Zooming in on Orion’s Stellar Nursery

The entire universe in blog form
Jan. 28 2014 7:45 AM

Zooming in on Orion’s Stellar Nursery

Orion Nebula
The Orion Nebula, one of the galaxy's most magnificent sights

Photo by Isidro Villó, from the video

Well, this is just a slice of coolness: Isidro Villó, a professor of physics in Spain, with help from David Henarejos and Juan Antonio Albaladejo, built a mechanical system that will automatically control the zoom of a big photographic lens, allowing him to make an actual optical zoom time-lapse video. For his first project, he chose the magnificent Orion Nebula as his target. Watch:

Lovely! What you’re seeing is the one of the closest, biggest star-birth factories in the galaxy, so huge and bright that even from about 1,300 light years away it’s visible to the naked eye, appearing as a star in Orion’s “dagger.” I’d describe it in detail, but I’ve written about it eleventy billion times. I like how you can see satellites moving through the field of view, too. Those are probably geosynchronous satellites, which move very slowly (if at all) across the sky due to the geometry of their orbits.


I’ll admit I’m drooling over the Sigma 50-500 mm lens he used! That’s nice. You don’t usually see zooms in time-lapse videos unless they’re done afterward, digitally (by taking a sub-section of a much larger image and showing it full-resolution, blowing it up). Villó actually used an optical zoom, with the lens itself magnifying the image. At the end of the video he shows the mechanism at work. Very clever.

I suspect we’ll see more of this as time goes on; photographers who make these kinds of videos tend to jump on new tech like this. I can think of a ton of uses for it, so I imagine photographers will have even more ideas. I do love time-lapse videos of the night sky, and with better and more clever tech, it’s inevitable we’ll see even more spectacular videos.

Tip o’ the lens cap to Manu Arregi Biziola.

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  



Meet the New Bosses

How the Republicans would run the Senate.

The Government Is Giving Millions of Dollars in Electric-Car Subsidies to the Wrong Drivers

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Cheez-Its. Ritz. Triscuits.

Why all cracker names sound alike.

Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom

The Eye

This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059

Medical Examiner

Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?  

A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.

The Afghan Town With a Legitimately Good Tourism Pitch

A Futurama Writer on How the Vietnam War Shaped the Series

  News & Politics
Sept. 21 2014 11:34 PM People’s Climate March in Photos Hundreds of thousands of marchers took to the streets of NYC in the largest climate rally in history.
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Sept. 21 2014 1:15 PM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 5  A spoiler-filled discussion of "Time Heist."
Sept. 21 2014 9:00 PM Attractive People Being Funny While Doing Amusing and Sometimes Romantic Things Don’t dismiss it. Friends was a truly great show.
Future Tense
Sept. 21 2014 11:38 PM “Welcome to the War of Tomorrow” How Futurama’s writers depicted asymmetrical warfare.
  Health & Science
The Good Word
Sept. 21 2014 11:44 PM Does This Name Make Me Sound High-Fat? Why it just seems so right to call a cracker “Cheez-It.”
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.