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SYFY WIRE Bad Astronomy

Time-Lapse Video: Skylight

By Phil Plait

If you have four minutes and need something to make you sigh deeply due to its beauty and depiction of magnificent nature, then may I recommend the time-lapse video “Skylight,” by photographer Chris Pritchard?

So pretty! I liked the part at 1:50 where you see Racetrack Playa, a flat region in Death Valley renowned for its mysterious sliding rocks … well, they used to be mysterious. That long-standing puzzle has been solved (it cracked me up in the recent X-Files series when Mulder used them as an example of something science has—sadly, to him—solved).

I also quite liked the persistent train Pritchard caught at 2:00: That’s a vapor trail from a bright meteor that twists as its blown by upper atmospheric winds, a hundred kilometers above Earth’s surface.

As with many time-lapse videos, you can also see cloud layers moving, boiling and rolling like a living thing. As I’ve said many times, anything that can flow is a fluid, so our atmosphere is one as well, and nothing makes that more clear than speeding up the time so you can see it moving like a liquid.

I like time-lapse videos like this for a lot of reasons, but a big one is that they stretch my brain, and force me to literally see the world differently. It’s a good reminder that the we see things every day isn’t necessarily the way things really are. 

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