Tahoe galaxy

By Phil Plait | December 23, 2010 10:56 am

I never get tired of time-lapse videos of the sky. Here’s a lovely one, taken in September by photographer Justin Majeczsky, showing the Milky Way rising over Lake Tahoe in the western US:

Cooool. Things like this make it a whole lot easier to grasp that we live inside the disk of a spiral galaxy. From our vantage point 25,000 light years or so out, you can see the central bulge of the galaxy moving across the sky. That’s the combined might of billions of stars and octillions of tons of gas and dust!

If you pause the video four or five seconds in and look to the upper left corner, you can see the stars making up the constellation of Sagittarius. They make a teapot shape! [You can check a map I recently posted of that area of the sky as well; the Teapot is just below and to the left of the Sun’s labeled position on the map.] It looks like the Milky Way is steam coming from the spout, too, in one of my favorite and funniest coincidences in the sky.

High-end digital cameras are common enough now that high-resolution videos like this are relatively easy to make — even moderate cameras can do a great job getting sky shots. I think that’s fantastic, since it makes what is essentially naked-eye astronomy so much more accessible! You don’t need a fancy telescope or even binoculars to be amazed by the sky.

Tip o’ the lens cap to my pal Erin McCarthy.

Related posts:

Amazing wide-angle time lapse night sky video
Awesome time lapse video: Rapture
Mesmerizing Perseid time-lapse video
Ten Things You Don’t Know About the Milky Way

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff, Pretty pictures

Comments (19)

Links to this Post

  1. Een nachtje bij Lake Tahoe in de VS | Astroblogs | December 23, 2010
  2. Primordial Ooze : Tahoe Galaxy | December 24, 2010
  3. Milky Way over Lake Tahoe | InBeta | December 25, 2010
  1. nuke3d

    A few of the dots are standing still, are those geostationary satellites? (two of them near the left border of the frame)

  2. Aaron

    I don’t see any stationary dots, but I believe that the really bright spot in the top right corner of the last few frames is Jupiter, and it looks like Fomalhaut makes a big entrance from the left at 0:19.
    Fantastic stuff!

  3. I like to turn my head sideways and watch these videos….for some reason seeing the horizon vertically really gives the impression of being on the surface of a planet spinning through space!

    Plus it makes me look like a kook. bwa ha ha

  4. BJN

    Too bad about that massive orange glow that’s Reno, and the excessive amount of light in the development around Lake Tahoe.

  5. Matt B.

    Um, I would call that setting, not rising.

    @ #3. J. Major. Try turning your head only about 40 degrees, so that your head’s axis parallels the Earth’s.

  6. jearley

    #5: I agree. Tahoe was pretty dark when I was a kid, some fifty years ago.

  7. Are the occasional streaks in the sky objects entering the atmosphere or aircraft passing overhead?

  8. Kevin

    I’ve been wanting to do this, but don’t have dark enough skies. Or patience. Or software. I’ve got the camera equipment, that’s no problem.

  9. Tribeca Mike

    Justin Majeczsky’s video is wicked cool. Reminds me of nights spent camping out with pals in the mountains of southern Arizona, sipping hornitos and pondering the eternal vagaries. Very vague and vast vagaries of voluminous variety.

  10. Naomi

    You know the weirdest thing I love about this? This demonstrates REALLY nicely that the stars are already there when the sun sets. You don’t really tend to think about it that much – if you’re a layperson, it’s easy to assume that there’s no stars in the sky during the day. This shows nicely that, yeah, they’re there, you just need to turn down the sun a bit!

  11. Messier Tidy Upper

    Great videoclip there – thanks Justin Majeczsky & the BA. :-)

    Although that headline had me wondering which Messier or NGC galaxy went by that “Tahoe galaxy” nickname & why & what a ‘Tahoe’ was anyhow! A mis-spelling for “taco” perhaps? 😉

    @ ^ Naomi : .. if you’re a layperson, it’s easy to assume that there’s no stars in the sky during the day.”

    [Pedant on] I guess if you’re a layperson its easy to forget our Sun is just the very nearest and – in apparent magnitude terms – brightest star in the sky too![/pedant off.] 😉

    As it happens otherwise I completely agree. :-)

    PS. Wishing y’all a very merry Christmas, marvellous happy Hannukkah and joyeux Sol Invictus – or just a great holiday whatever religious or non-religious festival is your pleasure! :-)

  12. Messier Tidy Upper

    Meanwhile in other news that might just possibly be of interest from Alniyat Tau Scorpii :


    Off topic but fascinating IMHON anyhow.

    More info on this star here :


    via Kaler’s ‘Stars’ site although uptodate with thatlatest unsurprisingly & also via Kaler :


    This photographic map of the “teapot” stars. Enjoy! (I hope.) :-)

  13. Messier Tidy Upper

    D’oh! Typos. Sorry.

    That’s Hanukkah with one ‘n’ not two – otherwise romanized as Chanukah or Chanuka. (Source : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hannukkah )

    Also that’s meant to be :

    .. via Kaler’s ’Stars’ site although NOT yet up to date with that latest news unsurprisingly.

    & for those wondering about Sol Invictus :


    has the goodies there. :-)

  14. nuke3d

    You need to watch it in HD to see the fixed dots. Look to the left.

  15. Jamie

    You know the fixed dots could also just be dust on the lens.

  16. Kevin

    @15 nuke3d… I watched in HD full screen, and I did see the dots. Those are hot pixels on the sensor of the camera. They are normally removed in post-processing. However, if you read the photographers comments, the frames are straight from the camera, and have not been processed (except to make the video)

    @16. Jamie… dust on the lens would not show up as pinpoints of light. They would actually be dark, and out of focus. Same as dust on the sensor. But since the photographer said he shot at a wide-open aperture, none of that would show up anyway.


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