From may 27th till the 9th of june 2011 I went on a holiday to La Palma (Canary Islands). On La Palma, the nights are still dark and the conditions for stargazing are amongst the best in the world (especially on top of the Roque de los Muchachos). This was my second trip to the island, and I wanted to make my first real time-lapse. This video is a compilation of my 2 weeks of stargazing on La Palma.
The first part shows the sun going down from the terras of our house. As you can see the sky is very blue and we're already above the clouds.
The second and third part shows a setting moon. This was actually at the end of my vacation but I wanted to make it look more chronological (which the video is not). Most notably are the constellation Corvus (center left), Coma Berenices (above center to the right) and the planet Saturn (the bright point of light above and to the left of the center, close to a little less bright star).
From there we go to the top of Roque de los Muchachos. Here you will find the highest point of the island (2,423 meters) and the observatories. The nights are clear here for about 300 nights a year because of a boundary layer of air that blocks most of the clouds from rising. This part of the video is a little to the south of the observatories at about 2,250 meters high. In the front you see me and my friends stargazing with our dobsonian telescopes while in the background the center of the milky way climbs above the mountain.
The big, white and round thing appearing in the bottom left corner of the next part is the William Herschell Telescope (WHT). While we were stargazing thru our own telescopes, their big brother was also busy collecting photons, but for real scientific purposes. The sound and sight of this great mechanical thing turning and clunking next to me and my small telescope was one of the greatest and most memorable experiences of my life! This area is normally prohibited for people not working at the observatories, but thanks to Johan Knapen a tour and permission for stargazing was granted to us at the WHT.
After seeing the center of the milky way rising from behind the WHT we can see the northern pole star (Polaris) with the WHT in the bottom right corner. As you can see, Polaris appears not to move while the other stars circle around it. Because of this seemingly fixed position it is so well known, but it is not the brightest star in the sky (it's not even in the top 10).
From the mountain back to the house! Here we see clouds forming while the milky way slowly keeps rising. The clouds are orange due to the lights of small towns nearby. In real life, they're not as bright orange as this.
Eventually we turn east and see the Andromeda Galaxy rising from behind the chimney (the fuzzy oval). Located at a whopping 2.5 million light years from our own galaxy, it is still large and bright enough to be viewed even with the naked eye on moderately dark places. Another reason for this, is that it's so close. You think 2.5 million light years isn't close? On an astronomical scale, it is. It actually is one of the closest galaxies to our own.
In the end, we see Jupiter taking to the sky from behind the trees, while the lens fogs up and the sky becomes brighter as the sun rises.
Things you might want to know:
There are no airplanes visible in the video. All the streaks you see are caused by either satellites or meteors.
At 1:32 a point of light fades in and out (this probably is a stationary satellite which reflects sunlight). At 2:35 you can see a blinking light going from bottom left to the left of the center (this probably also is a satellite, but a spinning one orbiting earth).
The red light you see is used to protect our night vision. Our eyes are the least sensitive to red light and thus by using weak red light we can read, write or draw with the least of loss of night vision. The lights are no way near as bright as in the video.
How did I do this?:
The video is made up from about 2.250 individual pictures. I took these pictures using my DSLR camera and a remote, taken pictures every 30 seconds with a small interval.
The pictures were then stitched together with VirtualDub in 13 different movies with a framerate of 10 frames per second. Using 24 frames per second (as is normal for video) would result in a video 2.4x times faster, which I thought was too fast. They are then simply put together with Windows Live Movie Maker.
The pictures are taken with a Canon EOS 5D mkII and a Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L USM II.
What to remember for the next time?:
A fixed white balance! In the first 3 movies of the night you can see a changing white balance due to the fact that I accidently set the camera to auto white balance.
Higher ISO and longer exposure! In a video, a little bit more noise or tracking error isn't as distracting as in a single picture.
If I really want to do this, replacing the standard IR cut filter on the camera will result in sensitivity for infra-red, which is desirable with this kind of photography. But it's a bit expensive and tricky...
Any more questions? Just ask!
I do not own the music ("Like Spinning Plates" by Radiohead) but I do think it is the perfect song for this video. The slow moving background against the quick moving foreground is in my mind strikingly reflected by the music. I know I'm not supposed to use it, but I'll give it a shot. Who knows...
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