Dust, from the desert below to the galaxy above

By Phil Plait | April 17, 2011 6:52 am

I’ve been posting some amazing time lapse videos of the night sky here lately, and I’ve been trying to set the bar pretty high. I like all the ones I’ve seen, but they have to have something special, something that sets them apart, for me to embed them here.

This one does just that. Earlier this month, photographer Terje Sorgjerd went to Mt. Teide in the Canary Islands to photograph the sky. He was upset when a Saharan sandstorm blew across the sky, ruining his video… or so he thought. What really happened was magic. Pay attention 30 seconds in to see the stunning results*:

Simply breathtaking. The dust blows overhead, glowing golden as it’s illuminated from below by city lights, while above and beyond the Milky Way itself ponderously looms into view.

As the galaxy shows itself, look at the dark lane bisecting it. Feathery and ethereal, those dark fingers and tendrils are actually vast complexes of dust, long chains of carbon-based molecules floating in between the stars. Created when stars are born, age, and die, this dust litters the plane of the galaxy. Seen edge-on, it absorbs and blocks the light from stars behind it, creating the dark fog cutting across the breadth of our spiral galaxy.

There’s a poetry here; dust from a local storm blowing a few kilometers above, but translucent enough to allow us to see beyond it to a different kind of dust blowing among the stars.

Tip o’ the lens cap to Terje himself, who posts on reddit.


* If the embed or link doesn’t work for you, Terje also uploaded it to YouTube. Make sure you set the resolution to 720p to get the full experience!


Related posts:

Stunning winter sky timelapse video: Sub Zero
OK, because I like y’all: bonus aurora timelapse video
Sidereal Motion
Amazing wide-angle time lapse night sky video
AWESOME timelapse video: Rapture

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff, Pretty pictures
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