The Erupting Earth, the Wheeling Heavens

Bad Astronomy
The entire universe in blog form
Aug. 23 2014 8:30 AM

Indonesian Volcanoes and Galactic Vistas

indonesian skies
The stars circling above the active Indonesian volcano Mount Semeru.

Photo by Teoh Hui Chieh, used by permission

Coincidences are funny.

I recently got an email from astrophotographer Teoh Hui Chieh, who was sending me several photos and a time-lapse animation she took near the volcano Mount Bromo in Indonesia. The shots are lovely, as you’ll see in a moment.

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That very same day, about an hour or two later, I got an email from astrophotographer Thierry Legault, who was sending me several photos and a time-lapse animation he took near the volcano Mount Bromo in Indonesia. The shots are lovely, as you’ll see in a moment.

But what the what?

Yup. Coincidence. They don’t know each other, but they were both in that location around the same time, and shot remarkable images of the land- and skyscape.

Here is Hui Chieh’s time-lapse animation:

And here is Legault’s:

There’s no losing here; both are gorgeous. I love the shots of the volcano (Mount Semeru) venting steam as the stars whirl above it, and the lights from cars illuminating the fog below. If I saw such a scene in a movie I would have thought it fantasy! But it exists.

The image at the top of this post is from Hui Chieh. I’m so used to seeing star trails in the Northern Hemisphere, it took me a moment to realize that shows the south celestial pole! That’s impossible to see north of the equator, but this scene is at a latitude of about -8°, just south of the equator, so the southern sky’s pole is just barely above the horizon.

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!  

You can explore more of Hui Chieh’s photography on Flickr, and Legault’s (who has been on this blog many, many times) at his website.

As for the coincidence, well, they happen. It’s a big world, with countless things happening all the time. People who say, “I don’t believe in coincidences” (usually in the movies, when it so happens that events were not coincidental) in general just don’t have a good grasp of large number statistics. Given world enough, and time, unlikely events occur. Like having two world-class photographers send me pictures from the same spot at the same time. I’ll take it.

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