Time lapse: Helvetia’s Dream

By Phil Plait | November 6, 2012 2:19 pm

Oh my, another lovely night sky (and landscape!) time lapse video; this time from Alessandro Della Bella, and called Helvetia’s Dream:

[Make sure you set it to hi-def and make it full screen.]

I love the opening shot! Unless it was just digitally zoomed, it must have taken some planning; you have to know just where the Moon is going to rise to catch it that accurately.

A couple of other things to watch for, too:

At about 45 seconds in, a bright meteor leaves a long persistent train, a glowing trail that gets blown away by the thin but rapid winds 100 kilometers above the Earth’s surface. I actually gasped when I saw that!

At 1:30 you see the stars of Orion setting behind the Matterhorn, zoomed in. The big bright pink blob is the famed Orion Nebula, but just above it is the star Alnitak with a bit of nebulosity around it; the bright patch is the Flame nebula, and barely visible is the much fainter but iconic Horsehead Nebula.

I also love how the clouds – more like fog – flow through the valley. The study of how things flow is called hydrodynamics, and physicists use the word "fluid" to describe the stuff that’s flowing. In common vernacular that means liquid ("Have you been drinking enough fluids?") but in science air is a fluid. So is the thin gas in a nebula, since it can carry sound waves and be shaped by supersonic flow.

Whenever a doctor asks me if I’ve been taking my fluids, I always want to respond, "WHAT? And ionize my cardiovascular system?!"

I’ve never had the guts.

Anyway, one more thing: the Moon setting at the end is actually not full! The long exposure times makes it look that way, but when it nears the horizon you can see it’s really a thin crescent, but the dark part of the Moon is being illuminated by Earthshine: light from the Earth itself softly illuminating the nighttime moonscape, which is then reflected back to us.

There’s poetry in the heavens, if you know where to look.

Tip o’ the lens cap to MichaelPeterson on Twitter.

Related Posts:

The twice reflected Moon light
A meteor’s lingering tale
A new old view of an old friend
Time lapse: Close to the Heavens

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff, Pretty pictures
MORE ABOUT: time lapse

Comments (8)

  1. Gary Ansorge


    This reminds me why I like humans…such good eyes…

    Gary 7

  2. Sweet! I like the music. Anyone know what it is?
    At 0:47 it looks like there’s a meteor with a persistent train, but it’s probably just an airplane ūüėõ

  3. D’oh. I should learn to read more carefully!

  4. jcm

    I read “Helvetia‚Äôs Dream” as “Helvetica’s Dream”.

  5. Crudely Wrott

    Whoa! Let me catch my breath!

    Phil, that’s got to be the very best time lapse you have ever posted. That meteor with its trail of ionized gas being whisked into subtle curves, the star trails, the clouds flowing like rivers and the music.

    I tell you, my eyes are wet and misty simply for the beauty of it all.

    We live in such a wonderous world, floating among the jewels of the sky.

    Just WOW!

    Plez, can haz moar?

  6. Having the moon come up like in the start sequence isn’t so difficult, is requires a bit of planning (and probably the right software, which makes the task much easier). Software like TPE together with something like Stellarium gives you all the information needed. You need good weather than. I did something similiar with the moon and the Reykjavik skyline: https://vimeo.com/49693471 (single composite image can be seen here: http://images.nikonians.org/galleries/data/11958/Reykjavik_8_monde.jpg).



  7. @jcm: Heh. I’ll bet it had quite an Impact.

  8. MR

    Awesome! Really highlights the privileged view many astronomers have on our universe. Even onto our our cities makes a neat view for an observatory. I don’t mean to sound jealous; I have never met an astronomer who didn’t want to share their inspiration with other people.


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