The Night Sky: 6 Hours of Stars

Coudal Partners
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.