Time lapse video: from North Carolina to the galactic center

By Phil Plait | June 15, 2011 10:02 am

I’ve never been to the outer banks of North Carolina, but I know it gets pretty dark there. The nearest big towns are miles away, and that means very little light pollution and very dark skies. Couple that with a time lapse camera and a solid sense of drama, and you can get a beautiful and surreal video, like this one made by Daniel Lowe:

[Make sure you set it to HD and make it full screen!]

Very nice! There are several parts I like in particular, like the lighthouse at 2:50, and what looks like a fire raging on the horizon at 2:10.

One thing that’s really cool about all these time lapse videos is the use of a rail that allows the camera to slowly move, strongly accenting the ethereal, dreamlike nature of the shots. One thing Daniel did that I like is to set the pan motion to move left-to-right, so that it roughly tracks the stars’ motion across the sky. The stars move in an arc, while the camera moves linearly, but it still sets up the shot such that some stars are nearly motionless in the frame. [UPDATE (July 26, 2011): Daniel has posted an article on how this video was made.]

The star (haha) of this show is the Milky Way itself; the bulge of the center of our spiral galaxy looming large. The constellation of Scorpius, the scorpion, is also featured. The very bright orange star you can see to the right of the Milky Way bulge is Antares, a red supergiant. It’s one of the brightest stars in the sky, and one day will explode. When it does, it will outshine the full Moon! Too bad we’ll have to wait a few hundred thousand years to see that…

Tip o’ the North Carolina BBQ sauce bottle to Bobby Nichols.

Related posts:

Gorgeous Milky Way Time Lapse
Very Large Telescope, Very Stunning Time Lapse Video
Incredibly, impossibly beautiful time lapse video
Dust, from the desert below to the galaxy above
Stunning winter sky timelapse video: Sub Zero
OK, because I like y’all: bonus aurora timelapse video
AWESOME timelapse video: Rapture


Comments (26)

  1. Patrick

    Maybe it’s time to make a separate blog for these?

  2. Monkey Hybrid

    @Patrick: Why? It’s all good stuff isn’t it?

  3. Keith Bowden

    I love these time lapse vids. ūüėÄ

  4. I’m from NC and a couple of years ago went camping out near Cape Hatteras on the Outer Banks with my father. One of the nights we were out there I woke up in the middle of the night to relieve myself and crawling out of the tent, I looked up and stopped in my tracks, just awed by the clarity of the sky. I hadn’t been camping in several years, and have lived in cities where it’s hard enough to see anything dimmer than Orion and was completely blown away, because the sight of a clear sky and the well defined Milky Way just really doesn’t carry over in memory. It’s definitely one of the best experiences I’ve had while camping.

  5. Bobbar

    Wow! That is right were I’m staying for vacation in a few days! OBX rules.

  6. Speaking of timelapses, check out this one!
    “We don‚Äôt always have the time or ability to see the Moon every night of the year, but this video, from the Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio, uses data from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and compresses one month into 12 seconds and one year into 2.5 minutes.”

  7. Bobbar

    Another thing that is interesting about the light-house: That light (Cape Hatteras Light) is not on constantly, it only flashes once every 7.5 seconds so he must have synced his exposures to match the lights signature pattern to achieve that effect.

  8. outer_banks_fan

    The “flash” is actually a rotating beacon with two lamps, not a single lamp turning on and off.

    OBX … one of my favoritest places on earth!

  9. Oh wow. I’ve been to OBX dozens of times over the last 50 years, and climbed that lighthouse in both its locations. This is not only beautiful, but nostalgic. Reminds me of my father and the good times we had.

  10. That was awesome. Loved the music too. Brings the video more to life.

  11. Brian Singh

    If you own the Inception soundtrack, do yourself a favor and mute the music in the video and listen to “Time” from the Inception soundtrack while the video plays.

  12. Zoey

    I go camping in the Outer Banks every year, and it does indeed get this dark. You should try to make time to visit there, because it is more than worth it.
    (Oh, and for people in the 22-30 demographic, I recommend muting the video and playing the opening track of the Ecco 2 OST.)

  13. jojodancingbear

    I live in Kinston, NC which is about an hour from the coast. I have been there many times and go every year for a week and the view is awesome. That is a wildfire that has been burning in Dare County, and it has been smoking us out every time the wind blows south. That is a great video. Thanks for posting it.

  14. Evan

    Coming from someone who has lived in Eastern, NC their entire life, and lives not 15 minutes from the beach, and only a few hours from the OBX, NC is without a doubt one of the most beautiful states in this great country.

    Everyone should visit the Outer Banks at one time or another in their lives!

  15. Andy I

    Why can’t we see this when we look up? And what do astronauts see when they look away from the earth , towards the MW, when shadowed by the earth? I’ve been trained by Star Trek that all you see are a few stars passing by–shouldn’t they see the galaxy looming large?

  16. Hmmm…I’m thinking if you turned the audio off and played Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon instead…

    Ahhh, pardon me for a minute or two while I get cosmic.

  17. Mike

    Am I the only one who thinks this is a fake? The stars seem to be moving too quickly compared to clouds and cars. The faintest lights of the Milky Way seem to be visible on cloudy evenings. I think he’s superimposed live footage over NASA pics.

    It’s still beautiful, though

  18. Brian Schlosser

    Been going to the Outer Banks since 1985… absolutely my favorite place on earth. Last trip, in October, I saw the Andromeda galaxy with my bare eyes for the first time…

  19. Thank you so much for featuring my work! This was shot over 90 days, it was massive effort to stay up many nights in a row during the new moon.

    If you think this is “fake” or CGI, go to my Flickr feed and “view EXIF info”:

    There’s nothing fake here, people, the only thing added was the credits and music!

    This film was made from about 15,000 still photos over 45 nights. If you ask me, I’ll show you every single one of those 15,000 photos!

    Thanks again for your support, this has been a very exciting week for me.


  20. Chris

    > Why can’t we see this when we look up?

    Notice the oblong stars in some of the shots, particularly the stars further away from the North Star (the axis of movement, because the Earth is rotating). The camera takes a long exposure — so long that the apparent motion of the stars is visible.

    The camera captures much more light for one second of video than your eyes take in for one second of viewing. The result is that you can see a lot more detail in the camera shot.

    BTW, I love this. Bet it goes viral — if it hasn’t already.

  21. If you want to read the Behind the Scenes article on the Making Of “Night Motion Timelapse:Outer Banks”; here is the same article I wrote for Planet5D, this link is on my website



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