Tag: Stéphane Guisard

Astonishing all-sky aurora time lapse video

By Phil Plait | October 15, 2012 7:00 am

I have got to get to Yellowknife, in Canada. They seem to get spectacular aurorae all the time there!

A few days ago I posted an aurora picture taken by Stéphane Guisard. Well, in October he was up in Yellowknife, and using a special camera he took an all-night all-sky time lapse video of the aurorae as it flickered and snapped across the sky. It’s magical:

Holy wow. Seriously, make this full screen. The slowly-moving stars of the Big Dipper and other constellations take a back seat (nearly literally) to the eerie green and red glowing ribbons created when the Earth’s magnetic field fires subatomic particles down into our atmosphere. Of course, when the three-week-old Moon rises, it dominates the scene, but not for long. The aurorae draw the eye, and it’s impossible to look away. Even the towering Milky Way wheeling around the sky couldn’t distract me from the lights for long.

I also love how the clouds stream in, and it gets a bit confusing distinguishing them from the aurorae. And finally, as the video draws to a close you can see Venus hanging just behind the sickle of Leo’s head, a sure sign the Sun won’t be long to rise. And on cue it does, lighting the sky and washing away the glory of the magnetic storm going on overhead.

Stéphane has more aurora shots on his site, and tons more amazing sky images, too. Go see.

Related Posts:

- Up, up, and aurora!
- Time lapse: Within Two Worlds
- Lapland lights
- Surreal Arctic time lapse

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff, Pretty pictures

Up, up, and aurora!

By Phil Plait | October 11, 2012 1:01 pm

Stéphane Guisard is a photographer who lives in Chile and takes phenomenal shots of the night sky – I’ve featured his work many times here on the BABlog (see Related Posts at the bottom of this article for much more).

He recently decided to take a long, long trek – he traveled from his home in Chile to the aurora haven of Yellowknife, Canada. Why? Did I mention that Yellowknife is a haven for aurorae?

And while there, on September 30, he saw this:

Wow! [Click to enemissionate.]

This shot has three things in it I just love. One is, duh, the aurora itself. Charged particles from the solar wind are caught by the Earth’s magnetic field, and are funneled down into the Earth’s atmosphere at high latitudes (that is, near the poles). They slam into the air, dumping energy into the atoms and molecules in the upper atmosphere, which respond by glowing with various colors. The green and red colors are due to oxygen and nitrogen.

I also love the reflection in the lake. It’s not something you think about much in pictures of aurorae, but to me it magnifies the beauty and reality of what I’m seeing.

The third thing is the shape of the aurora. The particles are shot mostly downward into the atmosphere, creating thin sheets and ribbons of light. At the bottom of the picture you’re looking more sideways at these sheets, but near the top you’re looking up, along the particle trajectories. The aurorae appear to radiate outward from a single spot, which is the direction from which the particles are zipping. It’s like looking at lights along a tunnel; they appear to converge at a single spot, the other end of the tunnel.

Stéphane’s pictures tend to focus (HAHAHAHA! Get it?) on big sky events – star trails, aurorae, and the like – though he does telescopic imagery as well. His work is wonderful and beautiful and well, well worth your time to take a look.

[Note: Universe Today has a few pictures up from recent aurorae due to a solar storm that nicked the Earth's magnetic field on October 8. They're among the most spectacular I've ever seen!]

Related posts:

- INSANELY cool picture of Comet Lovejoy
- Time lapse video: ISS cometrise
- Orion in the Mayan skies
- Top Ten Astronomy Pictures of 2009 (see #3 for Stéphane’s picture)
- AMAZING wide-angle time lapse night sky video!
- Time lapse: old rocks and old skies

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Pretty pictures

Time lapse: The spectacle of Comet Lovejoy

By Phil Plait | December 27, 2011 9:56 am

The comet called Lovejoy is still putting on an amazing show for folks south of the Equator. Stéphane Guisard, an astrophotographer who takes stunning pictures of the sky (see Related Posts, below), was in Chile where Lovejoy is making a splashy scene just before sunrise. He created an amazing and lovely time lapse video of the comet, showing just how incredible this ephemeral visitor is:

[The video is hosted on Vimeo; if you have a hard time seeing it, there's also a copy on YouTube. Either way, make sure the resolution is set to its highest setting, and make it full screen.]

That’s phenomenal. The comet is seemingly pinned to the tail of the constellation Scorpius, deep in the path of the Milky Way. You can see some of the stars of Scorpius around the comet as well as a few deep-sky objects like clusters and nebulae.

The tail of the comet — made of dust particles and gas streaming from the solid, frozen (and quite tiny) nucleus of the comet as it’s heated by the Sun — is millions of kilometers long; the comet was over 100 million kilometers from Earth when these pictures were taken!

If you live in the southern hemisphere, the comet is visible just before sunrise; face east to see it. Binoculars should help. Finder charts are all over the web; Heaven’s Above is one I use quite often. You’ll want the darkest skies possible, and a clear horizon.

What a week for observing! All 8 planets are visible in the sky, from Mercury to Neptune (you’ll need binoculars at least for Uranus, and a telescope for Neptune; again check Heavens Above for a chart), as well as the Moon, and this spectacular and short-lived traveler. It’s almost enough to make me want to catch a flight to the Outback and set up camp, just for this chance at a long and once-in-a-lifetime night of viewing.

Credit: Stéphane Guisard, used by permission.

Related posts:

- INSANELY cool picture of Comet Lovejoy
- Time lapse video: ISS cometrise
- Orion in the Mayan skies
- Top Ten Astronomy Pictures of 2009 (see #3 for Stéphane’s picture)
- AMAZING wide-angle time lapse night sky video!
- Time lapse: old rocks and old skies

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff, Pretty pictures

Time lapse: old rocks and old skies

By Phil Plait | December 11, 2011 7:11 am

Stéphane Guisard — a photographer whose work has graced this blog many times (see Related Posts below) — has created a beautiful time lapse video of the night sky, shot in the Atacama desert in Chile. The site has petroglyphs — ancient drawings carved into the rock — that Stéphane used as a foreground to the dance going on in the night sky. Watch!

[Make sure it's HD and make it full screen. He has it posted to YouTube as well, but the resolution is not as high.]

I love how this opens, with the bright star Betelgeuse Rigel hanging over the rocks, quickly joined by the Orion Nebula — seen upside-down to northern hemisphere sensibilities. Look at the bottom right star of Orion’s belt once it clears the rock (around 28 seconds in): that fuzziness around it is real, home to the Horsehead Nebula.

At 1:04 the Small Magellanic Cloud — a galactic satellite companion to the Milky Way — makes an appearance, and if I don’t miss my guess, the bright "star" right next to it is 47 Tuc, one of the biggest globular clusters in the sky. The Andromeda Galaxy and Jupiter show up at 1:40, and the Pleiades make a cameo a little after two minutes in… and the ending is pretty cool, too.

I’ve never been to Chile, but videos like this make me want to go very much. Because of happenstance — the tilt of the Earth and the geometric relationship to the rest of the Milky Way galaxy — the southern skies are better than what we get up here. A moonless night that far from city lights would be quite the trip, and very much worth it.

Credit: Stéphane Guisard

Related posts:

- Orion in the Mayan skies
- The lines in the sky are stars
- Incredible all-sky picture
- Very Large Telescope, Very Stunning Time Lapse Video

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff, Pretty pictures

Orion in the Mayan skies

By Phil Plait | January 25, 2011 6:37 am

Stéphane Guisard is an incredibly gifted astrophotographer, a man who strives to take the very best and most beautiful images of the sky that he possibly can. If his name is familiar, it might be because I linked to his amazing time-lapse video of the sky over Paranal, his all-sky picture from the same location, and most especially his stunning picture of the sky over Easter Island, which was so beautiful I picked it as my #3 photo for the Top Ten Astronomy Pictures of 2009.

He just sent me a note about a new set he’s created, and it’s every bit as lovely as the ones from Rapa Nui. These were taken in northern Guatemala, at the site of some ancient Mayan ruins. They show the stars above these Mayan temples, and, well, they’re just spectacular. Here is Orion over one of the temples:

Trust me here: click that to get the bigger version; you lose the majesty of the shot by looking at this smaller version I’ve posted here. You really need to see this in all its glory.

He has six other shots there too, and they are all quite beautiful. Years ago I was able to see some Mayan ruins up close, and they were tremendous. From what I’ve read the Mayans didn’t interpret the sky the way we did; they didn’t use maps or charts to study the sky, yet their temples align with various astronomical events in the heavens.

Over the years, I’ve seen some people belittle ancient cultures as being stupid — a ridiculous idea, since we know many had a sophisticated grip on observational astronomy, and to be brutally honest many ancient peoples probably understood the motions and cycles of the night sky better than the vast majority of people alive today.

On the other hand, we have to be careful not to ascribe too much knowledge to them, either, making them seem almost supernatural in their abilities. They were men and women, much like us. They observed the sky, they were tied to it via agriculture and, later, religion. If we know more now, it’s because we’ve learned so much over time. And, of course, we have the advantage of learning from them.

It made me both proud and sad to visit those ruins, proud of what we can achieve, and sad that it can be so ephemeral. On the other hand… those ruins are still around. A bit worse for wear, but they still stand after many centuries. I wonder what of our works will remain in the coming millennia?

And Stéphane’s photographs serve as a reminder that the stars seen by those Mayan people were the same ones I can see now when I walk out my front door. There’s more than one thread that connects us to the past.

"Ephemeral?" Hmmm. Maybe not.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Pretty pictures

AMAZING wide-angle time lapse night sky video!

By Phil Plait | December 8, 2010 12:17 pm

Regular readers know the phenomenal work of Stéphane Guisard: he takes astrophotos showing stunning, deep views of the sky (see Related Posts at the bottom of this entry). And he’s done it once again: using a fish-eye (very wide angle) lens, he captured stunning video of the entire sky from Chile. You can see the whole thing on that link, or he’s uploaded the video to YouTube:

[I strongly urge you to set the resolution to its highest (1080p) and make this full-screen. Seriously.]

OK, this needs a wee bit o’ explaining…

First of all this was taken on December 5, 2010, at the European Southern Observatory’s Paranal Observatory in Chile. You can see the telescopes nearby. On Stéphane’s page (and on YouTube), you can see the usual view where the sky appears as a circle, and the horizon wraps around. But what he did here is to "unwrap" the sky so it appears rectangular. It starts in the east on the left, goes through south, then west in the middle, then through north and back to east on the right. So you can see stars rising on the extreme right and left sides of the frame, moving toward the middle, and then down to the west. It takes a little getting used to!

Read More

Incredible all-sky picture

By Phil Plait | October 25, 2010 7:00 am

The amazingly talented astrophotographer Stéphane Guisard has done it again! Check out this amazing 360° view of the entire sky:


[Click the picture to 2 π steradianate and get access to a zoomable, panable image.]

There’s so much going on here it’s hard to know where to start. Basically, Stéphane wanted to get the darkest sky possible for this shot. So he went to the Atacama desert in Chile, not far from the Paranal observatory. At that latitude, and at that time of year, the Milky Way — usually seen as a band of light across the sky — circles the horizon! That glow you see around the picture is not from cities or anything else like that, it’s from the galaxy itself.

Since the Milky Way is so low in the sky, its soft light is minimized. He also took this picture at new Moon, so there was no light from that, either. Zodiacal light is sunlight reflected back to Earth from dust in the plane of the solar system, and he chose the time of the picture to minimize that as well.

The glow you can see in the picture is called gegenschein, and is sunlight reflected back to Earth from particles in the solar system, but this light is more concentrated in the area of the sky directly opposite the Sun’s position. That’s why it appears so bright in that oval, and fades away to the sides.

What Stéphane has essentially achieved here is a picture with the darkest sky possible.

Pretty cool.

Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Pretty pictures

The lines in the sky are stars

By Phil Plait | June 24, 2010 7:00 am

Gifted astrophotographer Stéphane Guisard — whose Easter Island picture garnered him the #3 spot in my Top Ten Astronomy Pictures of 2009 — has done it again. He just published this amazing picture of star trails, but it’s not like one you’ve ever seen:


[Click to see a bigger, cleaner pic, and yes, you really want to!]

This astonishing picture shows the entire sky from horizon to horizon with the help of a wide angle lens (to help orient you, south is to the left, north to the right, west at the bottom, and east is at the top). It was taken on a volcano called Chimborazo, which is in Ecuador. The volcano has a latitude of 1.5° south, so it sits almost exactly on the Equator [Update: Stéphane sent me a note that he has been to this volcano before, and has an amazing Milky Way picture taken from it.] Guisard started the exposure about an hour after sunset, once the sky got dark, and ended 10 hours later, about an hour before sunrise. Because of this, it shows roughly 90% of the entire visible sky!

How can this be?

If you’ve ever been to this blog before, you know I’ll be happy to explain. But it takes a minute, so I’ve split the rest of this post up into two sections: you can read about the guts of how this picture works just below, or you can skip to the part where I describe what’s in it (stars and so on). Enjoy.

1) How this can be:
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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Pretty pictures

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