Coudal Partners
Coudal Partners

The Night Sky: 6 Hours of Stars

Coudal Partners
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.

How Often Is 'Once in a Blue Moon'? Let Neil deGrasse Tyson Explain

From “lit” to “I can’t even,” lots of colloquialisms make no sense. But not all confusing phrases stem from Millennial mouths. Take, for example, “once in a blue moon”—an expression you’ve likely heard uttered by teachers, parents, newscasters, and even scientists. This term is often used to describe a rare phenomenon—but why?

Even StarTalk Radio host Neil deGrasse Tyson doesn’t know for sure. “I have no idea why a blue moon is called a blue moon,” he tells Mashable. “There is nothing blue about it at all.”

A blue moon is the second full moon to appear in a single calendar month. Astronomy dictates that two full moons can technically occur in one month, so long as the first moon rises early in the month and the second appears around the 30th or 31st. This type of phenomenon occurs every couple years or so. So taken literally, “Once in a blue moon” must mean "every few years"—even if the term itself is often used to describe something that’s even more rare.

[h/t Mashable]

Neutron Star Collision Sheds Light on the Strange Matter That Weighs a Billion Tons Per Teaspoon
Two neutron stars collide.
Two neutron stars collide.

Neutron stars are among the many mysteries of the universe scientists are working to unravel. The celestial bodies are incredibly dense, and their dramatic deaths are one of the main sources of the universe’s gold. But beyond that, not much is known about neutron stars, not even their size or what they’re made of. A new stellar collision reported earlier this year may shed light on the physics of these unusual objects.

As Science News reports, the collision of two neutron stars—the remaining cores of massive stars that have collapsed—were observed via light from gravitational waves. When the two small stars crossed paths, they merged to create one large object. The new star collapsed shortly after it formed, but exactly how long it took to perish reveals keys details of its size and makeup.

One thing scientists know about neutron stars is that they’re really, really dense. When stars become too big to support their own mass, they collapse, compressing their electrons and protons together into neutrons. The resulting neutron star fits all that matter into a tight space—scientists estimate that one teaspoon of the stuff inside a neutron star would weigh a billion tons.

This type of matter is impossible to recreate and study on Earth, but scientists have come up with a few theories as to its specific properties. One is that neutron stars are soft and yielding like stellar Play-Doh. Another school of thought posits that the stars are rigid and equipped to stand up to extreme pressure.

According to simulations, a soft neutron star would take less time to collapse than a hard star because they’re smaller. During the recently recorded event, astronomers observed a brief flash of light between the neutron stars’ collision and collapse. This indicates that a new spinning star, held together by the speed of its rotation, existed for a few milliseconds rather than collapsing immediately and vanishing into a black hole. This supports the hard neutron star theory.

Armed with a clearer idea of the star’s composition, scientists can now put constraints on their size range. One group of researchers pegged the smallest possible size for a neutron star with 60 percent more mass than our sun at 13.3 miles across. At the other end of the spectrum, scientists are determining that the biggest neutron stars become smaller rather than larger. In the collision, a larger star would have survived hours or potentially days, supported by its own heft, before collapsing. Its short existence suggests it wasn’t so huge.

Astronomers now know more about neutron stars than ever before, but their mysterious nature is still far from being fully understood. The matter at their core, whether free-floating quarks or subatomic particles made from heavier quarks, could change all of the equations that have been written up to this point. Astronomers will continue to search the skies for clues that demystify the strange objects.

[h/t Science News]


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