Changing Planet

Star-Studded Timelapse Video From Chile’s High-Desert

When stargazers dream of the ultimate destination for looking up at the heavens, the high-altitude Atacama Desert in northern Chile likely stands at the top of the list.

Nature videographer Nicholas Buer recently shot this stunning film, taken over 12 days while he camped out in the San Pedro de Atacama region of northern Chile. Sitting at an altitude of more than 2,600 feet (792 meters) above sea level and with bone-dry air, the region has some of the most transparent, darkest skies anywhere on Earth.

Make sure you watch the video in high definition and in full-screen mode to get the full effect.

Highlighting much of the breathtaking footage—each shot was the result of three to five hours of patient shooting—are a number of special celestial targets of opportunity.

“I visited at a time when Venus was situated quite close to the centre of the Milky Way, an astronomical event that only takes place every eight years or so,” Buer explained to National Geographic in an email.

“I also timed my visit with the autumn equinox, which is a good time of year to capture Zodiacal light, the celestial phenomenon caused by sunlight scattering interplanetary space dust in the Zodiacal cloud. It stretches across the ecliptic and glows for a short while after sunset like a UFO beam, and I was lucky enough to witness this every night I stepped out into the dark,” he added.


The downtown core of the Milky Way lights up the skies above the stark Atacama desert in Chile. Credit: Nicholas Buer/

Filming in remote, desolate regions like the Atacama comes with its own excitement, and for Buer, an adventure is not complete unless there are challenges by night and day. This trip was no different, he says.

“I found the Atacama to be a very harsh landscape; the dry air makes your skin crack and split, the winds pummel you with every gust, and the altitude slows you down and affects your ability to hike with heavy equipment,” he said.

“By the end of this trip me, my kit, and my car had taken a real battering, but it was all worth it; I wouldn’t have had it any other way.”

Follow Andrew Fazekas, the Night Sky Guy, on Twitter and Facebook.

Andrew Fazekas, aka The Night Sky Guy, is a science writer, broadcaster, and lecturer who loves to share his passion for the wonders of the universe through all media. He is a regular contributor to National Geographic News and is the national cosmic correspondent for Canada’s Weather Network TV channel, space columnist for CBC Radio network, and a consultant for the Canadian Space Agency. As a member of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Andrew has been observing the heavens from Montreal for over a quarter century and has never met a clear night sky he didn’t like.
  • Susan

    Stunning. I feel we are on the brink of new discoveries we can’t even imagine with astronomy! I can’t wait to see what the next decade has in store for us. It’s just the beginning….

  • John Bunbury

    Just amazing, I can’t even describe my love for shot’s like this.

  • carlos

    San Pedro de atacama is at an altitude about 2.430 meters above sea level, not just 792, and all the surounding places are at 3000 mt, that´s why we have te most clear skyes of the world.

  • Mukund

    Fascinating. I just felt so observed and lost looking at the video. Just what a amazing universe we have. To sad in todays brightly light cities we cannot enjoy stars. Just reminds me of my young days when i would sit with my telescope on my house top focussing and looking at stars in the night sky.

  • Deborah

    Beautiful… Would have enjoyed more with some traditional native Chilean music…

  • Elisaveta

    Amazing! How perfect can be things, which seem so usual at first sight.

  • tristan mccord

    sooooo awsome

  • Enah Mae Dayanan Taran

    the whole thing made me like I should go there and see the sparkling night sky personally…

    like I should do the same thing when I grow up…

    thanks for sharing the video 🙂

  • KG

    The still photo and the vimeo gave me for the first time the sense of being part of the Milky Way Galaxy. Amazing sense, completely new, of belonging to a galaxy. Feels wonderful, good.

  • Will

    awesome!! and I wanna know the name of the back ground music

  • Erik

    Jah bless the desert

  • Ben

    Lovely and inspiring but the music doesn’t fit. Either local music or classical would be much better.

  • Janice

    I have never seen such beauty! The video makes me want to see this with my own eyes!

    Absolutely stunning!

  • Rebecca Mendonca

    Wow… this is amazing!! What camera has been used??

  • fatima

    please someone tell me the name of the background music

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