Time-lapse photography of clouds and other phenomena in the sky

Martin Setvak

Gallery 2020

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My recent timelapsing gear consists of two APS-C cameras: Samsung NX500 (with Samyang 12mm F2.0 NCS CS, Samyang 8mm F2.8 UMC Fisheye II and Asahi Takumar SMC 55mm F2 M42 lenses) and Ricoh GXR camera with its A16 (24-85mm) zoom unit. Comments on why I use these cameras can be found in the Introduction to time-lapse photography page, and my typical settings and additional comments on timelapsing with Ricoh cameras are here. Notes on timelapsing with the Samsung NX500 can be found here.   All the times below are given in UTC (GMT).

Sources of satellite, radar and other meteorological data used below: CHMIEUMETSAT  and  NOAA CLASS.

Note: movie files below, which are stored as .mkv (encrypted here as H.265 RGB) are identical to those stored as .mp4 (here as standard H.264 YUV420), but should have somewhat better quality, namely in fine transitions of the blue sky. However, to play these, you will most likely have to do so outside of your browser, either using a system movie player, or one of the external ones (e.g. MPC-HC or VLC).

2020-02-17   07:15 - 08:42 UTC  (1h 27m)
Ricoh GXR-A16,  interval 5 seconds, speed 150x

20200217_0715-0842utc_Praha-Libus_1920x1080.mp4  (88 MB)
20200217_0715-0842utc_Praha-Libus_1920x1080_x265.mkv  (115 MB, H.265)

Helmholtz cloud waves, Praha - Libuš.    Waves in low clouds, which were formed by strong wind shear at levels around 2 km. Contrary to more frequent orographic waves, which form downwind of mountain ridges or islands and typically are quasi-steady or move very slowly, these wind shear-induced waves propagated very quickly in an eastward direction, even faster than the cloud base underneath. The wind shear can be nicely seen e.g. in this wind profiler plot from Temelín (south Bohemia, lower panel), and cloud height can be retrieved from the ceilometer plot from the same location (upper panel). The cloud height at the location from which the timelapse was taken (Praha-Libuš) can be seen in this ceilometer plot  (no wind profiler there). In both plots, the vertical lines outline the period of the timelapse sequence. The sounding plots from Praha-Libuš from 06 UTC and 12 UTC show that at levels near 2 km there was no significant thermal inversion. Source of these plots: CHMI and EUMETNET e-Profile

The appearance of these waves from above can be seen in satellite imagery at higher pixel resolution. In this Meteosat-10 (MSG-3) HRV band image (at resolution of about 1x2 km for this region) from the beginning of the timelapse sequence, the individual waves can be resolved. The red dot indicates the location of Praha-Libuš (from where the timelapse was taken), the green dot marks location of Temelín, and the sector outlines the horizontal range and direction of the timelapse. In this Meteosat-10 HRV loop (taken at 5 minute rapid scan mode) the sector also marks the timelapse interval. Despite the fact that the waves can be resolved in the HRV images, their motion can't be resolved in the loop due to their fast eastward propagation. Somewhat better resolution is available in this Metop-B AVHRR 1 km image, captured at the end of the timelapse series. However, the clearest image of these waves was recorded about 30 minutes later by the Sentinel-3B satellite with its OLCI instrument at 300 m resolution, shown here in the RGB composite image of bands 8, 6 and 4. From this image it is possible to retrieve the wavelength of these waves, which ranges from about 2 km near Praha (red dot), up to about 4 km in the other more distant regions. From the timelapse series it is possible to estimate the period of these waves, reaching about 85 seconds. 

The timelapse series, unfortunately terminated by the memory card capacity, was captured from my office window at the CHMI Observatory Praha-Libuš, Czech Republic, with a southwestward view.

2020-04-22   18:55 - 20:15 UTC  (1h 20m)
Samsung NX500 & Samyang 8mm F2.8 UMC Fisheye II, interval 30 seconds, speed 900x

20200422_1855-2015utc_Starlink_Okrouhlik_x264.mp4  (25 MB) 
20200422_1855-2015utc_Starlink_Okrouhlik_x265.mkv   (29 MB, H.265

Starlink satellites on the evening sky above Prague. Captured from from Okrouhlík, central Bohemia, Czech Republic, northwest view.

More about Starlink project e.g. here.

2020-06-06   19:40 - 20:55 UTC  (1h 15m)
Samsung NX500 & Samyang 8mm F2.8 UMC Fisheye II, interval 5 seconds, speed 150x

20200606_1940-2055utc_NLC_Okrouhlik_x264_1920x1080.mp4  (68 MB)
20200606_1940-2055utc_NLC_Okrouhlik_x265_1920x1080.mkv   (68 MB, H.265)

Evening sky above Prague with weaker NLC from Okrouhlík, central Bohemia, Czech Republic. In the timelapse movie the NLC are visible approx. from its middle part, roughly in the encircled area. In the OSWIN radar record from the IAP in Kühlungsbornu (north-east Germany) they vanished about half an hour before the local sunset (in upper panel the yellow arrow), from Prague surroundings they appeared from about 20:10 UTC (red arrow). More about the OSWIN mesosphere radar observations e.g. here

2020-07-02   11:27-12:04 & 12:11-12:23   UTC  (37 & 12 m)
Samsung NX 500 & Samyang 12mm F2.0 NCS CS,  interval 3 seconds, speed 90x

20200702_1127-1223utc_Mandava-Sulice_30-fps_x264_1920x1080.mp4  (65 MB)
20200702_1127-1223utc_Mandava-Sulice_30-fps_x265_1920x1080.mkv   (70 MB, H.265)

Showers south of Prague.  Captured from Mandava (south of Prague, central Bohemia, Czech Republic); first series northward view, towards Prague, second series westward view, at Sulice.

2020-07-05   20:00 - 21:30 UTC  (1h 30m)
Samsung NX 500 & Samyang 12mm F2.0 NCS CS,  interval 4 seconds, speed 120x

20200705_2000-2130utc_NLC_Praha-Vysehrad_x264_1920x1080.mp4   (123 MB)
20200705_2000-2130utc_NLC_Praha-Vysehrad_x265_1920x1080.mkv    (128 MB, H.265

Noctilucent clouds (NLC) outburst observed from Prague.  One of the brightest, largest and most beautiful NLC cases I have ever seen, if not the best one.

On that day, the OSWIN radar was detecting increased activity of the Mesospheric Summer Echoes (MSE) since mid-afternoon till sunset (see this OSWIN radar record), indicating a very good chance for NLC show for that evening.  As I noticed this relatively late, shortly after sunset, it was already too late to go by car somewhere south of Praha. Therefore, I decided for a backup plan - to go to Vyšehrad (the second main castle in Praha) and try observing and timelapsing the NLC from this viewpoint there.  It turned out to be a great decision, as the composition of NLC above center of Praha is just spectacular. See also this larger photo (from the timelapse series), taken at about 20:20 UTC, at the time of most prominent appearance of the noctilucent clouds.

The gradual disappearance of NLC from upper to lower elevations in the images (approx. from south-east to north-west) - see the individual images from 20:20, 20:35, 20:50, 21:05 and 21:20 UTC - is caused by propagation of the Earth's shadow in the upper mesosphere, at heights of NLC occurrence (at about 80-85 km), during the "mesospheric sunset". You may also notice the pink tint of the upper edge of the NLC, caused by a similar mechanism as reddish color of highest tropospheric cirrus clouds after sunset.  The timelapse movie is slightly over-enhanced, to show all the details of NLC and their dynamics. 

To unambiguously exclude presence of high cirrus clouds (which in some cases, during early dusk, may slightly resemble NLC clouds), see this 20:35 UTC RGB-NM image (night microphysics RGB product) from Metop-B polar-orbiting satellite. Red lines indicate the sector covered by the timelapse. Within this sector, this image reveals low and mid-level clouds only, invisible from Prague, but no high cirrus clouds. In this image is also plotted location of the OSWIN radar, which is (due its azimuth and distance with respect to CZ) broadly used here as an early indicator of possible occurrence of evening NLC.  Finally, the MSG RSS NM-RGB loop  (18-24 UTC) shows evolution of the weather above Central Europe - we were quite lucky here, in Czechia... 

My older NLC cases can be found here:   
2009-07-142013-06-272014-07-032015-07-102016-07-052018-07-02/03  and  2019-06-21   

2020-07-22   20:05 - 21:18 UTC  (1h 13m)
Samsung NX 500 & Samyang 12mm F2.0 NCS CS,  interval 20 seconds, speed 500x

20200722_2005-2118utc_NEOWISE_Kaliste_x264_1920x1080.mp4  (27 MB)
20200722_2005-2118utc_NEOWISE_Kaliste_x265_1920x1080.mkv   (31 MB, H.265

Comet NEOWISE, Very short timelapse, which was initially meant as test for a better, less cloudy night. However, such a night came here (central Bohemia) only much later, after the comet has already faded out. Thus, this timelapse is my only memmory of this nice comet. Captured from a hill near Votice, central Bohemia. The yellow glow at horizon comes from about 50 km distant Prague.

2020-08-20 / 2020-08-21   17:15 - 05:55 UTC  (12h 40m)
Samsung NX 500 & Samyang 8mm F2.8 UMC Fisheye II,  interval 30 seconds, speed 900x
ISO 3200, exposure 25 seconds, F/2.8

20200820_1715_20200821-0555utc_Jankovska-Lhota_x264_1800x1080.mp4  (123 MB) 
20200820_1715_20200821-0555utc_Jankovska-Lhota_x265_1800x1080.mkv   (121 MB, H.265

Milky Way and green nightglow, Jankovská Lhota.  Similarly to some of my older cases (e.g. 2019, 2018), the green atomic oxygen nightglow gets stronger during the night, culminating shortly before dawn with a series of atmospheric gravity waves (AGW) propagating eastward (leftward here). Source of these waves is uncertain, most likely is related to an approaching frontal system from the west, see these WV6.2 and RGB-24M Meteosat loops (the red dot indicates location and period of the timelapse). This timelapse series was captured using the Move-Shoot-Move Rotator at azimuthal setup, running at half the speed of Earth rotation. Captured from hills near Jankovská Lhota, district Benešov, central Bohemia, Czech Republic. Additional photos: [1], [2] and [3].

2020-09-20   06:15-08:00 UTC 
Samsung NX 500 & Samyang 8mm F2.8 UMC Fisheye II,  interval 5 seconds, speed 300x

Original color version:+
20200920_0615-0800utc_Palava_60fps_1920x1080_rgb.mp4  (75 MB)
Enhanced greyscale version:
20200920_0615-0800utc_Palava_60fps_1920x1080_bw.mp4  (75 MB)

Morning cirrus clouds above Pálava, southeast Moravia, northward view. The greyscale version simulates use of dark red or IR filter, supressing the blue sky and enhancing the cirrus clouds; see also this static picture from the beginning of the timelapse sequence. Captured from Stolová hora ("Table Mountain"), north of Mikulov, Czech Republic.

2020-12-22    15:42-16:12 UTC 
Samsung NX 500 & Asahi Takumar SMC 55mm F2,  interval 3 seconds, speed 90x

20201222_1542-1612utc_Praha-Vysehrad_x264_1920x1080.mp4 (43 MB)
20201222_1542-1612utc_Praha-Vysehrad_x265_1920x1080.mkv  (43 MB)

Jupiter and Saturn setting into clouds, one day after their very close conjunction. Captured from fortification walls of Vyšehrad, Prague, Czechia.

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