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SYFY WIRE Bad Astronomy

Australian Time-Lapse Makes Me Want to Stand on My Head

By Phil Plait

Since Iâm heading down to Australia, hereâs a wonderful time-lapse video made from shots taken in May by Malaysian photographer Teoh Hui Chieh. There are some remarkable directions taken in this video, which Iâll note below.

(Note: Chieh has a collection of pictures used in this video and from her visit to Australia on Flickr and has a blog called My Dark Sky, where she documents her work; she has a description of the video there as well.)

At 20 seconds or so, there is a nice 360-degree all-sky view. Usually these are fixed, with the camera motionless while the stars move in the sky, but Chieh set it so that the stars donât move and the horizon does. It generates a decidedly odd feeling, a view Iâm not used to seeing.

At 1:28 the May annular solar eclipse rises into view; the Moon was in between the Earth and Sun, but happened to be at a part of its orbit when it was farther from Earth than on average, so it appeared smaller. This means it couldnât completely block the Sun.

Notice too that as the Sun and Moon rise they move up and to the left. That always get me; in the Northern Hemisphere the Sun and Moon rise moving to the right. Seeing the Sun rise backward always throws me off, but thatâs the way things are for folks south of the equator, standing on their heads as they do.

At 3:13 you see Orion setting, and Chieh played with the star trails to make them match the music, trailing one way and then another. I was impressed by that; it really adds some great drama to the video. The next few sequences get their timing stretched and zoomed to match the music as well. Very cool.

And throughout the video are the stars and sights we donât get in the northern latitudes: the Southern Cross, Alpha and Beta Centauri, the Coal Sack, the Magellanic Clouds. Many of these objects should be up in the sky and visible while Iâm in Australia. I hope to get some pictures while Iâm down there. I donât know when Iâll get to see them again with my own eyes.

Until then, I suppose, I can watch amazing videos like this one.

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