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A History of the Sky

I'm in the midst of a project I call "A History of the Sky," which is a time-lapse visualization of the sky for an entire year. I've put together a time-lapse camera rig that's currently sitting on the roof of the Exploratorium (an extremely Awesome museum in San Francisco), taking a picture of the sky every 10 seconds, around the clock.

In "A History of the Sky," an entire year of atmospheric phenomena can be observed in just a few minutes: the sky over San Francisco Bay is a very dynamic place, with rich textures of fog, rain, and clouds over the course of the year. Variations in day length will cause sunrises and sunsets to cascade gradually across the display. These are patterns that we're all aware of, but this will enable the viewer to experience them on a more immediate level, and appreciate rhythms of the natural world that normally occur to slowly to observe.

I also intend this to be an active piece. If a suitable long-term venue can be found, the camera will continue to collect images and integrate them on a daily basis, so the visualization will vary from day to day, and will always display the most recent 365 days.

The project has been undertaken with a DIY mindset. The camera is a re-purposed old compact digital camera, controlled entirely by open-source software, and few tools I've coded myself.

As I said, this is a work in progress, and has benefited from the generosity of the Exploratorium in allowing me to use their space. But so far, it's all been funded out of my own pocket. I've striven to keep costs low, but some assistance would be very helpful in developing the display component of this piece.

There's more info on my project site (www.murphlab.com/hsky), including some mock-ups and sample movies that will help convey what the final piece will look like.

Funded by San Francisco, CA (May 2010)