Cool Time-Lapse Video of the Australian Sky Shows the Stars Rising Backward

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Aug. 7 2013 11:00 AM

Australian Time-Lapse Makes Me Want to Stand on My Head

annular eclipse of the Sun
The horns of the Sun; an annular eclipse rising into the Australian sky.

Photo by Teoh Hui Chieh, from the video.

Since I’m heading down to Australia, here’s a wonderful time-lapse video made from shots taken in May by Malaysian photographer Teoh Hui Chieh. There are some remarkable directions taken in this video, which I’ll note below.

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!  

(Note: Chieh has a collection of pictures used in this video and from her visit to Australia on Flickr and has a blog called My Dark Sky, where she documents her work; she has a description of the video there as well.)

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At 20 seconds or so, there is a nice 360-degree all-sky view. Usually these are fixed, with the camera motionless while the stars move in the sky, but Chieh set it so that the stars don’t move and the horizon does. It generates a decidedly odd feeling, a view I’m not used to seeing.

At 1:28 the May annular solar eclipse rises into view; the Moon was in between the Earth and Sun, but happened to be at a part of its orbit when it was farther from Earth than on average, so it appeared smaller. This means it couldn’t completely block the Sun.

Notice too that as the Sun and Moon rise they move up and to the left. That always get me; in the Northern Hemisphere the Sun and Moon rise moving to the right. Seeing the Sun rise backward always throws me off, but that’s the way things are for folks south of the equator, standing on their heads as they do.

At 3:13 you see Orion setting, and Chieh played with the star trails to make them match the music, trailing one way and then another. I was impressed by that; it really adds some great drama to the video. The next few sequences get their timing stretched and zoomed to match the music as well. Very cool.

And throughout the video are the stars and sights we don’t get in the northern latitudes: the Southern Cross, Alpha and Beta Centauri, the Coal Sack, the Magellanic Clouds. Many of these objects should be up in the sky and visible while I’m in Australia. I hope to get some pictures while I’m down there. I don’t know when I’ll get to see them again with my own eyes.

Until then, I suppose, I can watch amazing videos like this one.