New aurora video a masterpiece

A frame showing a rayed arc in action from Ole Salomonsen's northern lights video. Credit: Ole Salomonsen

After more than six months of picture-taking on dozens of cold nights, photographer Ole Salomonsen of Tromsø, Norway has combined some 50,000 still images into a spectacular 4-minute video of the northern lights. Key among his goals was to show the aurora as closely as possible in real time. We see graceful movements, sudden surprises and changing colors unfold in all their subtlety in Ole’s beautifully composed presentation.

The movie combines high resolution imagery and natural scenery set to music by Tromsø musician Per Wollen. It’s a masterpiece. Click HERE to watch.

A small orrery showing the Earth, moon and inner planets. Credit: Kaptain Kobold

Ever heard of an orrery? An orrery (OR-er-ree) is a mechanical device still found at some planetariums that illustrates the positions and motions of the planets around the sun. It’s typically driven by powered gears, but some are movable by hand. Orreries are great hands-on tools to get acquainted with the solar system’s layout and motions. At the planetarium here in Duluth we have a simple manual orrery. You can tell it’s been around for a while, because one of the planets is loose and keeps falling off.

The instrument was invented in 1713 by George Graham and made by instrument-maker J. Rowley. He presented a copy to his patron, English nobleman Robert Boyle, the 4th Earl of Orrery, for whom it was named.

A portrait of the 4th Earl of Orrery by Charles Jervas

Most of us don’t have access to a physical orrery, but this being the 21st century, there’s a online flash version that is one of the coolest tools I’ve seen in a long time.

Watch the planets go around the sun and moons go around the planets. Even the asteroids are included – something lacking in the Earl’s version. You can set the date, speed and even view an older, alternative view of the solar system proposed back in the day by 16th century Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe.

Tycho placed the Earth at the center of the solar system orbited by the sun, which was in turn orbited by Mercury and Venus. The outer planets moved along their own separate orbits. Complicated and ultimately incorrect, it was Tycho’s best shot at explaining the motions of the planets at the time.

Whether constructed of brass or source code, orreries will always have their place in helping us visualize how our solar system works. Check it out.

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About astrobob

My name is Bob King and I work at the Duluth News Tribune in Duluth, Minn. as a photographer and photo editor. I'm also an amateur astronomer and have been keen on the sky since age 11. My modest credentials include membership in the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO) where I'm a regular contributor, International Meteorite Collectors Assn. and Arrowhead Astronomical Society. I also teach community education astronomy classes at our local planetarium.

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