Tag: Randy Halverson

Like two trains passing in the night… a year apart

By Phil Plait | October 13, 2012 7:00 am

Randy Halverson is no stranger to the BABlog: his astrophotography is fantastic, and his time lapse videos stunning.

Last year, in early October, he was taking frames of the night sky for a time lapse video when he caught a bright meteor that left what’s called a persistent train: a trail that continues to glow for several minutes. He sent me a note about it, and I wound up writing a blog post about this relatively rare event.

OK, cool enough, But then, just a few days ago, he emailed me again: while out filming at the same exact location, he saw another meteor that also left a persistent train, almost exactly a year after the first one! It’s a funny coincidence.

Here’s the new shot:

[Click to ablatenate.]

This picture was taken in central South Dakota. The Milky Way dominates the dark sky here, and the trees provide a nice silhouetted foreground.

You can compare it to last year’s meteor here. Given the Milky Way in the frame, he was facing south to take these, and the more recent shot was taken later in the night, since the galaxy had rotated a bit compared in last year’s picture. If I were really nitpicky I could probably even calculate just how much later in the night it was using the angle of the Milky Way. To my eye it looks like about an hour.

Anyway, both meteors were probably what we call sporadic: just random bits of rock orbiting the Sun that had the misfortune to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. In this case though one meteor’s poison is another man’s meat. It was too bad for those interplanetary bits of flotsam, but very nice for Randy and for all of us… twice.

Image credit: Randy Halverson, used by permission.


Related Posts:

- Raging clouds, near and very, very far
- The Milky Way and the Mashed Potatoes Mountain
- Temporal Distortion
- Reflecting on the ISS
- Another jaw-dropping time lapse video: Tempest
- Gorgeous Milky Way time lapse

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Pretty pictures

Raging clouds, near and very, very far

By Phil Plait | July 22, 2012 6:30 am

I follow quite a few photographers on Google+, Twitter, and other social media. Why? Because this:

I know, right? This ridiculously amazing picture [click to embiggen, or see an even bigger version] was taken by Randy Halverson of DakotaLapse.com, whose photos have been featured here on the BABlog many times (see Related Posts below). He took this one on the evening of July 19, 2012 as part of a time lapse he’s making. The vast Milky Way galaxy glows above the red clouds illuminated by town lights from below. And on the horizon a storm rages, eruptions of lightning strikes captured in this 15 second exposure.

Funny – the Milky Way looks a bit like a cloud there, but instead of countless droplets of water held up in our air, it’s composed of hundreds of billions of stars suspended in space by their orbital motion around the galactic center. We can see only a few thousand stars with our naked eyes, and they’re all very close, most within a hundred light years of Earth. But the Milky Way is a thousand times bigger than that, and the glow we see is actually the blended light of far more stars than there are people on Earth.

And yet in this shot even that mighty power is reduced to a faint smear compared to the electric discharge of a nearby storm. The raw energy released in a bolt of lightning is staggering, but it’s essentially nothing compared to a galaxy’s worth of stars. It’s only their terrible, terrible distance that dims them.

As you juggle the events that happen in your daily life, remember this photograph. It’s easy to get distracted by smaller flashy things that are nearby, and forget about much bigger issues if they’re far enough removed. It’s a thought worth holding close.

Photo credit: Randy Halverson, used by permission.


Related Posts:

- The Milky Way and the Mashed Potatoes Mountain
- Temporal Distortion
- Behind the time lapse camera
- Reflecting on the ISS
- Another jaw-dropping time lapse video: Tempest

The Milky Way and the Mashed Potatoes Mountain

By Phil Plait | June 18, 2012 5:09 pm

Photographer Randy Halverson — whose pictures and time lapse videos have been featured here on the BA Blog many times; see Related Posts below — just posted an epically cool picture he took just last night: The Milky Way looming over Devil’s Tower in Wyoming.

[Click to closeencountersofthethirdkindenate.]

He and his son (who also got a nice shot of it) were to the northwest of the gigantic butte-like structure; the night started out cloudy but it cleared after midnight. I’m glad! I love pictures like this for many reasons. Obviously, the Milky Way itself is amazing; the central bulge of our spiral galaxy is obvious, studded with stars, gas clouds, and dark bands of dust.

But the icing on the mashed potatoes is that silhouetted against it is such a recognizable landmark — and one that plays an essential part in one of my all-time favorite movies. Devil’s Tower has a fascinating geologic history, and I plan on visiting sometime. It’s a long drive from Boulder, but I swear, it would make my fanboy (of both Hollywood and geology) heart sing to be able just to stand there and soak it in.

Image credit: Randy Halverson, used by permission.


Related Posts:

- Temporal Distortion
- Reflecting on the ISS
- Gorgeous aurorae
- A meteor’s lingering tale

Temporal Distortion

By Phil Plait | February 14, 2012 9:55 am

Time lapse photographer Randy Halverson of Dakotalapse has done it again: an astonishing and beautiful video called "Temporal Distortion".

Lovely, isn’t it? And the music was specially commissioned to Bear McCreary, who did the music for "Battlestar Galactica" and "The Sarah Conner Chronicles".

I love the meteor at 55 or so seconds into the video that leaves what’s called a persistent train, or a trail that lasts for several minutes. In the time lapse you can see the vapor trail twist and turn as high-altitude winds push on it. I wrote about this before when Randy posted a still picture that eventually wound up in this video, and he graciously acknowledges me on his Vimeo page for the video.

I also noticed a flashing object at 3:38, going right past a bright star (which is Altair, by the way). See it? I think it might be a tumbling satellite, which changes brightness as it orbits end-over-end. It moves pretty slowly, so it must be in a high orbit. Just before that, at 3:25, he has a great view of the constellation Cygnus, the Swan, and you can just see the pink glow of the famous North American Nebula.

This is a great video, and there’s more too: Randy’s made an extended cut which is 23 minutes long! You can buy it on his website. After all, my one complaint about these time lapse videos is they’re never long enough.


Related posts:

- A meteor’s lingering tale
- Another jaw-dropping time lapse video: Tempest
- Gorgeous Milky Way time lapse
- The fiery descent of Atlantis… seen from space!
- Meteor propter hoc

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Pretty pictures

Behind the time lapse camera

By Phil Plait | December 3, 2011 7:00 am

Randy Halverson is a photographer who makes lovely time lapse videos of the sky (like Tempest and Orion and Sub Zero). I love these videos, with their dramatic music and compelling depiction of the moving night sky… but what’s it look like behind the scenes?

Randy just put up a short clip from an upcoming release, showing what it looks like to stand behind the camera while it’s shooting one of these videos:

It’s a time lapse of a time lapse! Welcome to Inception.

Tip o’ the lens cap to Randy Halverson on Google+

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff

Reflecting on the ISS

By Phil Plait | October 17, 2011 10:12 am

Randy Halverson is an astrophotographer who takes gorgeous pictures of the sky and puts them together into amazing time lapse videos (see Related Posts below for links to his work). On Google+ this morning he posted a picture he took last night, and it’s simply stunning: the International Space Station rising into the Milky Way, with both reflected on a lake’s still waters:

[Click to embiggen.]

What a fantastic shot! I’ve tried getting similar pictures, but never managed to get one as nice as this. It takes dark skies; Randy was about 300 km west of Sioux Falls, South Dakota when he took it, where there’s almost no light pollution. The Milky Way is obvious; you can see the bulge of the central region of the galaxy, and the disk tapering off to the top of the frame. Pictures like this are always a good reminder that we live in the mid-plane of a big spiral galaxy.

When Randy got this shot the ISS was rising over the southwestern horizon. 100 meters across, 380 km up, and moving at 8 km/sec, the station reflects a lot of sunlight and moves rapidly enough to create a bright streak in short time exposures… and bright enough to create a strong reflection in the water.

A funny thing: as I looked over the picture, I saw a faint streak not too far from the ISS. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff, Pretty pictures

A meteor's lingering tale

By Phil Plait | October 2, 2011 11:44 am

Randy Halverson is a photographer who makes stunning time lapse videos of the night sky (like Tempest Milky Way and Plains Milky Way; seriously, if you haven’t seen those, go watch them now). He’s currently in the process of making a new video, and in one of the frames he happened to catch a bright meteor, a bit of cosmic fluff burning up as it rammed through our atmosphere. What’s neat about this particular incident is that the meteor left behind a glowing streak that lasted for over half an hour!

You can see it there, the red twisty worm at the upper left, across the glow of the Milky Way [click to enbolidenate.]

Technically, that’s called a persistent train, and it’s not actually smoke. As a meteoroid (the actual solid chunk of material) blasts through the air, it ionizes the gases, stripping electrons from their parent atoms. As the electrons slowly recombine with the atoms, they emit light — this is how neon signs glow, as well as giant star-forming nebulae in space. The upper-level winds blowing that high (upwards of 100 km/60 miles) create the twisting, fantastic shapes in the train. The actual details of how this works in meteor trains are not well understood, mainly because they are so difficult to spot and study. It’s hard to point a telescope at a position in the sky when you don’t know where or when a meteor will pass through!

Read More

Another jaw-dropping time lapse video: Tempest

By Phil Plait | August 23, 2011 2:37 pm

Randy Halverson is a photographer who makes incredibly stunning time lapse videos of the sky. And he’s done it again: "Tempest Milky Way", an aptly-named video showing the serene depths of the night sky as a background for furious activity much closer to home:

[Make sure it's set to HD, and make it full screen. You're welcome.]

Holy wow! It’s beautiful enough just showing the stars, but then at 2:20 things really get interesting as storms blow in. There’s lots to see, but keep your eyes open at 1:57 for the silhouette of a whitetail deer on the horizon, and at 3:24 for a meteor that pops into view… and is reflected in the lake!

It’s a breath-taking shot, isn’t it? And it’s a testament to Halverson’s talent, which you can see more of at his website DakotaLapse. I love how the motion of the camera (especially moving up through the corn field) adds a magical sensation to the video. And while time lapse photography like this shows us a dimension we can’t see easily with our own eyes, it’s real nonetheless. Never forget that: the Universe is beautiful, spectacular, and marvelous. Our job is to appreciate it, and try to understand it better.

Credit: Randy Halverson, used by permission.


Related posts:

- Gorgeous Milky Way time lapse
- Time lapse: Orion
- Stunning winter sky time lapse video: Sub Zero

Gorgeous Milky Way time lapse

By Phil Plait | June 3, 2011 10:30 am

Last night I was out and facing south, and happened to notice the familiar stars of Scorpius poking through the trees. To me that’s always a sign that summer is here… and the Milky Way is coming back. Randy Halverson (who created the magnificent Sub Zero and Orion time lapse videos) had the same idea, and made yet another incredible video of our galactic urban center from his home on the plains of South Dakota:

You have to make sure the video is set to HD, and make it full screen. It’s stunning. I especially like the shot with the windmill and the one looking up along the trunk of the dead tree. Very dramatic!

Scorpius shows itself several times; look for the bright orange of Antares and the three stars making the scorpion’s claw to the right of the Milky Way’s bulge. What other constellations do you recognize?

Tip o’ the lens cap to Dave Mosher.


Related posts:

- Very Large Telescope, Very Stunning Time Lapse Video
- Incredibly, impossibly beautiful time lapse video
- Australian Outback time lapse
- 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
- Sidereal Motion
- Amazing wide-angle time lapse night sky video
- AWESOME timelapse video: Rapture

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff, Pretty pictures

Time lapse: Orion

By Phil Plait | April 28, 2011 1:00 pm

Hey, let me know if you get tired of these amazing, hypnotic time lapse videos of the night sky.

No, wait: don’t tell me, because as long as they’re this cool I’ll keep posting ‘em anyway.

This is Randy Halverson’s video "Orion", named for obvious reasons. Well, one reason isn’t so obvious: the camera mount that allows him to do the ultra-slow pan and tilt is called "Orion" as well.

My favorite parts are 30 seconds in, where the Moon and stars of Gemini are behind the mesa, and 2:09 in, when he has a little meta fun. Randy also did the video "Sub Zero" which I posted a little while back.

I love love love these videos. And I have yet another very lovely one to post soon, too. But I don’t want to spoil you with too many all at once.


Related posts:

- Australian Outback time lapse
- 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
- Sidereal Motion
- Amazing wide-angle time lapse night sky video
- AWESOME timelapse video: Rapture

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff, Pretty pictures
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