turns out he wasn't the only one to find the image impressive.

"I never thought it would become sort of famous photos, per se. They've been used in newspapers, magazines and textbooks around the world," Carlson said from his home observatory.

While living near Uxbridge, the now Burk's Falls resident took the photo of the light pollution-free night sky with a clear view of the milky way during the blackout.

"When the power went out, I thought, ok, this is going to be good. We can do some astronomy."

The next night, he took another photo of the sky for comparison.

Carlson recently learned his photo comparison would be featured in the Smithsonian Institution's upcoming exhibition, 'Lights Out: Recovering Our Night Sky.'

"Now that they're in the Smithsonian, it's like, that's on another level. I'll admit I'm kind of proud of that," Carlson said.

Light pollution obscures the stars over Goodwood, Ont. (L) compared to the clear view of the Milky Way taken during the northeast power blackout in August 2003 (R). (Photo Credit: Todd Carlson)

The stars have captivated Carlson's imagination for years, having once worked for an astronomy magazine.

Astronomy has now become a pastime he pursues with enthusiasm and pure joy.

"It's a hobby that you can go and look at night, and you don't need any money to do it," he said. "You can look up and see star clusters, galaxies. You can see Jupiter and Venus."

Carlson finds the mysteries of the universe captivating.

"If you look at Jupiter tonight with the naked eye, it's nine-hundred-million kilometres away, but it takes a few minutes for that light to reflect back off, so you're seeing the past. You're seeing things as they were," he explained.

The Smithsonian exhibition opens on March 23 and runs through the end of 2025.

CTV Barrie's news anchor Sarah Freemark discusses the story further on News Channel's This Hour with Angie Seth. Top Stories

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