Stunning Death Valley ‘Dreamlapse’

by Nancy Atkinson on January 21, 2013

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Here’s yet another gorgeous timelapse from Gavin Heffernan and his team. As we previewed in our Geminid Meteor Shower post, the Sunchaser Pictures team trekked to the world-famous Eureka Dunes in Death Valley National Park to search for some of the darkest skies on Earth during the meteor shower peak on the night of December 13th, 2012. They braved a long journey, a tough climb cold temperatures.

“But it was all worth it when the skies cleared and showed us an incredible galactic palette!” Gavin writes on Vimeo.

In addition to Geminids, there are star trails, planets and a weird spiraling object at about 1:30-1:35. It makes three broad circular sweeps over the desert – although in timelapse it appears to be moving fast, but the 5 seconds of time in timelapse equals about 50 minutes, so it’s actually not moving all that fast. It can also be seen cutting through the circular star trails picture below. There’s another 25-second exposure that of the object moving that makes it look almost like a colored rope.

“I don’t think that ‘rope’ look is unusual for a normal plane etc.,” Gavin told Universe Today via email. “The circular motion, and very slow movement are what really make it interesting/unusual. It’s definitely worth noting that the site is definitely near some kind of military installation or air force base, because we saw the spectacular sight of F-16 fighter planes zooming over the dunes, not too far off the ground. I know for sure it wasn’t a helicopter, because we would have heard it.”

Shots from the timelapse:

Meteor still shot from 'Death Valley Dreamlapse.' Credit: Gavin Heffernan/Sunchaser Pictures.<br />

Meteor still shot from 'Death Valley Dreamlapse.' Credit: Gavin Heffernan/Sunchaser Pictures.

Star trails from 'Death Valley Dreamlapse." Credit: Gavin Heffernan/Sunchaser Pictures.

Star trails from 'Death Valley Dreamlapse.

A close-up, 25 second exposure of an object flying through the field of view. Credit: Gavin Heffernan/Sunchaser Pictures.

A 25 second exposure of an object flying through the field of view. Credit: Gavin Heffernan/Sunchaser Pictures.

DEATH VALLEY DREAMLAPSE from Sunchaser Pictures on Vimeo.

About 

Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also works with Astronomy Cast, and is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

newSteveZodiac January 21, 2013 at 2:11 PM

I’ve watched a flying light come over a ridge in South Africa and hover then descend then traverse and come towards us.. You couldn’t hear it, the party I was with (and myself) were spellbound by this potential UFO, it was a quiet twilight with only a light breeze and you could hear creatures calling in the countryside from a long way off but everyone agreed this thing was silent. When it was only about 200 metres away it suddenly became audible as a helicopter . The disappointment was audible amongst us but it taught me that lack of sound at a distance can be very deceptive, even though I have experienced Death Valley’s deathly silence I would still bet it was a helicopter.

Zoutsteen from Holland January 21, 2013 at 2:51 PM

isn’t the mind a beautiful thing. Even though you didn’t mention it, no doubt it was a clear sky and you were looking for the odd things out.
By the time you observed the light you already seem to have crossed out fallilng star, meteor, satelite, airplane (stable path of flight) and it came up with an answer that with current knowledge would rate below the odds of it being a helicopter.
tease intended, but only as a friendly poke. Human image recognition vs (mild) expectations often have those odd results, and not just with lights in the sky.
Note: expectation aids in faster response time. Its a benifit … most of the time anyway.

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