Time lapse: old rocks and old skies

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Dec. 11 2011 7:11 AM

Time lapse: old rocks and old skies

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!

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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[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



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