Sean Goebel is an astronomy graduate from the University of Hawaii. This gives him access to one of the best scientific observatories in the world. Soaring 14,000 feet above sea level Mauna Kea Observatories in Hawaii offer some of the best conditions for astronomy research in the Northern Hemisphere. Not only is Sean a scientist he’s also a photo enthusiast. Over the course of several nights in April, he made this gorgeous time-lapse of the telescopes firing off lasers into a star filled sky.

Why were they shooting off lasers? Sean says, “Actually, the lasers are real. They’re used for adaptive optics. Just as waves of heat coming off pavement blur out the detail in faraway objects, winds in the atmosphere blur out fine detail in the stars/galaxies/whatever is being observed. This is the reason that stars twinkle. The laser is used to track this atmospheric turbulence, and one of the mirrors in the telescope bends hundreds of times per second in order to cancel out the blurring. Adaptive optics is pretty cool, and was the topic of my first 8-month research project in graduate school.”

To learn more about Sean and check out his webpage where he answers more questions about the video click here.

Mauna Kea Heavens Timelapse from Sean Goebel on Vimeo.