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New Astro-Timelapse Video: “The Island” Showcases Astronomy Haven

There’s a reason more than a dozen telescopes—including the largest optical telescope on Earth—have been planted on Roque de los Muchachos, a high point along the rim of a volcanic crater on La Palma, in the Spanish Canary Islands.

In fact, there are several reasons:

  • The island is fairly remote, lying at the far western end of the Canaries, an archipelago that’s about 62 miles (100 kilometers) from the coast of Africa (see map).
  • It’s not so remote, however, that it’s ridiculously hard to reach. There’s an airport and ferries to carry people and supplies, and there are plenty of well-maintained roads.
  • It’s also sparsely populated, boasting fewer than 90,000 people spread around 273 square miles (707 square kilometers). By contrast, my hometown of Washington, D.C., has 601,723 people crammed into 68.3 square miles (176.8 square kilometers) as of 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
  • The island hosts a Spanish national park—Caldera de Taburiente—and a UNESCO biosphere reserve, which leave huge tracts of land free of human development.
  • La Palma’s volcanic origins led to incredibly high peaks for such a small area: The observatories on Roque de los Muchachos sit at 7,860 feet (2,396 meters) above sea level.

Combine La Palma’s high, dry mountain peaks with low light pollution and reasonable access, and you get one of the best spots on the planet for optical astronomy.

And if this stunning new video is any indication, La Palma is also one of the best places on Earth to make an astronomy timelapse.

In May I posted the first starry-night timelapse video from Christoph Malin, a nature and travel photographer based in Austria who recently started applying his skills to astrophotography.

Since then Christoph has had his hands full with new astronomy projects, including a visit to the astronomers’ residences on La Palma, where he took roughly 13,000 pictures of the island for timelapse purposes.

Click on one of the above panels to see stills from “the making of” this video.

The video does a [wink] stellar job weaving together the natural beauty of La Palma with the dazzling sights of a clear night sky. I especially loved watching the seeming ebb and flow of clouds in mountain crevices as sunny days gave way to nights swimming with stars.

Christoph writes in his notes about the video:

[On La Palma] one can truly differentiate the Milky Way’s dark dust regions just by eye—no camera needed. It is an incredible view [that] I tried to capture the best I can. … It is furthemore a totally silent landscape, dark and mysterious. Only noises from time to time are from the wind touching the big century-old pine trees, making for its very own orchestral sound. The huge old pine trees, by the way, are responsible for the water management on the island. With their huge needle pennants, they comb out humidity from the passing clouds coming from the east.

He also kindly provides a list of all the equipment he hauled across volcanic mountains to capture his footage, in case anyone else wants to try their hand at astro-timelapses:

  • 4 Nikon DLSR (1 x D3s, D700, 2 x D7000)
  • 6 Nikon Pro Lenses (10/2.8 DX, 2 x 14-24/2.8, 24-70/2.8, 50/1.4, 24/1.4)
  • up to 5 Manfrotto/Tripods
  • Stage Zero Dynamic Perception Dolly
  • Orion Astronomic Head
  • AstroTrac TT320X-AG
  • Rechargeable Batteries, Batteries, Batteries
  • VauDe Mountaineering Equipment
  • Water / Food / iPad with astronomical software
  • RedBull, RedBull, RedBull

Incidentally, he had to get a permit from the Astrophysics Institute of the Canaries to film around the observatories.

Technically this version of the La Palma video is just a teaser—Christoph says a “second session” about the island will be coming soon.

In the meantime, he’s been invited by the European Southern Observatory to visit their facilities in Cerro Paranal, Chile, and make more new timelapses. Lucky duck!


  1. Mitchell
    New Zealand
    September 28, 2013, 4:37 am

    Inspiring stuff. wonderful.

  2. […] often as possible I returned to Palma to let the film get reality (newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2011/08/15/new-astro-timelapse-video-the-island-showcases-astronomy…), but more than once got thrown back – bad weather, equipment malfunction or […]

    June 1, 2012, 6:27 am

    am speechless! … Christoph compliments, even the music is perfect! Gianna.

  4. […] over lovely locales (for instance, in the high Chilean desert, the northern U.S. West, and the mountains of La Palma, in the Spanish Canary […]

  5. […] New astro time-lapse video: “The Island” showcases astronomy haven Related flickr galleries: […]

  6. Christoph Malin
    February 23, 2012, 5:27 pm

    Thank you all for your kind comments. Looking forward to the new release, however it will take some more weeks. cheers christoph

  7. aaricia
    uk, spain
    February 22, 2012, 6:07 am

    I love your videos, thank you so much for your hard work and your devotion. And thank you, you gave me the most outstanding reason to go this year for holidays to canary islands 🙂 keep it up and delight the world with more breathtaking videos, some people really appreciate it and wants the rest of the world to support them! 😉

  8. […] peaks, hike into the most remote, hidden valleys, search for dark places in national parks, fly to the islands to experience such a raw, unspoiled beauty of the starry skies. In this respect, it is a good […]

  9. […] Lire l’article source sur  newswatch.nationalgeographic.com Category: Sans catégorie […]

  10. Maxim
    November 6, 2011, 3:05 pm

    Magnificent work! Really well professionally done. The location is great too.

  11. […] (Watch a timelapse video of the night sky shot from La Palma.) […]

  12. Roger
    La Palma
    October 5, 2011, 5:17 am

    Great job, it paid off spending so much hours on this video. I shared it on my Facebook account (Balans Travel La Palma) and got nothing but laudable comments. Hope to see more in the future, thank you!

  13. […] bother reading the article, just watch the video. Pretty cool. New Astro-Timelapse Video: “The Island” Showcases Astronomy Haven – News Watch Like this:LikeBe the first to like this post. This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark […]

  14. colo askew
    September 7, 2011, 9:58 am

    This is amazing and the music fits the awe of it:)

  15. David Peavy
    Gulfport, Ms
    August 26, 2011, 9:55 pm

    An incredible video…..great shots, vivid colors and exceptional moments caught on film. Can’t wait to see the entire film!!!

  16. saath brok
    August 23, 2011, 9:55 pm

    god bless you touch m my heart.iam very happy.

  17. Schummy
    August 21, 2011, 6:28 pm

    Fantastic! Uber beautiful!

    Thanks for this magnificient work.

    (By the way, I watched it without music 😉 )

  18. rebekkah
    August 21, 2011, 5:53 pm

    Praise God, seriously. Beautiful work on your part, too. 🙂

  19. Federico
    August 19, 2011, 12:54 pm

    Hi Christoph,
    Thank you for showing to the world the beauty of the night sky of The Palma Island.

  20. Paula Wilkinson
    August 19, 2011, 12:01 am

    Wow! Truelly beautiful. I want to be on top of that mountain watching the stunning night skies for real.

  21. Palmera
    isla de la Palma
    August 18, 2011, 11:22 am

    Gracias por mostrar un poco de la belleza de esta isla , espero ver pronto ese vídeo prometido que estoy segura será todo un espectáculo , la isla además de estrellas ofrece paisajes , playas de arena negra y sobre todo buena gente.

  22. Sulaiman g. Lamuwa
    Nigeria, gombe state
    August 18, 2011, 4:58 am

    It’s very nice website.

  23. Christoph Malin
    August 18, 2011, 3:03 am

    Hi everyone,

    thanks for the nice comments and feedback. It’s truly overwhelming. About the music/soundtrack (as stated on Vimeo, pls check out my comments there): this is the thoughest part. one half of the viewers likes it, the other not. one simply can’t find a track that suits everyone… For now I suggest watching it to your own music if you don’t like the soundtrack. For the longer version we will look for something else, a bit slower… have a nice day and best regards, Chris

  24. Jake
    August 17, 2011, 11:28 pm


  25. Anji
    August 17, 2011, 9:50 pm

    Beautiful images but made cheesy and overly dramatic by that Bruce Willis/Denzel Washington/Batman goes to war-inspired soundtrack. Total let down.

  26. ana
    August 17, 2011, 2:12 pm

    Esta es una nueva y maravillosa manera de ver la bonita isla de La Palma, me encantó.

  27. Haneen
    August 17, 2011, 9:43 am

    breath taking!

  28. Schwitzko Marieluise
    August 17, 2011, 7:17 am

    i`m living on La Palma since 18 years. It can`t be better – including the music!!!

  29. Peggy Smith
    United States
    August 17, 2011, 4:50 am

    This is one of the best time lapse videos I have seen. The ribbon of stars is very impressive. I have not seen anything like it since I was a child.

  30. brucefan
    August 16, 2011, 10:05 pm

    thanks, christoph and peter! i thought it was a ufo — haha!

  31. fran
    Carrollton, Tx
    August 16, 2011, 8:54 pm

    Loved it.. I In part disagree with Sable regarding the music..Impressive and dramatic like the scenery with mountains, rocks, etc. However, it should go somewhat softer with some of the contrasting, less rough scenes.. Magnificent job, however.. Loved it.. Much success to you, Christoph.

  32. Sable
    August 16, 2011, 3:56 pm

    Music is too highly-strung for the imagery imo. Doesn’t fit very well. Some of the edits are a bit too jumpy as well – doesn’t really give one time to appreciate the scene before moving onto the next one. (This is meant to be constructive lol). That said – still absolutely fantastic shots. Really makes me want to get my camera out for a bit of time-lapse 😀

  33. Mara Rampazzo
    August 16, 2011, 2:52 pm

    Semplicemente fantastico…un cielo cosi dovremmo vedere, senza inquinamento luminoso… le stelle ci regalerebbero dei spettacoli straordinari tutte le notti…siete fantastici…bravissimi…complimenti con il cuore

  34. Piret
    August 16, 2011, 2:11 pm

    Excellent ;))
    Aeg voolab ju ! ;))

  35. whitney
    jackson ms
    August 16, 2011, 2:10 pm

    Breathtaking .. my eyes teared up as i watched it .. just goes to show we are apart of some things waay bigger than whats in front of us

  36. Derek Porter
    San Diego, CA
    August 16, 2011, 12:42 pm

    Great shots, but the grammar of the beginning titles is incorrect (“Imagine an island with a(n) incredible”) and the music is a bit stressful.

  37. Zulqurnain Javed
    August 16, 2011, 12:26 pm

    I have sooo fallen in love with these time lapse videos .. i can’t even really have words to describe how much I love it

  38. peter
    August 16, 2011, 8:46 am

    >what is that green object moving from the center toward upper left @ 1:08-1:13?

    Almost certainly a reflectiion in the lens, since it moves directly away from the moon.

  39. sara rawlings
    margaret river wa
    August 16, 2011, 7:21 am


  40. christoph malin
    August 16, 2011, 6:26 am

    hi bruce,

    this is a lens reflection. on 14 mm the AFS Nikkor 14-24/2.8 – although nano coated against reflections – catches some cross light from the moon. as the moon wanders in TimeLapse, this reflection does too. best regards, chris

  41. brucefan
    August 16, 2011, 12:26 am

    what is that green object moving from the center toward upper left @ 1:08-1:13?

  42. brucefan
    August 16, 2011, 12:20 am

    wow! am looking forward to release of the longer version!