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Coudal Partners

The Night Sky: 6 Hours of Stars

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Coudal Partners

Recently, the folks at Coudal Partners headed to a remote location in Nevada, and took high-resolution 4k pictures of the night sky. All night. For two nights. They were trying to get a view that most Americans don't see -- what a moonless night sky looks like without the light pollution of big cities. The resulting video is not time lapse; it's what they call "anti-time lapse," a series of still photographs (long exposures) stitched together in order to give you a quasi-real-time view of the night sky. You can run this video on a monitor and glance over at it every few minutes, noticing how the stars have moved -- that's exactly what I'm doing today (and yes, my computer's fan is on full blast).

The Coudal Partners crew wrote up their notes on the process, explaining how exactly they managed to come up with six and a half hours of video of the night sky. Here's a sample snippet, emphasis added:

The upload to YouTube took roughly 15 hours and their first round of internal encoding (at 360p) took about that same amount of time as well. And then… nothing. The 360p version eventually bumped up to 480p, but still nowhere near the original resolution or even standard HD for that matter. From our early tests (uploading an hour at 4k), we knew it was a going to take a while to re-process, but as we rounded the bend toward day five with zero movement, we weren’t feeling entirely optimistic. We’d broken YouTube.

... Whatever format you happen to wind up watching, we hope you’ll enjoy a whole night’s sky beamed to you directly from Great Basin National Park, or just a handful of minutes, while you look for your favorite constellations.

Okay, ready for this? Below is the full video. Note that if you use Chrome, you can click the little "gear" icon in Chrome or Firefox and change the resolution to "original" which is 4k. Your monitor almost definitely cannot display 4k resolution, but...well, hey, it's neat, right? For virtually everybody, the 1080p is really just fine.

If you're not a YouTube fan, there's a Vimeo version (no 4k option though), an excellent writeup of how they made this, and the whole project was done to promote a series of paper notebooks. (I actually have one of their notebooks that I got in a gift bag at a conference -- it's nice. It's, you know, a notebook.)

You might also enjoy this moody, beautiful making-of video:

Field Notes: Night Sky Edition from Coudal Partners on Vimeo.

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Richard Bouhet // Getty
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science
4 Expert Tips on How to Get the Most Out of August's Total Solar Eclipse
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Richard Bouhet // Getty

As you might have heard, there’s a total solar eclipse crossing the U.S. on August 21. It’s the first total solar eclipse in the country since 1979, and the first coast-to-coast event since June 8, 1918, when eclipse coverage pushed World War I off the front page of national newspapers. Americans are just as excited today: Thousands are hitting the road to stake out prime spots for watching the last cross-country total solar eclipse until 2045. We’ve asked experts for tips on getting the most out of this celestial spectacle.

1. DON’T FRY YOUR EYES—OR BREAK THE BANK

To see the partial phases of the eclipse, you will need eclipse glasses because—surprise!—staring directly at the sun for even a minute or two will permanently damage your retinas. Make sure the glasses you buy meet the ISO 12312-2 safety standards. As eclipse frenzy nears its peak, shady retailers are selling knock-off glasses that will not adequately protect your eyes. The American Astronomical Society keeps a list of reputable vendors, but as a rule, if you can see anything other than the sun through your glasses, they might be bogus. There’s no need to splurge, however: You can order safe paper specs in bulk for as little as 90 cents each. In a pinch, you and your friends can take turns watching the partial phases through a shared pair of glasses. As eclipse chaser and author Kate Russo points out, “you only need to view occasionally—no need to sit and stare with them on the whole time.”

2. DON’T DIY YOUR EYE PROTECTION

There are plenty of urban legends about “alternative” ways to protect your eyes while watching a solar eclipse: smoked glass, CDs, several pairs of sunglasses stacked on top of each other. None works. If you’re feeling crafty, or don’t have a pair of safe eclipse glasses, you can use a pinhole projector to indirectly watch the eclipse. NASA produced a how-to video to walk you through it.

3. GET TO THE PATH OF TOTALITY

Bryan Brewer, who published a guidebook for solar eclipses, tells Mental Floss the difference between seeing a partial solar eclipse and a total solar eclipse is “like the difference between standing right outside the arena and being inside watching the game.”

During totality, observers can take off their glasses and look up at the blocked-out sun—and around at their eerily twilit surroundings. Kate Russo’s advice: Don’t just stare at the sun. “You need to make sure you look above you, and around you as well so you can notice the changes that are happening,” she says. For a brief moment, stars will appear next to the sun and animals will begin their nighttime routines. Once you’ve taken in the scenery, you can use a telescope or a pair of binoculars to get a close look at the tendrils of flame that make up the sun’s corona.

Only a 70-mile-wide band of the country stretching from Oregon to South Carolina will experience the total eclipse. Rooms in the path of totality are reportedly going for as much as $1000 a night, and news outlets across the country have raised the specter of traffic armageddon. But if you can find a ride and a room, you'll be in good shape for witnessing the spectacle.

4. PRESERVE YOUR NIGHT VISION

Your eyes need half an hour to fully adjust to darkness, but the total eclipse will last less than three minutes. If you’ve just been staring at the sun through the partial phases of the eclipse, your view of the corona during totality will be obscured by lousy night vision and annoying green afterimages. Eclipse chaser James McClean—who has trekked from Svalbard to Java to watch the moon blot out the sun—made this rookie mistake during one of his early eclipse sightings in Egypt in 2006. After watching the partial phases, with stray beams of sunlight reflecting into his eyes from the glittering sand and sea, McClean was snowblind throughout the totality.

Now he swears by a new method: blindfolding himself throughout the first phases of the eclipse to maximize his experience of the totality. He says he doesn’t mind “skipping the previews if it means getting a better view of the film.” Afterward, he pops on some eye protection to see the partial phases of the eclipse as the moon pulls away from the sun. If you do blindfold yourself, just remember to set an alarm for the time when the total eclipse begins so you don’t miss its cross-country journey. You'll have to wait 28 years for your next chance.

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Space
What Solar Eclipses Look Like on Different Planets
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Triple solar eclipse on Jupiter.

On Monday, August 21, North America will be treated to dazzling views of a total solar eclipse. But what if humans lived someplace else in the solar system—would eclipses be regarded with the same excitement and awe as they are here on Earth?

In her new video, Physics Girl Dianna Cowern investigates what these celestial events look like beyond our home planet. She discovers that, on some planets, total solar eclipses aren't even possible. The two moons orbiting Mars, for example, are too small to completely block the Sun. Move on to other parts of the solar system and you'll find places where total eclipses aren't rare at all. On Jupiter, which has 69 moons, it's possible for there to be multiple eclipses occurring at the same time. On Pluto, whose moon appears much larger in its sky than the Sun, total eclipses can happen every day for years on end.

Considering all the factors required to make a perfect solar eclipse, we're pretty lucky to be able to see one from Earth at all. And if you're close enough to the path of totality to view this year's North American eclipse, you can consider yourself even luckier.

[h/t Physics Girl]

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