This beautiful time-lapse footage comes from a satellite surveillance station on Hawaii's Mount Haleakala
Credit: Courtesy Airman Magazine Online

Capt. Shahn Rashid of the United States Air Force has a pretty great answer to the old “So, what do you do?” question at cocktail parties. He sits on top of a mountain in Hawaii and makes sure satellites don’t collide.

Rashid works out of the Maui Space Surveillance Complex, one of three locations of the Ground-based Electro-Optical Deep-Space Surveillance Network, or GEODSS. His station happens to be conveniently located atop Maui’s Mount Haleakala.

Using three telescopes, each with a three-foot-diameter lens, “We look at objects in space and satellites and all kinds of space junk that could harm other satellites,” Rashid tells National Geographic. “We do that on a nightly basis with all kinds of satellites, like for cable companies, cell phones, things like that.”

And what a night it is. Andrew Breese and Bennie Davis created this beautiful time-lapse film for “Airman,” the official magazine of the U.S. Air Force.

Davis says the experience of shooting the video was far from a tropical vacation. “We spent 16-hour days on top of the volcano. It’s a two-and-a-half hour drive [up the volcano to the base] with hairpin turns. It’s rainy and cold, 43 degrees [Fahrenheit] in October,” he told NatGeo.

“One shot takes roughly four hours to get a decent clip to edit from,” Davis added. “Every shot you see from the time-lapse is four hours.” While we sympathize, we’ve been watching this video in full-screen for a while, and in our estimation, it was totally worth it.