NASA Shares Revealing 12-Year Time Lapse Movies of the Night Sky
NASA's NEOWISE spacecraft shares images it has taken over the last 12 years.
NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide Field Infrared Survey Explorer is a mouthful. More lovingly called NEOWISE, it makes a trip halfway around the sun every six months, collecting images in all directions. When those get stitched together, NASA calls it an "all-sky" map, showcasing hundreds of millions of celestial objects in a single space-spanning image.
Pulling together 18 all-sky maps produced by NEOWISE, scientists have assembled what NASA says is "essentially a time-lapse movie of the sky, revealing changes that span a decade." Portions of that can be seen in the video below, tracking the behavior of changing stars, brown dwarves, and black holes.
Every "all sky" map is an important resource used by astronomers, but in sequence, they "serve as an even stronger resource for trying to better understand the universe," NASA says.
"If you go outside and look at the night sky, it might seem like nothing ever changes, but that’s not the case," Amy Mainzer, principal investigator for NEOWISE at the University of Arizona in Tucson, says. "Stars are flaring and exploding. Asteroids are whizzing by. Black holes are tearing stars apart. The universe is a really busy, active place." Seeing a sequence of "all sky" maps like NEOWISE has shared, drives how just how much is changing out there among the stars.
Ready to go stargazing?
Here are all the best stargazing events that you can get out and see this month or you could stay in a stream the northern lights from home. If you're just getting started, check out our guide to astronomy for beginners or easy stargazing road trips from big US cities.