Stunning winter sky timelapse video: Sub Zero

Bad Astronomy
The entire universe in blog form
March 28 2011 11:06 AM

Stunning winter sky timelapse video: Sub Zero

I love all the time-lapse videos I've been seeing over the past few months. They show the night sky the way I see it: ethereal, mysterious, beautiful, and awe-inspiring.

Photographer Randy Halverson created this stunning video from images he took just last month in the bone-chilling winter of South Dakota. He calls it "Sub Zero". Make sure you've set it to show the HD version.

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

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Amazing! I love how it starts with a Moon halo: the ring around the Moon as light from our satellite refracts through ice crystals in the air. You can see the familiar constellations of Orion and Taurus throughout the video, as well as stars like Sirius and the Pleiades cluster. Each picture was an exposure of several seconds, and in some, like the ones with the playground in the foreground, you see the blurring of terrestrial objects from the wind. [UPDATE: Randy just sent me a note; you can see animals moving in and out of the attic on the right side of the house in the playground shot. Raccoons? Well, something that can survive the temperatures. Ice warriors, probably.]

I remember when I was first dabbling in astrophotography when I was in high school. I took shots of the northern sky from my driveway, and when I developed them (yes, they were film and I used a darkroom and everything) I was deeply surprised to see the blue sky and well-lit houses and ground! But I quickly understood that these were long exposures, and any scattered light -- street lights, Washington DC on my horizon to the northeast, and so on -- would make these look more like daytime shots... even though you could see stars in the sky. Randy's video (and others like it I've posted in the past; see Related Posts below) show the same effect. It looks like they were taken in the day, until you see the sky littered with stars.

And as much as I love big, splashy wide-angle shots of the night sky, the addition of a slowly moving viewpoint as the stars wheel overhead makes these videos even more enthralling. It's hard to imagine a better way to show people the art and magnificence of what we see every night over our heads.

Video credit: Randy Halverson, used with permission.



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