Time-lapse movies

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One night on Kitt Peak (in HD)

This time-lapse video, taken on the night from 23rd to 24th of May 2010, shows one full night from before sunset to shortly before sunrise. If was taken just outside the WIYN telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory, 50 miles west of Tucson, AZ. Viewing direction is to the north east, facing the mighty 4m Mayall telescope and a range of smaller telescope along the mountain ridge.

The flickering at the beginning is caused by changes in the exposure time by a factor of ~200 000 to compensate for the decreasing sky brightness as the night sets in. The reason why it does not get really dark is the nearly full moon that significantly lights up the night sky. Once the moon has set about 2 hours before sunrise, the Milky Way becomes more prominent, but so does the light pollution from Tucson and its surroundings.

Astronomical targets to look out for is the North or Pole star in the top left. It can be spotted easily as it’s the only star that is not moving as time goes by, and so is the only real fix-star in the sky. In the second half of the night you can also see the Andromeda Galaxy, a galaxy very much like our own Milky Way at a distance of 2.5 million light years, as fuzzy, elongated object near the right border.

Technical info: All ~ 1000 frames were taken 35 seconds apart with a Nikon D300 at 18mm and exposed for 30 seconds each.

WIYN in action (in HD)

Night sky above Kitt Peak, 21 May 2010.

Time-lapse movie of the northwards-facing night sky above Kitt Peak and the Kitt Peak “skyline”, featuring i.a. the Mayall 4m telescope with its prominent dome.

If you are wondering why it looks more like daytime than night: The reason is the moon, in this case the half-moon, bringing in enough light to light up both the sky and the ground in these 30 second exposures.

Sunset on Kitt Peak, 21 May 2010

Time-lapse movie of the sun setting on Kitt Peak, one of the finest astronomical sites on earth.

Individual frames were taken every 10 seconds, and then played at 15 frames per second, compressing over 1.5 hours into this short clip.

A humid night of interrupted observations

Time-lapse movie showing the WIYN telescope during some spectroscopic observations.

This particular night was plagued by high humidity. At some point we had to shut the dome to prevent water condensation on the telescope, its mirror and sensitive instruments. Once the relative humidity dropped below the 90% threshold we could re-open and continue taking science data.

Universe in the Park

Hands-on astronomy outreach: We travel to one of Wisconsin’s many state parks to give a short (25-30 minutes) presentation about a topic in astronomy, followed by a question-and-answer session. Once the sky is dark enough, we setup one or more telescopes (depending on staff, park, conditions and telescope availability) to allow everyone a look at this night’s highlights, from the moon, over planets to star clusters, planetary nebulae and galaxies.

The movies below are time-lapse movies showing the telescopes with the stars above. People can be spotted by their flashlight, while lightning bugs cause the green points visible in many frames.

Tip: Click on the movies (which will take you to the webpage) to watch the videos in HD

Governor Dodge, 29 May 2010

This time-lapse shows a night during one of the Universe in the Park Outreach events. After a presentation about a current astronomical topic we set up a telescope for everyone interested.

The small red light is the red LED rear-light from a bicycle to produce just enough light to not trip over the cable powering the telescope drive.

Also visible are lights brought by our guests, a few green laser-pointers, and a whole bunch of lightning bugs leaving green dotted lines in a number of frames.

Lake Kegonsa, 30 May 2010

This video is similar to the one above, but recorded at a different park. Compared to Governor Dodge, Lake Kegonsa is closer to Madison, WI, and as a consequence the sky shows the orange hue typical for light-polluted skies.