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!