Monday, May 25, 2009

A Stellar Party

Friend of the Blog "Sligo" Mike pointed me to the terrific video below, a time-lapse fish-eye film shot at the Texas Star Party last month. Prepare to be amazed about 25 seconds in:

The Texas Star Party is famous for its dark skies and excellent viewing. I've heard that when the Milky Way rises above the horizon, it can appear so bright that some observers confuse it with the dawn and go home (although not as bright as it appears in this film, which is made up of many individual photos with long time exposures). Everyone knows that our Sun is a smallish star stuck in the boondocks of the disk of our galaxy, but this film may really make you know it in your gut for the first time.

A lot of people, especially those who spend most of their time in cities, have never seen the Milky Way. I've only seen skies this stunning a few times in my life, all memorable. A couple times in the Sierra Nevada, once at Lick Observatory, and once on a dark county road as I was driving home from college and just had to pull over and marvel. I know the constellations pretty well but on a super clear night I can barely find them, their stars awash and lost among thousands of others. It can be disorienting, exciting, a bit frightening, and obviously awe-inspiring all at once. Go outside and look up once in a while, you might be surprised.


Sherwood Harrington said...

Gorgeous video.

As you know, I've been blessed to enjoy very dark, star-filled skies often. I'd love to see this same thing done at this time of year from the Australian outback. I may have told you before that, in 1986 on a Halley-chasing expedition, the view of the Milky Way from near Uluru and Kata Tjuta far, far eclipsed the comet for me.

If you can at all afford it, a trip to somewhere very dark in the Southern Hemisphere, far enough south so that Sagittarius passes near the zenith, would be worth the expense for only one night's view.

Namowal said...

I hear you about knowing the constellations (as they appear in the city) but being overwhelmed when they're competing with the other stars that are visible in super clear skies.
The only one I could honestly make out in that beautiful video was Scorpius, even though I knew Sagittarius and Ophiuchus and others were lurking nearby.