Time lapse: Under the Namibian Sky

By Phil Plait | April 12, 2012 12:00 pm

Oh, how I love time lapse video of the sky! I always peer closely, trying to recognize stars, constellations, galaxies, and other land(sky?)marks. This is more of a challenge for me when the view shows the southern sky, but it’s a whole lot easier when the videographer annotates the video itself… as in this breathtaking video called Under the Namibian Sky:

[Set it to HD and make it full screen for the full effect.]

The video is 13 minutes long, so I won’t blame you for scrolling through it. But there’s a lot to see, and most of it is labeled for you!

Namibia is located at about 20° south latitude, so for us northerners there are some odd things, most especially the Sun setting from right to left! Up here, when you face south and/or west, the Sun moves from left to right. But when you’re upside down, things are backwards.

… or even upside-down, as the video helpfully notes when Orion comes into view. That always gets me (I saw it for myself when I visited Australia a few years ago, and it truly freaked me out). Some other things to note: keep your eyes open at the 7:20 mark for a meteor with a persistent train, and for the repeated sight of the Small and Large Magellanic Clouds (labeled SMC and LMC in the video): dwarf companion galaxies to our Milky Way.

This really makes me long for another visit down below the equator. I have no idea when or even if that might happen again, but if it does, I’ll make sure I have their skies firmly planted in my brain. Simply viewing the heavens is a wonderful experience, but knowing what you’re seeing adds a whole dimension to it. I think understanding is always an added benefit while experiencing.

Tip o’ the lens cap to LRTimelapse on G+.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Pretty pictures
MORE ABOUT: LMC, Namibia, Orion, SMC, time lapse

Comments (11)

  1. I did some exploring in Namibia when I was in South Africa with the Peace Corps. Beautiful, stark, empty place. Well worth a visit.

  2. DrFlimmer

    Ah, Namibia. I am so much looking forward for my second visit down there later this year! It’s going to be awesome!

  3. NAW

    Wow, that is really great. More so for those of us that have never even seen the ‘southern’ sky.

  4. Messier Tidy Upper

    Ah, the sky looks familiar to this Aussie! ;-)

    Even if it is 15 degrees further south than Adelaide.

    Super-minor pedantic nitpicks – the “south pole” marked at 2 minutes 30 secs or so is really the south celestial pole – not the geographic one or even the magnetic south pole both of which are located in Antartica on the ground ice! Oh & Orion isn’t upside down – it’s the right way up! ;-)

  5. Messier Tidy Upper

    Marvellous video. :-)

    I like the way he waits a little while before the labels appear giving you a chance to guess first.

    (Oops, sorry, double post by error, might as well use it if I can’t delete it.)

  6. You’re always welcome down here mate!
    Come for a visit to NZ, it’s similar to Australia, but with less that can kill you and more hobbits.

    Always room for another astronomer :)

  7. Atheist Panda

    Superb, had to watch the whole thing without skipping…..
    AP :)

  8. Jonathan

    What a great video. I too watched it all the way through and was just doing so for the second time when I noticed something moving slowly and steadily just below and to the left of centre at 9:50 – 9:52. According to the clock it’s in the sky for at least 20 minutes. Any ideas? Not the ISS surely?

  9. Herschel's back garden

    The thing about Orion is that you initially think it is “the right way up”. The pattern of the seven main stars has approximate rotational symmetry. So when you travel across the Equator it’s the only constellation that looks the same way up as it did wherever you came from. Until you realise that the sword is pointing the other way. Every other constellation looks unfamiliar straight away.

    I still remember the surprise when I saw an “upside-down” (to me) moon in Melbourne even though I had known about the effect for over thirty years.

  10. Pedr

    Magnificent…from UK, recently back from 1st experience of S H’sphere sky in NZ in November: I had read about the sun setting the ‘wrong’ way, but hadn’t expected the moon to be moving the wrong way too. Still haven’t quite got my head round that one, but that’s what my photos show!
    Took photos of LMC and SMC without realising how special they were – just noticed they really weren’t familiar. Off to Namibia soon – now I won’t know whether to stay awake for the stars or for the animals!

  11. Denise

    Love this video, what is this called??? Where can I find this on the internet? What’s the name of what your looking at? I’ve seen ther people use this, I keep looking up like- the sky, or space real time, and can’t find it. I’m hoping they have a app on iPad. Thanks so much!!! Loved it!! Beautiful!!! Denise

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