Oh my, another amazing time lapse of the night sky: Nocturnal, by photographer Colin Legg (whose work we’ve seen here before on the BABlog), shows southern skies wheeling and turning majestically overhead.
[Note: For reasons I don't understand, the wrong video was linked here originally. It's fixed now, and I apologize for that.]
Yegads. Pay attention at the 30 second mark as the Southern Cross and Alpha and Beta Centauri rise above a mountain, then at 40 seconds when Comet Lovejoy rises dramatically over the horizon, and again at 49 seconds when a meteor zips across the sky, leaving a persistent train that gets whipped and frothed by high-altitude winds.
In fact, just pay attention to the whole thing. It’s gorgeous. And I’m not alone: this video won the best animation category of the 2012 David Malin awards. Malin is one of the best astrophotographers who has ever lived, so this is a prestigious recognition indeed. And well-deserved.
Tip o’ the lens cap to Colin Legg himself for letting me know about it.
As they orbit the Earth from a height of 400 kilometers (240 miles), astronauts aboard the International Space Station take hundreds, thousands of photographs of the Earth below and the skies above. These images are online at a NASA archive called The Gateway of Astronaut Photography of the Earth. This archive is free and open to everyone, which means people so inclined can collect them, put them together, add music, and make incredible, moving, stunning, brain-expanding time-lapse videos… like this one from Knate Myers called View from the ISS at Night:
Incredibly lovely. The use of the music from the movie "Sunshine" was inspired.
There is a poetry in the motion of celestial objects, the perfect balance of forces that allows orbital mechanics to transform itself from equations on a page to artistry in the heavens. What science does is allow us to make that leap, to understand these interactions between gravity and velocity and combine them into grace and beauty. To a scientist, the equations themselves are beautiful – elegant, as we call them; simple yet profound, balanced, yet heavy with implication of how the Universe itself works.
This is why science is so powerful. It’s a tool with which we understand the Universe, and it works. For proof of that, you need only see a picture of Earth from space.
I’ve been featuring some of photographer Brad Goldpaint’s mesmerizing sky shots lately, and I’m very pleased that he’s taken some of his amazing recent pictures and used them to create a stunning time lapse video: presenting Within Two Worlds, a glorious display of the magnificent skies over America’s western regions:
You might recognize some of the scenery; the pink and purple aurorae we’ve been getting lately from solar storms, shots from Crater Lake, and more. I also like the effect of the star trails; at one point (around 1:55) you can see a meteor zipping across the sky, it’s train lingering due to the way Brad processed the video.
We’ve had time lapse photography for decades, but the advent of digital cameras with good lenses and sensitive, well-crafted detectors has made it possible for more people to create these videos more easily. It’s like another dimension has opened in the sky, one of beauty and awe. Using an old method we can see the sky in a new way and more easily share it with those around us. And I’m all for that.
I get a lot of people sending me time lapse videos, and to be honest, I love it! They’re so much fun to watch, and so many of them actually show the sky above us in a new and interesting way.
At the very least, they’re lovely and invoke a sense of amazement. Even though this next one was made as essentially a travel advertisement for Sweden (it was filmed in Abisko National Park), I’ll allow it – after all, they’re hoping to get more people to see the aurorae! And the video is amazing: over 13 minutes of pretty cool footage of the northern lights.
My list of must-see places to visit on this planet is getting alarmingly long.
T-Recs — Timelapse Recording — put together a nifty time lapse video showing the stars rising and setting over Death valley, Yosemite, and… Indiana? Actually, it’s an interesting use of some graphic effects to give the view an ethereal feel to it:
I love the stars reflected in cars! And I also think it’s neat how the star labels follow their annotatees. That does make it a bit easier to figure out what you’re seeing.
You might think I’m trying to clear out all the time lapse videos I have jostling for attention in my blog post queue, but hold up! I have one that isn’t your everyday video. Not by a long shot. A long, long shot.
This one, using photographs by astronauts on the International Space Station, is different. It features different frame rates, different angles, different music, and even a different soundtrack: inspirational speeches play over the equally inspirational photographs, giving this video a feel that’s, well, different than others.
The aspect ratio is very wide, and I had to shrink it to make it fit the blog, so I suggest watching it full screen. As usual, if you want to understand some of the things you’re seeing, check out the links in Related Posts below.
I live every single day of my life inspired by space. It’s a true joy to know that so many other people feel the same way.
Photographer Christoph Malin — part of The World At Night, which is making people aware of the beauty of the night sky — spent eight months in Innsbruck, Austria, taking 35,000 photographs of the sky over the city. What he created with them is a lovely and wonderful time lapse video:
The most interesting part of this to me is that the stars are so crisp and obvious even with the city lights below. The skies there in the Alps must be very clear, or else the light pollution from the city would make the sky glow, washing out the stars (of course, the longer exposures needed to see the stars in these photos also makes the city lights look brighter than they are). It’s nice to see those stars shining in the video, and honestly makes me think a trip to Innsbruck wouldn’t be such a bad idea.
Because I never get tired of time lapse videos taken from space, here is one created by Tomislav Safundžić called This Is Our Planet:
I like how it speeds the pace up over most such videos; at some spots there’s a frenetic feel to it that is counter to how I usually think of what it’s like to serenely orbit the Earth. I like the music, too! I’ve written about these time lapse videos many times, and described what’s in them, including the aurorae, the air glow, identifying cities from space, and so on.
See the Related Posts links below. As beautiful as these videos are, I find they are even more amazing when you actually understand what you’re seeing.
I’ve been following photographer Jeffrey Sullivan on Google+ for a while now — it’s a great place to see the work of talented people, and that’s where I found his lunar eclipse sequence I posted here last year.
Jeff is really good, and gets amazing shots of the sky. But today he posted the best shot I’ve seen from him: this jaw-dropping composite photo of a cumulonimbus cloud spawning lightning below and with star trails above:
He shot this during spring 2012 near the California/Nevada border. The mountain getting electrocuted is Bald Mountain, which is southeast of Lake Tahoe. This is actually a combination of a sequence of pictures that were part of a time lapse video he was shooting, which is how he got the star trails as well. In fact, if you’ve scraped your jaw off the floor by now, time to let it freefall once again while you watch the video:
You can see why he was the Royal Museums of Greenwich Astronomy Photographer of the Year in 2011 for the People and Space category. He tells me he’s working on a book on how to shoot landscape photography in California, and that’ll be out around the end of the year. I’m looking forward to seeing that!
There’s a lot more going on over your head than you know.
For example, the atmosphere of the Earth thins out gradually the higher you go, and when you get to about 100 kilometers (60 miles) up, different physical processes become important. One of them is called chemiluminescence — light produced by chemical processes. This can make the upper atmosphere glow in different colors. It’s faint, and best seen from space… where we conveniently keep several astronauts. Neuroscientist and amateur video maker Alex Rivest has collected pictures of this airglow taken by astronauts and made this eerie and beautiful time lapse video:
Alex took the original astronaut pictures and enhanced them somewhat to bring out the faint airglow. You can see it in lots of pictures taken from the space station, and I’ve commented on it many times. One thing I’ve been meaning to do, though, is find out what the physical process is that’s causing the air to glow, and why it creates different colors — you can clearly see green, yellow, and red glow in many of the pictures!
Alex comes to the rescue on that as well. On his blog, he discusses how he made the video and why the air glows (based on a somewhat terser explanation at the Atmospheric Optics website).
The way this works is simple in general, though complicated in detail — much like everything else in the Universe! Basically, during the day, in the upper atmosphere ultraviolet light from the Sun pumps energy into oxygen molecules (called O2; two oxygen atoms bound together — this is the stuff we breathe). This energy splits the molecules apart into individual atoms, and these atoms have a little bit of extra energy — we say these atoms are in an excited state. Like a jittery person who’s had too much coffee, they want to give off this energy. They can do this in a couple of ways: they can emit light, or they can bump into other atoms and molecules and react chemically with them.
If you have an excited oxygen atom sitting in space all by its lonesome, it can either dump that energy by emitting green light or red light. Usually, it’ll emit green light in less than a second after becoming excited, and it’ll emit red light on much longer timescales, like minutes. This is important, so bear with me.