Dust, from the desert below to the galaxy above

The entire universe in blog form
April 17 2011 6:52 AM

Dust, from the desert below to the galaxy above

I've been posting some amazing time lapse videos of the night sky here lately, and I've been trying to set the bar pretty high. I like all the ones I've seen, but they have to have something special, something that sets them apart, for me to embed them here.

This one does just that. Earlier this month, photographer Terje Sorgjerd went to Mt. Teide in the Canary Islands to photograph the sky. He was upset when a Saharan sandstorm blew across the sky, ruining his video... or so he thought. What really happened was magic. Pay attention 30 seconds in to see the stunning results*:

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!  


Simply breathtaking. The dust blows overhead, glowing golden as it's illuminated from below by city lights, while above and beyond the Milky Way itself ponderously looms into view.

As the galaxy shows itself, look at the dark lane bisecting it. Feathery and ethereal, those dark fingers and tendrils are actually vast complexes of dust, long chains of carbon-based molecules floating in between the stars. Created when stars are born, age, and die, this dust litters the plane of the galaxy. Seen edge-on, it absorbs and blocks the light from stars behind it, creating the dark fog cutting across the breadth of our spiral galaxy.

There's a poetry here; dust from a local storm blowing a few kilometers above, but translucent enough to allow us to see beyond it to a different kind of dust blowing among the stars.

Tip o' the lens cap to Terje himself, who posts on reddit.

* If the embed or link doesn't work for you, Terje also uploaded it to YouTube. Make sure you set the resolution to 720p to get the full experience!

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