Secret Skies: See Starry Nights Normally Hidden by City Lights

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sky glow

With the rise of urbanization, an estimated 80% of the world population has never seen the Milky Way – and while rural dwellers see thousands of stars on a typical night, those in cities typically see a few dozen at best.

night sky la overloook

time lapse anitmation

As part of their Skyglow project, astrophotographers Harun Mehmedinovic and Gavin Heffernan taking pictures from around the country in darkened areas where the night sky is visible, in some cases turning them into true-to-life composites showing what the skies above cities would look like with the lights turned off. In other instances, their timelapses show the rotation of Earth against the sky.

night sky images

night sky timelapse

night urban swirl

Urban light pollution is not just a problem of lost views – it has been known to interfere with bird migrations and other animal behavior, not to mention sleep disorders and disease correlations in humans. Cities like Phoenix, Arizona, are trying to take back the night sky, dimming non-essential artificial lights to cut energy consumption.

You can support the project on Kickstarter for rewards as well: “SKYGLOW will also explore the evolution of our relationship with astronomy over time, including the impact of stars on imagination, mythology, and the sciences. By visiting incredible archaeoastronomy locations like Canyons of the Ancients, Chaco Canyon and Mesa Verde, SKYGLOW will explore the relationship between ancient civilizations and the galaxies they worshiped. Can we learn from them? “


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Nocturnal Field Trips: 7 World Wonders Best Explored at Night

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night light art

When planning out world travel, one typically dwells on destinations more than times, but some of the best sights can only been seen at a particular point in the day or, in the case of these marvels, at night.

fieldtrip

WebUrbanist is pleased to announce a new partnership with Google Field Trip, bringing some of our best and brightest travel articles to their mobile platform, allowing you to find hidden wonders of the world wherever (and whenever) you may be. In this article, we have teamed up to highlight seven amazing places to visit by night, each offering special surprises to the nocturnally inclined.

World’s Largest Urban Bat Colony in Austin, Texas

bridge bat experience austin

At dusk, people flock to watch the emergence of 1.5 million bats from beneath the Congress Avenue Bridge, designed and built in 1980 in a way that inadvertantly turned out to provide an ideal roost for a particular breed of flying nocturnal predators.

bridge bat sign

Often under-appreciated or even feared, these night flyers consume between 10,000 and 20,000 pounds of food each evening, helping them earn their keep. Today, there is even a dedicated Statesman Bat Observation Center from which visitors are encouraged to experience the spectacle.

World’s Largest Ice & Snow Festival in Harbin, China

snow festival by day

snow festival at night

By far the biggest such event in the world, the Harbin International Ice & Snow Sculpture Festival consists of huge works of art and architecture that truly come into their own once the sun sets and glowing lights behind and within bricks of ice come to life.

harbin snow festival building

snow ice festival staircase

Using swing saws to cut ice directly from an adjacent river, artists then turn the frozen building blocks into human, animal and mythical figures as well as huge staircases and structures. Among other honors and awards, a snow sculpture featured at the festival holds the world’s record for size at 750 feet by 28 feet (13,000 cubic meters of snow). Other similarly-impressive global ice festivals can be found in Japan, Canada and Norway as well.

Synchronous Firefly Swarms near Knoxville, Tennessee

night lightning bug sync

lightning bug flying art

Fireflies can be a wonderful sight regardless of the species, but one rare type in particular (Photinus Carolinus), is even more special than its cousins: the so-called Synchronous Firefly swarms light up in unison, pulsing every few seconds at the exact same time.

synchronous firefly swarms

At Great Smoky Mountains National Park, viewers can buy tickets in advance and be taken by shuttle to special viewing areas from which to observe these lightning bugs. Within the park, 18 other species of firefly can also be found, but only one whose constituents almost all flash simultaneously.

Ghost Ship Water Hologram in Amsterdam, Holland

amsterdam light festival ship

A maritime marvel in more ways than one, this 3D optical illusion involves two intersecting planar projections beamed onto perpendicular planes of vertical water.

amsterdam maritime ghost boat

amsterdam light vessel

Created for the Amsterdam Light Festival by VisualSkin, the resulting real-life rendering looks like a 17th-century seafaring vessel seemingly held in stasis and composed of water and light. The effect, naturally, works best at night, turning a fountain by day into a marvelously surprising evening display.

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Flooded Sky: ‘Northern Lights’ Effect Fills Air with Blue Waves

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StudioRoosegaarde_Waterlicht_HR2

Floating above an 18,000-square-foot area of Dutch land that would be underwater were it not for defensive measures, the ethereal effect hovers between simulated aerial floodwater and imitation aurora borealis.

waterlicht surreal sky led

A temporary work in Westervoort, this latest pieced dubbed ‘Waterlicht’ by Daan Roosegaarde was created using LED projectors located on surrounding dykes, highlighting the essential role of flood prevention technology in keeping so much of the Netherlands dry. As the beams cross in the air, moved slowly up and down by motors, the effect seen in these images is created.

waterlicht northern lights effect

Visitors walking along those adjacent barriers perceive the illumination like an eerily lit surface of water below – those passing below the plane of light see something akin to the Northern Lights, normally a natural atmospheric effect reserved for rare and special conditions. “we create a virtual flood. Walking on the dike the light lines are perceived as high water, once in the flood channel you find yourself in an underwater world.”

waterlicht projected at night

The work was commissioned by the Dutch water board to keep up awareness about this vital element of the country’s infrastructure. “In Waterlicht people experience what the Netherlands would look like without its dykes. Awareness is crucial, because the Dutch (water)artworks need every day maintenance and our national water awareness is the foundation of that maintenance.”

waterlicht against the sky

No stranger to working with nighttime illumination, Roosegaarde is famous for other works including a night-lit bicycle path in the style of Van Gogh as well as schemes for glow-in-the-dark highway infrastructure.


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Flowerworks: Pictures Capture Plants Exploding Like Fireworks

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flower red starburst white

A novel take on a New Year’s staple, crafty photography and flower power, these bright botanical arrangements (set against dark night-like) backgrounds seem to burst in midair.

flower plant art photos

flower tracer arc light

flower orange purple explode

This Flowerwork photo series from Berlin-based artist Sarah Illenberger stemmed from her combined interest in art, photography and graphic design as well as a fascination with other dimensions of everyday options.

flower purple green explosion

flower green white buds

flower like firework art

Working together with photographer Sabrina Rynas, buds and blossoms were set against a faux night sky, appearing to be much larger fireworks shot from off-screen at first glance. In some cases the stems trail like streamers or one plant seems nested in another like some kind of grand finale.

flower burst light dark

flower fire photography shoot

More about the artist: “Sarah Illenberger is a multi-disciplinary artist based in Berlin working at the intersection of art, graphic design, and photography. With a focus on analog craftwork using everyday items, Sarah is renowned for creating vivid, witty images that open up new perspectives on seemingly familiar subjects.”

flower exploding firework botanical

flower draping falling sequence

flower grand finale art

“Her ability to transform ordinary materials into complex and unexpected visual experiences has been utilized to develop concepts for clients from the fields of culture and business in several countries. In her aim to explore the fertile overlap between art and design, she’s collaborated with numerous photographers and artists, and filled exhibition spaces with self-initiated projects in Paris, Tokyo, and Berlin.”


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Starry Night: Glow-in-the-Dark Bike Path Inspired by Van Gogh

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[ By WebUrbanist in Technology & Vehicles & Mods. ]

night cycling visibility green

Opening last night in Nuenen, Holland, this illuminated cycling surface is free to the public, storing sunlight during the day to create stellar patterns to guide riders after dark. Its swirling shapes are recognizably inspired by one of Vincent van Gogh’s most famous paintings.

night path now open

night cycling path glowing

Developed by Dutch artist and innovator Daan Roosegaarde in conjunction with infrastructure specialists from Heijmans, this pathway is a conceptual extension of a series of glow-in-the-dark highway projects and other urban improvement proposals.

night path standing view

night cycling rider shot

Part practical lighting scheme and part installation art project, the path is located along a stretch of a bicycling route passing through Noord Brabant, the region from which van Gogh originated, which in turn connects various notable sites from his personal life and work. Its creator explains: “I wanted to create a place that people will experience in a special way, the technical combined with experience – that’s what techno-poetry means to me.”

night cycling image large

night path holland biking

night biking path lights

The semi-abstract pixelated swirls are a high-tech reference to Starry Night, painted in 1889 and depicting an idealized view from the east-facing window of the painter’s asylum room at Saint-Rémy-de-Provence (now part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City).

night cycling aerial view

starry night inspired path

night cycling path image

night path cyclist picture

Studio Roosegaarde is known for “tactile high-tech environments in which viewer and space become one. This connection, established between ideology and technology, results in what Roosegaarde calls ‘techno-poetry’. His often interactive work connects people with art and people with people.”


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Color-Changing Hammocks: Swing on 20 LED-Lit Circular Chairs

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circular art swing project

Transforming an outdoor recreational space into an interactive evening wonderland, this series of variously-sized swings (and accompanying activities) encourages playful nighttime interactions.

circular swing park area

circular swing set design

Designed by Howler + Yoon Architecture (images by John Horner Photography) and located at Lawn on D in Boston, the focal point of the installation is the set of round hammocks filled with LEDs that change color as you sit on, swing or spin them.

circular round color changing

circular urban swing art

The lights use customized micro-controllers, converting motion into changes in hue and luminosity, starting as a standard white by default. Also on offer: free wireless internet and various backyard-type ball games.

circular swing art installation

circular crescent moon swings

circular light up hammock

The swings come in three sizes and are set to be on display (and open to the public for play) through November, but it might be best to enjoy them now while the summer weather still lingers. But don’t worry: rain or snow, they will leave a light on.


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Cyclonic Pictures: Long Exposures Spin Art from Light & Air

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air light stick art

The shots seem impossibly composed, consisting of light that arcs and twists like a tornado in the night skies, but the process of creating them is much simpler than you might first imagine.

air art distance thrown

aerial cyclone light art

Martin Kimbell twirls, tosses and hurls LED sticks then uses long-exposure techniques to capture the twisting, turning and arcing patterns that result from each throw.

air timelapse spinning photos

air tornado light art

Some of the loops look like natural phenomena, swirling dust, stormy cyclones or campfire smoke, for instance, except spun from bright and colorful lights instead of organic materials. Others trajectories are simpler and captured in black-and-white instead.

art art black white

night light aerial art

air art up down

Inspired by Stu Jenks  and other light artists, Kimbell is a “freelance photographer based in Nottingham, England, specialising in light painting and action sports photography.” You can see more of his photography beyond this type on Flickr as well, and be sure to check out Diliz who crafts figures from sparklers in a much different style.


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Broken Mirror: Shard Hotel Views Reflect Next-Door Rooms

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[ By WebUrbanist in Boutique & Art Hotels & Travel. ]

shard hotel london night

Splintered corners, giving The Shard in London its iconic multifaceted look, are now also responsible for letting guests of Europe’s tallest hotel see into the spaces of their nighttime neighbors.

shard broken reflection mistake

As the Financial Times reports,a  series of glass panels standing out from the structure have turned into a series of accidental mirrors, giving room-with-a-view a new meaning in the context of this building.

london hotel interior problem

During the day, visitors to the Shangri-La can see out in nearly all directions, but at night with inside lights on they also get an uninvited sneak peak back into adjacent bedrooms. Designed by Renzo Piano, the famous building may not be as problem-plagued as its car-melting sibling but it certainly has some issues yet to be resolved.

shard hotel london day

The solution so far offered by the hotel seems somewhat incomplete – they are notifying guests of the issue and advising them to use curtains. Still, not everyone will remember to take such steps and many will want to leave their curtains open, since they came for the lovely views in the first place. In the end, one is left to wonder how no light modeling of the building revealed this potential problem (image above by Patrick Collins).


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Glow-in-the-Dark Highways: Free Lighting Hits the Streets

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[ By WebUrbanist in Technology & Vehicles & Mods. ]

smart highway now reality

Proposed just two years ago, this alternative solar-powered passive streetlight system is now already a reality, deployed along motorways across the Netherlands. As one reporter put it after riding along the newly-transformed highways: “It looks like you are driving through a fairytale.”

sustainable_highway_2

smart highway changing lights

This is just the beginning of a Smart Highway approach designed to adapt surfaces to the needs of drivers. Constituent ideas include the display of relevant contextual information directly on roadways (including traffic and weather conditions) as well as direct wireless car charging.

smart highway side lights

smart highway road system

Other new ideas from Studio Roosegaarde include the possibility of turning street materials into smog attractors, reducing the spread of pollutants by pulling harmful particulates right out of the air. Despite the compelling design component, their creator describes these innovations as reforms rather than designs – ways of improving everyday life and personal safety.


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