New DVD offers time-lapse view of Hawaii starlight from Mauna Kea


As many of you will read in the new July/August 2009 issue of HAWAII Magazine, Jean-Charles Cuillandre is an astronomer at the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope-—one of the dozen observatories taking advantage of the cloudless skies above the 14,000-foot summit of Mauna Kea, on Hawaii’s Big Island.

Cuillandre helped build a 340-megapixel camera, allowing the observatory to capture some way-out images—way, way out, like galaxy clusters 500 million light years away.
But that wasn’t enough camera work for the French scientist. In his spare time, he took time-lapse photos of the observatories and landscape of Mauna Kea. Often he would spend eight hours taking photos—to get only 15 seconds of digital video.

But, as you’ll see when you click on the frame below, what video! Cuillandre’s time-lapse images move. Clouds boil, stars arc through the sky. The observatories open, close and spin like so many R2D2s, blinking and shooting off lasers. All of it set to music from video game “Halo.”  When Microsoft, which owns the award-winning game soundtrack, saw Cuillandre’s spectacular footage, they said, sure, go ahead, use it.

After seven years of labor, Jean-Charles has compiled his video for a 43-minute film called Hawaiian Starlight, now on high-definition DVD. It’s enough to take your breath away.

Distributed free to schools, the DVD is also available to the public for $15 a copy—including free shipping—by clicking here. Proceeds go to the Canada-France-Hawaii Education Fund.

Time lapse photography by Jean-Charles Cuillandre. In the photo above, the stars above Mauna Kea trace their paths through the sky as the Canada-France-Hawaii telescope moves to stay focused on single images in space.

Categories: Culture, Hawai‘i Island