A Glorious Time-Lapse of the Sky Over a National Park

The entire universe in blog form
Aug. 5 2014 9:30 AM

Time-Lapse: Kings Canyon

Kings Canyon
The Sierra Nevadas provide a stunning foreground for the night sky over Kings Canyon. Click to upliftenate.

Photo by Gavin Heffernan

Photographer Gavin Heffernan likes to go unusual out-of-the-way places to take pictures of the night sky—like Borrego Springs, Death Valley, and Grand Canyon National Park.

His recent trip to Kings Canyon, nestled next to the Sierra Nevada Mountains in south-central California, yielded some majestic footage. The combination of dark skies, magnificent scenery, and Heffernan’s experience in night-sky time-lapse photography yielded a truly lovely video, made even more enthralling with the addition of some unusual but appropriate music. You should really make this full screen to get it in all its breathtaking glory.


I love the dramatic turn to the music as the camera pushes in to Polaris at the one-minute mark, and I can watch the Milky Way roll past mountains like that for a long, long time. A favorite moment: When a fireball, a very bright meteor, flashes in a pair of frames at 2:22, and somehow he got a musical sting to go with it.

The Milky Way really is amazing in these shots. You can see dense clots of stars, willowy, filigreed dust clouds, and bright nebulae and stars punctuating the central bulge of our galaxy. Airplanes and even satellites criss-cross the frame, and if you look carefully you can even see geostationary satellites hovering in the same part of the sky even as the stars sweep past them. I love it when those are captured in time-lapse videos.

Heffernan also made an enjoyable behind-the-scenes video, which includes a fair-to-middlin’ close encounter with a brown bear. I strongly urge you to check out the high-res stills he has online from this trip, as well as his other videos. It’ll be time well spent.

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



Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

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

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore, and Schools Are Getting Worried

The Good Wife Is Cynical, Thrilling, and Grown-Up. It’s Also TV’s Best Drama.

  News & Politics
Sept. 19 2014 9:15 PM Chris Christie, Better Than Ever
Sept. 19 2014 6:35 PM Pabst Blue Ribbon is Being Sold to the Russians, Was So Over Anyway
Inside Higher Ed
Sept. 19 2014 1:34 PM Empty Seats, Fewer Donors? College football isn’t attracting the audience it used to.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 4:48 PM You Should Be Listening to Sbtrkt
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 19 2014 5:09 PM Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?   A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.
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.