Time-Lapse of Storms and Galaxies

Bad Astronomy
The entire universe in blog form
Feb. 1 2014 7:45 AM

Time-Lapse Video: Huelux

Huelux
The oncoming storm. Click to cumulonimbusenate.

Photo by Randy Halverson, from the video.

My pal Randy Halverson is one of the best time-lapse videographers out there. I’ve been posting his work here for years (see Related Posts below), so I was very happy to hear he’s got another one out: “Huelux”.

He shot this over the course of a few months in South Dakota, Wyoming, and Utah, which may be apparent from the landscapes in the foreground. As usual, the coupling of the natural motion of the clouds and stars with the panning of the slow-motion dolly gives a hypnotic and ethereal feel to the footage (and at one point had me watching one five-second bit over and again trying to figure out which way the stars were actually moving in the sky).

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And as blasphemous as it may sound, my favorite part starts about 2:40 in, when he switches from stars to storms. I was enthralled by the long sequence showing a cumulonimbus cloud forming an anvil-head—the cloud flattening out at the top as the rising moisture reaches the top of the troposphere where the stratosphere begins. At this point the air temperature inverts, increasing with height, which prevents the warmer air from the cloud rising any further. It spreads out horizontally instead, forming that flat top (which, I found, is called cumulonimbus incus). It’s nature’s way of telling you a big storm is forming.

milky way and airglow
Another shot from the video shows the Milky Way rising behind the eerie green airglow of Earth's atmosphere. Click to embiggen.

Photo by Randy Halverson, used by permission

Lightning flashes under the cloud, and at the 3:10 mark you can see the Big Dipper swinging down as it circles the celestial north pole, apparently aiming to scoop up some of the cloud in its bowl. And as always, it’s fun to pick out familiar stars, nebulae, and other objects in the sequences.

Huelux is a neologism coined by Halverson; “hue” is color and “lux” is light. Pretty appropriate, if you ask me. I suggest you read his description of how he shot the video on his page; he also has a very high-resolution 4K version available for licensing.

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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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