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Astronomers shoot first in 'Star Wars'-style timelapse

Astronomers shoot first in 'Star Wars'-style timelapse


Everyday astronomical research looks a lot like sci-fi

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This three-minute time-lapse video was shot at the summit of Mauna Kea, the 13,803-foot (4.2 km) volcano in Hawaii. Due to its position, the peak is ideal for space observation. It's currently home to the Manua Kea Observatories, which are used for scientific research across the electromagnetic spectrum, and will soon play host to the world's largest optical telescope.

In addition to aiding in the scientific quest for knowledge — and being a dead ringer for Star Wars' Ion Cannons — the observatories also make a fantastic subject for a timelapse. Photographer Sean Goebel spent seven days and nights over several months capturing the observatories against the spectacular constellations of the Milky Way. The video is made all the more impressive by the sight of lasers seemingly blasting their way into the abyss.

"The lasers are real," explains Goebel, "they're used for adaptive optics; just as waves of heat coming off pavements blur out the detail in faraway objects, winds in the atmosphere blur out fine detail in the stars ... the laser is used to track this atmospheric turbulence." Goebel notes that adaptive optics were the subject of his first research project at graduate school, explaining his passion for the subject. For a full explanation of how and why Goebel captured the time-lapse image, you can head to his website.