Tag: Wyoming

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.

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A meteor’s lingering tale

Wyoming skies

By Phil Plait | August 29, 2011 9:27 am

If you need a pick-me-up to start your week (after a hurricane, a series of earthquakes, and just having to face another danged week at work) then may I suggest this amazing time-lapse video by Eric Hines, called "Wild Wyoming":

[Make sure it’s set to HD, and make it full screen. I personally think the music is very good, too (it’s from "The Fountain"), so you might want to crank up the speakers as well.]

Isn’t that breath-taking? At about a minute in I saw a couple of satellites heading across the Milky Way right-to-left, and of course the airplanes zipping through are pretty obvious (from the direction they’re moving, I’d guess most are coming from or heading to my home base of Denver airport). At 2:20 there is an eerie scene of what looks like light pillars to me; vertical glowing columns caused by flat, hexagonal ice crystals in the air bending reflecting the light from sources beneath them. I’m a bit surprised they would appear in the summer, but some locations in eastern Wyoming/western Nebraska can get plenty cold at night. [UPDATE: I was wrong, those are simply lens flares, which makes a lot more sense to me. I asked Eric Hines about it and he replied on his Google+ post. Thanks to Neil Creek in the comments for pointing this out.]

Also, at 2:50, there’s a scene that better be familiar to anyone who reads this blog!

I’ve been to southern Wyoming (it’s not far from Boulder) and the geology there is very cool. Someday I’ll have to go fossil hunting up there. And maybe do a little star gazing too. Clearly, the skies there are magnificent.

Image credit: screen grab from Eric Hines’ video. Tip o’ the lens cap to Randy Halverson.

Related posts:

Another jaw-dropping time lapse video: Tempest
Time lapse: Journey Through Canyons
Down under Milky Way time lapse
Alps lapse

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff, Pretty pictures

Slo-mo landslide

By Phil Plait | June 4, 2011 7:00 am

An unusual amount of rain coupled with faster than average snow melt has triggered landslides throughout Canada and the United States. In western Wyoming, one came down on highway US 26-89 in Snake River Canyon. Days later, the landslide is still moving at about a half meter (18 inches) per hour, and the Wyoming Department of Transportation took an interesting time lapse video of it:

I had no real sense of how big or small this was until the guy ran in. It looks funny, but geez, there’s no way I’d stand on an active landslide, even if it were moving that slowly.

This makes me wonder if this might be another unforeseen consequence of climate change. Simply put, snow forms in storm systems when moisture gets carried upwards and freezes. More moisture means more snow can form. Warmer weather means more evaporation on the surface, so more moisture in clouds, and more snowfall. That’s how global warming can, seemingly paradoxically, mean more snowfall. Then, in the spring, when the weather warms up earlier and with higher temperatures, that snow will melt more rapidly, causing floods and landslides. Fun.

For more information, check out the American Geophysical Union’s blog post about the landslide.

Related posts:

Another awesome Martian avalanche
Next up for Congress: repeal the law of gravity
Comic takedown of global warming denialism
Antiscience party
Scientists cleared of malpractice by panel

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, Pretty pictures

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