Amazing Time-Lapse Shows Leaves Dramatically Changing Color During Fall

RCKeller/iStock via Getty Images Plus
RCKeller/iStock via Getty Images Plus

During autumn, the leaves of many of our deciduous trees change color before falling off and dying. Sad, right? It depends on how you look at it.

Owen Reiser—a very patient mathematics and biology student at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville—spent more than a month filming the color-changing process to create an ambitious, two-minute time-lapse video featuring close-ups of leaves transforming from yellow and green to red and brown.

“I was taking a field biology class and we were learning about deciduous trees,” Reiser told Smithsonian. “I’ve been getting into wildlife photography and time-lapse for a while, and I couldn’t find a time-lapse of leaves changing color, so I just went for it.”

It took Reiser six weeks—and many sleepless nights—to compile the footage. He snapped more than 6000 close-up photos of leaves, including images from 10 different Midwestern deciduous trees, such as sassafras and sugar maple. He took a photo of each leaf once every 30 to 60 seconds for three days using a camera, a LED light, and a battery that allowed his camera to run constantly. “It’s [basically] a cardboard box and a bunch of duct tape, but it gets the job done,” he said.

You can see the green and yellow leaves quickly fill with reds and browns; new colors dramatically take over, and pigments break down. It looks like “dye spreading through fabric,” according to Smithsonian.

But what occurs when the leaves alter color isn’t so simple. “People argue that the red color is [also] an unmasking from the breakdown of chlorophyll, and that’s simply wrong,” David Lee, professor emeritus in biological sciences at Florida International University, told Smithsonian. “The red color is actually made when the chlorophyll is beginning to break down—there’s a synthesis of those pigments, so it’s quite a different thing.”

Either way, after watching the video, you'll never look at fall foliage the same way again.

[h/t Smithsonian]

Learn Travel Blogging, Novel Writing, Editing, and More With This $30 Creative Writing Course Bundle

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What Did the Hubble Telescope See on Your Birthday? This NASA Website Will Show You

A 2010 Hubble-captured image of a pillar of gas and dust in a stellar nursery called Carina Nebula.
A 2010 Hubble-captured image of a pillar of gas and dust in a stellar nursery called Carina Nebula.

The Hubble Space Telescope was launched into orbit on April 24, 1990, and it has spent the last three decades enriching our understanding of the cosmos more than we ever could’ve imagined. This year, NASA is celebrating the telescope's 30th birthday with another launch: a website that shows you a photo of what the Hubble saw on your birthday.

Because the telescope is exploring space every hour of every day, the images it has captured over the years are both fascinating and varied. You could see a globular star cluster, a dust storm on Mars, or something else entirely. You only need to enter the date and month of your birthday on the site, so the image you get won’t necessarily be from the year you were born—and, if you were born before 1990, it definitely won’t be—but it’s pretty fun to juxtapose how you were spending that particular birthday with how the Hubble was spending it. While your parents were snapping a shot of you blowing out the candles at your eighth birthday party, for example, the Hubble might’ve been snapping a shot of the beautiful auroras around Jupiter’s north pole.

The telescope was first conceived all the way back in 1946 by Yale University astrophysicist Lyman Spitzer, Jr., who published a paper about the possible advantages of having what he called a “large space telescope” in orbit to help astronomers study the galaxies. The project finally got off the ground in the 1970s, and the telescope was designed so that astronauts could periodically upgrade it while still in orbit. Since it first broke through the atmosphere in 1990, the Hubble—named after astronomer Edwin Hubble, who proved the existence of other galaxies beyond the Milky Way—has taught us that the universe is 14 billion years old, that its expansion is speeding up, and so much more.

Unlock your birthday image on the Hubble website here, and check out more stellar photos taken by the Hubble here.