Experience The Night Sky Like Never Before

…with this stunning time-lapse video by photographer Randy Halverson, set to a dramatic score by Bear McCreary. Amazing!

This is four minutes of some of the most breathtaking sky you’ve ever seen. Shot in South Dakota, Wisconsin, Utah and Colorado during the months of June, September and October 2011, the video is made up of multiple long-exposure photographs painstakingly combined into seamless footage, capturing the stars, sky and landscape together in a way that conventional video cameras cannot.

What you are seeing here is an ordered array of literally thousands of 15-30 second exposures shot with professional Canon dSLRs, and given life via the music of composer Bear McCreary.

Randy describes the video on his post on Vimeo:

In the opening “Dakotalapse” title shot, you see bands of red and green moving across the sky. After asking several astronomers, they are possible noctilucent clouds, airglow or faint aurora. I never got a definite answer to what it is. You can also see the red and green bands in other shots.

(Note: these appear to this non-expert to be high-level noctilucent clouds, moving in ripple motion that I have seen before on other low-light time-lapse footage. Noctilucent, or “night-shining”, clouds are created by fine ice particles high in the extremely cold, dry layer of atmosphere called the mesosphere — nearly at the edge of space, 50 to 80 km up. Then again, they could be aurora or airglow… it’s too quick to tell for certain.)

A "persistent train" captured on camera. (© Randy Halverson)

At :53 and 2:17 seconds into the video you see a meteor with a persistent train. Which is ionizing gases, which lasted over a half hour in the camera’s frame. Phil Plait wrote an article about the phenomena here.

There is a second meteor with a much shorter persistent train at 2:51 in the video. This one wasn’t backlit by the moon like the first, and moves out of the frame quickly. Watch for two deer at 1:27.

Most of the video was shot near the White River in central South Dakota during September and October 2011, there are other shots from Arches National Park in Utah, and Canyon of the Ancients area of Colorado during June 2011. The aurora were shot in central South Dakota in September 2011 and near Madison, Wisconsin on October 25, 2011.

I asked Randy why the auroras appear yellow in color in many of the scenes.

“I’m not sure why they were yellow either,” he replied. “They were really far off on the horizon and I was just seeing the top of them. The exposures on those were 30 seconds at ISO 3200, maybe the long exposure did make them that way. I really don’t know.”

Randy also offered this bit of insight:

“One night while we were shooting timelapse, my son and I saw a fireball meteor. I thought it looked like it was maybe 50 miles away. It ended up being right over Fargo, ND, over 300 miles away. So the aurora then were probably at least that far north, if not further.”

Wherever the northern lights were that night, the footage Randy got is nothing short of amazing. Thanks so much to him and to his team for putting this all together and sharing with us!

Visit Randy’s website at www.dakotalapse.com for more amazing time-lapse videos. (There’s also an extended 23-minute version of the above video available here.)

Video © Randy Halverson. Music by Bear McCreary. All rights reserved. Used with permission. See this and more articles about sky and space on my blog LightsInTheDark.com!

Human Journey

I'm a graphic designer and space blogger, currently writing for National Geographic News, Discovery News, Universe Today and on my own blog, Lights in the Dark. The Universe is an amazing place and I'm going to tell you about it, one discovery at a time.