Weekend Diversion: Time Lapse and a Dark Sky

"The loss of the night sky is most troubling for children. Whole generations of kids in cities and suburbs are growing up seldom if ever having seen the milky way and what a sky full of thousands of stars look like." -Timothy Ferris

While Dave Chappelle will tell you that everything looks better in slow motion, when you're looking at the night sky, you need a lot going for you these days. Paramount among them, as the Easy Star All-Stars might tell you (covering Pink Floyd), is

Time.
Because if all you do is look up from within your city, you're likely to see something like this.

A pretty sight, to be sure, but thanks to all the light pollution, you're unlikely to see anything other than the Moon and the absolute brightest stars and planets in the sky.

But travel far away from all the man-made sources of light, wait until you have a Moon-free sky, and go up to as high an altitude as possible, and you've got ideal conditions for reconnecting with the night sky. In fact, those places are where you go to find many of the world's best modern observatories. Like this one...

Image credit: NASA, pilfered from Eruptions.

Up on Pico del Teide, at a maximum altitude of almost 4,000 meters (over 12,000 feet), dark skies with excellent seeing are readily available. And if you've got the time and the tools, you can not only capture some amazing sights, you can create perhaps the best time-lapse videos of all time.

Well, last month, one of the most amazing videos of the Northern Lights was created by Terje Sorgjerd, and this month, he's gone to Teide and created this new show-stopper.

You can see why early humans thought the "celestial sphere" of stars rotated about the Earth. Today, when you see the stars move like this, you are really watching the Earth spin on its axis!

The daytime shots are pretty amazing, too, but of course I'm a sucker for the vast expanse of space. You can see how, even at one of the best locations on Earth, light pollution can be a big deal. April, as you may know, is Global Astronomy Month, and I hope you'll join me in supporting the International Dark-Sky Association. The stars, planets, and heavens belong to us all, so let's make sure we all have as much access to them as possible! Now, go enjoy that video one more time, and have a great rest of your weekend!

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Thanks Ethan. I am DYING to get out of the dirty bright skies of Toronto and get out into the country so I can see some real stars. Hopefully I'll have many chances this summer.

I must visit this place in my lifetime!

Thanks for the introduction to Easy Stars.

By Old Geezer (not verified) on 18 Apr 2011 #permalink

easy stars rule

Greame, I'm in Toronto too and the light pollution here sucks. But just drive 1 hour north to Caledon and go to the Forks of the Credit provincial park. You'd be amazed how much darker the skies are up there.

It's like geek porn and climber porn all rolled into one unholy package. Thanks for making me jones for the high desert again.

By the backpacker (not verified) on 22 Apr 2011 #permalink

It is amazing how people canât see the stars at night when they are in a city full of lights. Though the stars are bright, to the human eye, people usually canât see bright stars past all the bright lights. Whenever someone isnât in a city or surrounded by bright lights, people can see millions of bright stars shinning in the night sky.
`Destiny E.

By Destiny E. (not verified) on 27 Apr 2011 #permalink