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Boise man’s infrared photos show alien side of Idaho landscape

Infrared photos taken by L. Paul Verhage via weather balloon show an alien side of Idaho’s landscape. This photo was taken at 38,000 feet.
Infrared photos taken by L. Paul Verhage via weather balloon show an alien side of Idaho’s landscape. This photo was taken at 38,000 feet.

Idaho's Craters of the Moon is famous for its lunar landscape, which visitors often describe as feeling completely alien. But that's not the only part of the Gem State with an out-of-this-world vibe.

Photos taken tens of thousands of feet about the Treasure Valley show a foreign landscape wrinkled with mountain ridges that at times resembles the surface of the moon.

The photos were taken by L. Paul Verhage, whose group NearSys "is looking for ways to launch more experiments for Idaho students into near space," he said.

According to Verhage, who works at the Treasure Valley Math and Science Center, the photos were taken Saturday on an infrared camera attached to a weather balloon. He said he designed a balloon satellite to take the images, which you can view on his website.

"It also flew a thermal imager, the first time an amateur scientist has done that," said Verhage.

Verhage, who calls himself "a near space evangelist" due to his speaking and writing on the topic, explained what makes the high-altitude photos so eerily otherworldly.

"In the images you'll notice that Lake Lowell appears black because it does not reflect infrared," he said. "Infrared can penetrate haze and this gives the ground images a much sharper contrast. Also, you will notice that images of the horizon show a black sky. This is because the atmosphere scatters blue light but does not scatter infrared."

Nicole Blanchard: 208-377-6410, @NMBlanchard

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