Down Under Milky Way time lapse

By Phil Plait | July 5, 2011 12:30 pm

As something of a palate-cleanser — along the lines of Boing Boing’s famous unicorn chasers — here is a magnificent time lapse video of the sky over Australia: Ocean Sky by Alex Cherney:

Due to the tilt of the Earth and geometry of the Sun-Earth-galaxy alignment, the Milky Way only gets high in the sky if you’re south of the Equator, and can set parallel to the horizon as seen in these shots. When I was in Australia many years ago I didn’t get a good look at it, and one day I swear I’ll be there on a clear night with it near the zenith. Sigh.

My favorite part of this video is at 2:15, when the clouds clear and Orion booms into view… upside down, as far as my northern hemisphere bias sees it. That really freaked me out when I was down there. Of course, it’s always good to get your complacent view shaken sometimes.

Tip o’ the Mintie to Wired Science.

Related posts:

Time lapse video: from North Carolina to the galactic center
Gorgeous Milky Way Time Lapse
Incredibly, impossibly beautiful time lapse video
Dust, from the desert below to the galaxy above
OK, because I like y’all: bonus aurora timelapse video
AWESOME timelapse video: Rapture

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Pretty pictures

Comments (25)

  1. Sam H

    The thing I love about these is seeing how the sky stays constant and prevailing – even when the clouds roll in – as everything else rapidly changes before it. With footage like this it doesn’t take much to REALLY imagine that our planet ISN’T constant, and REALLY IS hurtling through space. And THAT is just AWESOME.

    Besides that, it’s nice to see everyone’s moving on from Rebeccagate (despite the nearly 200 comments on the relevant post)!! :)

  2. HhEb09'1

    I don’t understand the comment about the Milky Way never getting high in the sky in the Northern hemisphere. In what sense is that?

  3. Jason

    These kinds of videos are awesome, and I have tried my hand a time or two at doing a timelapse. Right now i just don’t have a wide enough angle lens or open enough sky to get this. Well that and a clock drive would be helpful in some cases. But It is fun to try.

    I wonder what F-stop an shutter he used?

  4. Orion upside-down – how do the flat-earthers explain that?

  5. truthspeaker

    HhEb09’1 Says:
    July 5th, 2011 at 12:55 pm

    I don’t understand the comment about the Milky Way never getting high in the sky in the Northern hemisphere. In what sense is that?

    Me neither. I live in the Northern hemisphere and the Milky Way is almost directly overhead.

  6. Hey, since this seems like basically an open thread I got a question. I understand that something like 2 to 4 refrigerator to minibus sized objects burn up in the earth’s upper atmosphere each year, and of course the numbers go up exponentially as the objects get smaller.

    So why don’t we frequently see noticeable impacts with the moon or Mars? I believe the moon’s diameter is about 1/4 that of earth so it ought to get whacked by pretty big things about once a year or so. Some of them will hit the far side but still . . . and Mars has about 1/2 earth’s diameter IIRC and its atmosphere is too thin to annihilate a bowling ball, no? Shouldn’t we be seeing some action?

    I remember some crank had a theory that the earth was constantly being bombarded by small comets, based on frequent dots in satellite images of the upper atmosphere, and this was actually controversial for a while. I was thinking, “Hey, that’s obviously ridiculous because they’d be raining down on the moon too.” But nobody seemed to pick up on this point.

    Just askin’.

  7. hhEb09'1

    Maybe a certain part of the Milky Way? Or the Magellanic Clouds?

  8. Ditto earlier comments… of course the Milky Way spans the sky, from about 65 degrees north to 65 degrees south, and if you are anywhere in the temperate or tropical zones on Earth it passes directly overhead twice a day!

    So the only thing I can think is that he must mean the galactic center. And it’s true; the heart of the Milky Way is in Sagittarius and Scorpio, and here in Boston never gets more than about 25 degrees from the horizon.

  9. Gavin Flower

    Your video insists that I install Adobe’s Flash Player, or have a browser that supports native H.264 support.

    I have Firefox 5.0 with Adobe’s Flash Player that works for most sites.

    Note that H.264 is riddled with patent complications, which could lead to expensive legal problems – so is best avoided.
    Problems with H.264/AVC/MPEG-4
    While the MPEG LA announced that H.264 encoded internet video is free for end users to watch, people still have to pay large fees to create software that either encodes or decodes using the H.264 family of codecs. So the H.264 is not appropriate to be used in software under the General Public Licence (GPLv2 & GPLv3 – note that the Linux kernel uses the GPLv2 Licence), nor is it suitable for any software developed by people with limited budgets

  10. Lenny

    Love these videos. All the clouds obscuring the view got me wondering if there are any good pictures floating about of the milky may taken from orbit where one could see both it and the earth.
    Found this beauty in a quick search
    anyone got any more in a similar vein that they could link for me? I would be grateful.

  11. Jon Hanford

    I think Phil’s referring to the central hub of the Milky Way in Sagittarius-Scorpius, in terms of it’s visibility in the Northern Hemisphere. The central Milky Way (Sag-Sco) can ONLY appear directly overhead in the Southern Hemisphere.

    @#7 cervantes:

    “So why don’t we frequently see noticeable impacts with the moon or Mars? I believe the moon’s diameter is about 1/4 that of earth so it ought to get whacked by pretty big things about once a year or so.”

    Impacts happen all the time, you just need to be looking at the right time (lunar meteor impacts are over in a flash, so to speak). There are books on how to catch lunar meteors:,+observations+and+techniques/book/978-1-4419-0323-5

  12. Mike

    Please comment on the Casey Anthony verdict.

  13. QuietDesperation

    I’m getting bored of time lapse videos. Should I be concerned? I think I’m concerned. :-(

  14. hhEb09'1

    That’s gotta be it! The parallel to the horizon thing threw me too.

  15. Naomi

    Ohh, so THAT’S what southern skies look like!

    …Hi, I’ve lived in Australia’s biggest city my entire life. Once day, I’ve gotta get out to the country.

  16. Naomi

    Phil! I’d love to see you feature this – It’s a map of the Milky Way, with magnitude and stellar classification accurately represented. And it’s really pretty!

  17. Melanie (Australia)

    Naomi – head for desert SA and look up. I swear you feel like you could touch the stars!

  18. On Orion being upside-down: I spent some time in extreme southern Chile in Nov’04 and managed to get out around 1AM under a perfectly clear sky, star maps in hand. Not only was Orion upside down, but I kept having to do 180’s on the book to read the names of individual stars (book published in England), making me extremely confused. A lovely night, though!
    But the creepiest thing of all was the last night we were there, moon was new, I saw it setting, and the horns were pointing in the wrong direction.

  19. DrFlimmer

    @ #19 Jonathan Lubin

    I had the same impressions last year, when I was in Namibia. Orion upside-down, the moon on its back and the sun shining from the north (which means the shadows were moving the other way around). Confusing, but simply awesome!
    I must go there, again!

  20. Cosmonut

    Just back from a long trip to New Zealand.

    Two months of seeing Orion upside down, Scorpio on its side, and the Milky Way slanting UP into the sky ! Can’t wait to go back again.

    (Forr anybody visiting there, you can’t beat Lake Tekapo on a clear moonless night for mind-blasting views of the Milky Way. Simply incredible)

  21. Quagmire

    I have dreams sometimes about going south and seeing strange, bright new constellations coming up over the horizon. One of the things I hope to do at some point in my life.

    That appears to be the moon setting in Virgo (?) at about 0:16. But what is the yellowish light source that becomes visible off to the right around 0:26 – 0:42?

  22. Messier Tidy Upper

    Thanks BA. Beautiful and, yes, a much needed “palate-cleanser” indeed. :-)

    @14. QuietDesperation : I’m not bored of them – and, yes I think you should be.

    @17. Naomi : Thanks for that! Very different & very clever. :-)

  23. Justin

    In some Australian Aboriginal cultures, the stars of Orion are also viewed as a hunter.

    Nice time lapse. You could even see the head and neck of the emu at around the 50 second mark. (The dark patches in the milky way form the head and body of an emu. You need good visibility to see it.)


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