Gorgeous Time-Lapse Video of a Night in the Desert

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May 1 2013 12:34 PM

Death Valley DreamLapse

Death Valley time lapse
A frame from Gavin Heffernan's Death Valley DreamLapse video.

Photo by Gavin Heffernan.

Via Wired I saw this lovely time-lapse video of the desert sky, taken in Death Valley by photographer Gavin Heffernan. How many astronomical events can you spot?

It’s breathtaking. I love how the saturated colors bring out some stars; Betelgeuse was rather obvious, don’t you think? Jupiter makes an appearance, as does the Andromeda Galaxy, the Milky Way, and much more. I spotted a couple of meteors in the footage, too.

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The effect of adding together long exposure images to make the progressive star trails is interesting, and something I hadn’t seen until a couple of years ago. Digital photography makes that relatively easy to do. I should add I grew up using an SLR that used film—I used to roll my own Tri-X, and developed it myself, too. I was in grad school when electronic detectors called CCDs were just getting their start in astronomy, and even then I knew they would revolutionize photography.

Time-lapse videos like this would still be possible without digital photography, but they’d be a lot harder to make. Still, it’s not like you can fall out of bed and make a gorgeous video like this!

And if you liked that one, check out this one with similar video … but it’s funny how much the mood changes with a different selection for the music.

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death from the Skies! Follow him on Twitter.