Tag: Mark Ellis

Transit on the Midnight Sun

By Phil Plait | June 20, 2012 10:00 am

Because why not, I have two more Venus Transit shots to show you. Well, one picture and one quick time lapse video. I know it’s been a couple of weeks since the transit, but since today is the solstice, what the heck. And these are really special.

The first is a picture taken by friend-of-the-blog Babak Tafreshi, who founded and directs the wonderful project The World at Night, which shows people how lovely our skies are. He took several shots of the transit from Norway and put them together into this gorgeous composite photo:

[Click to ensolarnate, and you really need to; I had to shrink it quite a bit to fit the width of the blog.]

I love this shot, because…. he took it at midnight! From northern Norway in June the Sun doesn’t set; it skims the horizon at midnight, circling nearly parallel to it for a time. This coincided with the transit, making this one of the single most interesting sequences of the transit I’ve seen. I also like how the Sun went behind a hill there on the right, with Venus and a sunspot still peeking over the edge. Babak says he’s working on a time lapse video of the event too. [This picture was also on today’s APOD.]

Speaking of which, the second transit shot is a time lapse video sent to me by Mark Ellis (who took the pink aurora picture I posted yesterday). He took this sequence in Minneapolis as Venus crossed the Sun’s face:

Short, but neat! I also like the music; it was written by Mark’s son Ryan. It fits the feel of the video very well.

I love these time lapse videos of the transit. The Sun is setting due to the Earth spinning on its axis, and Venus transiting the Sun due to its orbital geometry combined with our own. I like to picture all that motion in my head as I watch Venus silhouetted on the setting Sun, imagining myself affixed to a spinning world whirling around a star with other attendant worlds, all of us in a constant and complicated dance, moving to the tune of gravity.

How wonderful it is that we can understand and appreciate this celestial clockwork!

Image credit: Babak Tafreshi/Dreamview.net/TWaN

Related Posts:

The June 2012 Transit of Venus Gallery
Astronomer’s paradise (and Making "Astronomer’s Paradise")
How could I NOT post this Venus transit picture?
Sic Transit, Glorious

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff, Pretty pictures

Followup: More pink aurorae

By Phil Plait | June 19, 2012 10:46 am

I’ve been seeing more shots of the pink aurora from a couple of days ago, and they are all really pretty! I love pink; it’s why I got a phone cover that color.

Photographer Mark Ellis captured the magnificent magenta magnetic maelstrom from northern Minnesota, and made a lovely time lapse video of it:

Here’s a photo he took that is actually part of the time lapse:

[Click to embiggen.]

Aurorae are formed when subatomic particles from the Sun slam into our atmosphere. Note the streamers; those are caused by the varying strength and direction of the Earth’s magnetic field as it channels the particles down. As I describe in the earlier article, the colors are from different types of atoms and molecules in the air. Oxygen atoms glow red and green, sodium atoms yellow, and nitrogen molecules produce red and blue-violet. The nitrogen colors can blend and form pink or magenta, which is what we’re seeing here. Mark got more green in his aurora than Brad Goldpaint did in his, but Brad was in Oregon, thousands of kilometers west of Mark, and so he was seeing different effects from the solar storm.

I suspect things will quiet down a bit now; the sunspot that unleashed this storm is being carried around to the other side of the Sun as our star rotates, and it’ll soon disappear from view [UPDATE: SDO posted a video of the sunspot rotating out of view.] But as always, the Sun is feisty, and another may appear any day. SpaceWeather.com always has the latest info, so check there for updates and keep alert for more aurorae!

Image credit: Mark Ellis, used by permission

Related Posts:

Aurora, in the pink
More photos and videos by Mark Ellis:
Paradise, above and below
Faith and begaurora
Superb time lapse: "My Soul"

Paradise above and below

By Phil Plait | March 18, 2012 12:59 pm

Speaking of Mark Ellis, he also sent me this ethereal, unearthly photo he took of the conjunction of Venus and Jupiter as he was on a beach in Maui:

[Click to enappulsenate.]

I love how the clouds are smeared out a bit, but the stars — and planets! — are solid and sharp. Venus and Jupiter are pulling apart now, but it’s still worth taking a look over the next few days. They’re still well over the horizon for most people even when the sky is full-on dark, and Venus is so bright it’s almost unbelievable.

Related Posts:

Pic of pairs of planets and people
Jupiter and Venus still blaze in the west
Venus and the Moon, looking pretty
The Moon and Venus, a gorgeous pair

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Pretty pictures

Faith and begaurora

By Phil Plait | March 18, 2012 7:00 am

Yesterday was St. Patrick’s Day, a holiday in the US traditionally celebrated by wearing green and drinking too much. In that spirit, how about a nice, soothing time lapse video of green aurora?

This video was made by Mark Ellis (who did the wonderful "My Soul" time lapse video I put up a while back) on a freezing cold night in northern Minnesota after the big March 7 solar foofooraw.

Some of the spinning scenes of stars may not qualm the upset tummies out there post-festivities, but it probably also doesn’t help to think of the vast energies and quantum mechanics playing out over your head every day as our whirling planet geodynamically interacts with the wind from the Sun screaming across the solar system at million of kilometers per hour, either.

Related Posts:

HD footage of last night’s flare
The Sun unleashes an X5.4 class flare
Holy aurora
Real time footage of aurora shows them dancing and shimmering

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Pretty pictures

Superb time lapse: "My Soul"

By Phil Plait | January 22, 2012 7:00 am

This is a wonderful, wonderful time lapse video made by Minnesota photographer Mark Ellis put to the music of Peter Mayer.

You absolutely must make sure it’s in HD and make it full screen.

I am a lifelong appreciator of music, both listening to it and making it. As much as I love hearing an artist’s creation, there is an amazing synergy that occurs when we get a visual to go with it. Perhaps that’s why I love movie soundtracks so much; two different senses combined add up synergistically to more than their arithmetic sum. This video and the music exemplify that beautifully.

I am very impressed with the photographic work in this, and that’s not even including the incredibly cold conditions under which a lot of it was made! And as an astronomer I have to add a couple of notes. Pay attention at 4:00; the lyrics to the song say, "… counting galaxies like snowflakes…", and Mark artfully puts in a view of M31, the Andromeda Galaxy. I particularly like the shots where foreground trees are in focus while the sky is out of focus; you can really see the colors of Orion’s stars.

Also, in several of the shots, as stars go by I see points of light that are stationary in the sky. I suspect these are geostationary satellites, man-made satellites with orbits 24 hours long. That means they revolve around the Earth at the same rate at which we spin, making them appear to hang motionless (or nearly so) in the sky even as the stars rise and set around them.

You can find out more about the music at Peter Mayer’s website, and more about Mark Ellis’s photography at his site. I hope Mark makes more videos like this. A lot more.

Related posts:

Incredible time lapse: Milky Way over Africa
JAW DROPPING Space Station time lapse!
Another jaw-dropping time lapse video: Tempest
JAW DROPPING Space Station time lapse!

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff, Piece of mind

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