Light pollution is the arch nemesis of astronomy, spoiling both the enjoyment of the night sky and the professional study of our universe. For years we’ve assumed that streetlights are the main culprit behind light pollution, but a recent study has shown that streetlights contribute no more than 20% of all the pollution, and if we want to solve this vexing astronomical problem, we have to think harder.Continue reading “Most light pollution isn’t coming from streetlights”
It’s an old story: a couple leave their jobs, sell everything, and live in motorhome to capture footage and imagery of the night sky.
This unique story is exactly what Brad and Marci Goldpaint did. They left their jobs and traveled throughout the western US in an RV to begin educating the public about the damaging effects of light pollution. They wanted to help reconnect people with the simple beauty of the night sky and have been teaching photography workshops and gathering footage for a new timelapse called “Illusion of Lights: A Journey into the Unseen.”
With breathtaking scenes and soaring music, this video “introduces you to the concept of movement and time that visually explores our night skies,” says Brad on Vimeo.
We’ve featured images and timelapses from Brad before, and he shared how the sudden loss of his mother caused him to reassess his goals and priorities. Since 2009 he’s been working on outdoor photography and has now dedicated his work to sharing images of the night sky with others.
For this timelapse, Brad said he “spent countless nights traversing in the dark, carrying heavy camera equipment, and braving the dark unseen.” He dealt with lightning storms, dangerous winds, and up-close encounters with bears and other wildlife. Sometimes, after spending days hiking to a remote location and with optimistic weather reports, Mother Nature showed up and ruined his opportunity to get the shot.
A few highlights: at about 2:00 there is an exploding meteor with a persistent train that is stunning. You’ll also see strange lights on Mount Rainier. Brad explained these lights are from people climbing the mountian at night in hopes of reaching the summit by sunrise the following day. The white lights you see are from their headlamps. “Can you imagine climbing up a mountain in the middle of the night?” he asks?
For more about this film see their website.
Regular readers of Universe Today will be well-acquainted with the photography and timelapse work of Randy Halverson. He’s just released his latest timelapse and in a word, it is breathtaking. Aurora, thunderstorms — sometimes both at once — and, of course, stunning views of the night sky.
Randy shot the footage during April-November 2013 in South Dakota, Wyoming and Utah. “The weather in 2013 made it difficult for me to get some of the shots I wanted,” Randy said on Vimeo. “There were many times I planned to shoot the Milky Way or Aurora, and the clouds would roll in. But that also allowed me to get more night storm timelapse than I have any other year.”
He added that the aurora sometimes appeared without warning. In the video, be on the lookout for slow and fast moving satellites, quick meteors and slower moving airplanes. “The meteors are hard to see in timelapse, but you may see a quick flash because they only last one frame,” he said. “If you see a light moving across the sky, it is either an airplane or satellite, not a meteor.”
Sit back, put this on full screen and full sound and take a well-deserved break from your day!
Thanks once more to Randy Halverson for continuing to share his handiwork! Find out more about this timelapse at Randy’s website, Dakotalapse.
One of our favorite photographers, Jack Fusco, recently visited Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada, one of the worlds largest dark sky preserves. He went there on behalf of Travel Alberta, during the annual Night Sky Festival. “I was lucky enough to have two clear nights to explore and shoot as many photos as possible to create a short timelapse while there,” Jack told us via email. “In the end, I took over 2,000 photos at locations such as Lake Annette, Athabasca Glacier, Pyramid Lake, and many others. Out of all the places I’ve traveled in search for dark skies, Jasper definitely offered some of the best views I’ve ever seen. The sky in the Columbia Icefield area was unlike any I had witnessed before.”
Jack added that it was great to be around so many people that were excited about astronomy and preserving the night sky, and he’s already looking forward to going again in 2014, and astronaut Chris Hadfield is already lined up as a guest.
If you’re rushing about for the holidays, take a few minutes to enjoy a brief respite with this lovely timelapse. You can see more images and videos at Jack’s website.
We don’t put much stock in astrology or horoscopes here at Universe Today, but there’s one thing related to the zodiac that’s all science and no superstition: zodiacal light, captured here in a gorgeous photo by astronomer Alan Fitzsimmons above ESO’s La Silla Observatory.
Created by sunlight reflected off fine particles of dust concentrated inside the plane of the Solar System, zodiacal light appears as a diffuse, hazy band of light visible in dark skies stretching away from a recently-set Sun (or before the Sun is about to rise).
The Moon is located just outside the frame of this picture, bathing the observatory in an eerie light that is reflected off the clouds below.
The La Silla Observatory is located at the outskirts of the Chilean Atacama Desert at an altitude of 2400 meters (7,900 feet). Like other observatories in this area, La Silla is located far from sources of light pollution and, like ESO’s Paranal Observatory, it has some of the darkest night skies on the Earth.
The dome in the foreground, just to the right, is the Swiss 1.2-metre Leonhard Euler Telescope named in honor of the famous Swiss mathematician Leonhard Euler (1707–83).
Image credit: A. Fitzsimmons/ESO
The World at Night’s (TWAN) annual Earth & Sky photography contest showcases the stunning beauty of the night sky while highlighting the challenges of keeping our skies free from light pollution. TWAN has now announced the winners of this year’s contest, and the winning photos are simply breathtaking. This year’s theme of “Dark Skies Importance,” were judged in two categories: “Beauty Of The Night Sky” and “Against The Lights,” said Babak Tafreshi, the founder and director of TWAN,” and the winners were selected from submissions by photographers in about 45 countries.”
The selected images were judged to be those most effective in impressing the public on both how important and delicate the starry sky is as an affecting part of our nature, and also how bad the problem of light pollution has become.
Tafreshi added that “the amazing number of eye-catching entries from across the world tells how public attention to night sky is growing as well as interest to sky photography and we are very pleased if TWAN has a role on this increasing awareness.”
The overall contest winner and first prize in the Beauty Of The Night Sky category is our lead image, taken by Stephane Vetter of France, for his March 2013 panoramic photo “Sky Above Godafoss” of aurora and the Milky Way over the “Waterfall of the Gods” in Iceland.
See more winners and more information about the contest below:
The first prize in Against The Lights category goes to Andreas Max Böckle of Austria for his photo “Under the Hood” taken from overlooking the city of Salzburg in a moonlit night:
David Malin, one of the judges and a world-known pioneer in scientific astrophotography said, “The 685 entries the judges examined (more than twice than the 2012 judged images) represent some of the best TWAN-style photographs ever gathered together in one place… I feel privileged to have seen so many beautiful images in such a short time!”
Click on the images here to see larger versions. You can see all the winners (and the great prizes they won) at the TWAN website, and this video highlights the winning photos:
“We managed to snap a few photos before Heaven realised its mistake and closed its doors.”
– Dr. Alexander Kumar
This stunning photo of the Aurora Australis, set against a backdrop of the Milky Way, was captured from one of the most remote research locations on the planet: the French-Italian Concordia Base, located located at 3,200 meters (nearly 10,500 feet) altitude on the Antarctic plateau, 1,670 km (1,037 miles) from the geographic south pole.
The photo was taken on July 18 by resident doctor and scientist Dr. Alexander Kumar and his colleague Erick Bondoux.
Sparked by a coronal mass ejection emitted from active region 11520 on July 12, Earth’s aurorae leapt into high gear both in the northern and southern hemispheres three days later during the resulting geomagnetic storm — giving some wonderful views to skywatchers in locations like Alaska, Scotland, New Zealand… and even the South Pole.
“A raw display of one of nature’s most incredible sights dazzled our crew,” Dr. Kumar wrote on his blog, Chronicles from Concordia. “The wind died down and life became still. To me, it was if Heaven had opened its windows and a teardrop had fallen from high above our station, breaking the dark lonely polar night.
“We managed to snap a few photos before Heaven realised its mistake and closed its doors.”
With winter temperatures as low as -70ºC (-100ºF), no sunlight and no transportation in or out from May to August, Concordia Base is incredibly isolated — so much so that it’s used for research for missions to Mars, where future explorers will face many of the same challenges and extreme conditions that are found at the Base.
But even though they may be isolated, Dr. Kumar and his colleagues are in an excellent location to witness amazing views of the sky, the likes of which are hard to find anywhere else on Earth. Many thanks to them for braving the bitter cold and otherworldly environment to share images like this with us!
Lead image: ESA/IPEV/ENEAA/A. Kumar & E. Bondoux. Sub-image: sunset at Concordia. ESA/IPEV/PNRA – A. Kumar
This stunning photo of the Milky Way was captured from what may be the coldest and most isolated research facility on Earth: the French-Italian Concordia Base station, located at 3,200 meters (nearly 10,500 feet) altitude on the Antarctic plateau, 1,670 km (1,037 miles) from the geographic south pole.
Taken by Dr. Alexander Kumar, a doctor, researcher and photographer who’s been living at the Base since January, the image shows the full beauty of the sky above the southern continent — a sky that doesn’t see the Sun from May to August.
During the winter months no transportation can be made to or from Concordia Base — no deliveries or evacuations, not for any reason. The team there is truly alone, very much like future space explorers will one day be. This isolation is one reason that Concordia is used by ESA for research for missions to Mars.
Of course, taking photos outside is no easy task. Temperatures outside the Base in winter can drop down to -70ºC (-100ºF)!
“The dark may cause fear, but if you take the time to adapt and look within it, you never know what you may find – at the bottom of the ocean, in the night sky, or under your bed in the middle of the night,” writes Kumar on the Concordia blog. “If you don’t overcome your fear of the ‘unknown’ and ‘monsters’, you will never see marvellous secrets hidden in the dark.
“I hope this photo inspires you too for the days, weeks and months ahead. In terms of the space exploration we are only beginning. We have to continue pushing out into the great beyond.”
Image credits: ESA/IPEV/PNRA – A. Kumar
Yosemite National Park is known for its stunning granite cliffs, magnificent waterfalls, and clear night skies. See them all here in a timelapse video from Shawn Reeder, called “Yosemite Range of Light.” You’ll witness light and darkness descending on the mountains and landscape, with gorgeous skyscapes throughout. Don’t miss seeing the waterfall off in the distance in the first part of the video!
Time-lapse photographer Christian Mülhauser braved sub-zero temperatures and frozen camera equipment to capture this stunning aurora footage from Norway during the last week of January 2012.
Powerful solar storms in January made for some impressive auroral displays… thanks to Christian for capturing them on camera!