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Reach for the Stars Astrophotography Competition 2022 – Winners Revealed

The ‘Milky Way Arch over Pine Island’ and ‘A Fiery Rosette’ have been selected as the 2022 winning images in the Reach for the Stars astrophotography competition, run by the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies.

Taking the first prize in the ‘Back on Earth’ category, was an image capturing the Milky Way in a clear night sky over Pine Island at Derryclare Lough in Connemara, Co. Galway. The image was taken by Felix Sproll, from Galway City.

The two runners up in this category were: Adrian Hendroff, from Stepaside, Dublin, for his image ‘Copper Coast Fireball; and Aisling McGuire from Moyard, Co. Galway for her submission, ‘The Bens Under the Milky Way’.

Commenting on Felix’s photo, Professor Peter Gallagher, Head of Astrophysics at DIAS and a member of the judging panel for ‘Reach for the Stars’, said: “Felix’s image capturing the iconic Pine Island in Connemara, with the Milky Way sparkling overhead is a beautiful shot and shows Ireland at its very best. There is something very magical about this image – with the light from the moon rising over the town in the backdrop. It really blew us away, and it’s obvious Felix has a very keen eye for detail.”

Tom Dineen and Raluca Dana Lica claimed first prize in the ‘Out of this World’ category. This category called for images depicting scenes or elements of astronomical interest such as deep space images or images of the solar system. Their winning image ‘A Fiery Rosette’ captured the Rosette Nebula – an emission nebula in the constellation of Monoceros, located about 5,200 light-years away from Earth. The image data was captured by Raluca in her backyard in Naas town, Co. Kildare, over 11 nights, with Tom completing the image processing.

Runners up in the ‘Out of this World’ category were: Richard Sweeney, from Ladysbridge Cork, for his image ‘The Jewel of Orion’ and Aaron Kelly from Ballyjamesduff, Cavan, for his image ‘The Heart Nebula’.

Prof. Gallagher continued, “In the ‘Out of this World’ category, we chose an image of the Rosette Nebula. This shot is excellently executed, and really captures complex astronomical features that are difficult to photograph. There’s an enormous amount of skill and patience in capturing images like this. As well as the technical ability, the image is stunning, and really stood out in a very competitive category.”

Other category winners

In addition to the ‘Back on Earth’ and ‘Out of this World’ categories, Anthony Lynch from Dublin scooped the top prize in the Public Choice category. His image ‘Space station sun’ which captured the International Space Station flying past the sun received the most votes in the online public vote.

A special School of Cosmic Physics 75th Anniversary Prize was also awarded to Sean O’Riordan from Kilmallock, Limerick for his image ‘Zodiacal Light above Cliffs of Moher’. This prize was included this year to celebrate DIAS’s School of Cosmic Physics 75th anniversary, and was awarded to an image that captured the areas of study of the School. The winner was chosen by Prof. Tom Ray, Director of the DIAS School of Cosmic Physics.

Judges’ Feedback

The winners were selected by a judging panel following a rigorous judging process of over 180 entries. In addition to Prof. Peter Gallagher, the judging panel included Brenda Fitzsimons, Picture Editor, The Irish Times; John Flannery, Vice-President, Irish Astronomical Society; and Niamh Breathnach, Director, Alice PR & Events.

Commenting on the competition overall, Brenda Fitzsimons, Picture Editor, The Irish Times, said: “From glistening Galaxies to tranquil landscapes, the combination of science and serene captured in these breath-taking images were a pleasure to judge.”

Echoing Brenda’s comments, John Flannery, Vice-President of the Irish Astronomical Society and member of the judging panel, said: “The second year of the Reach for the Stars competition continues to see photographers raise the bar in showcasing their talents. Much hard work has been put into composing and taking the wide range of entries covering nightscapes and other celestial sights, but all capture the essence of amateur astronomy – a shared appreciation for the beauty of the Universe. All of the participants in the competition are to be congratulated.”    

Fellow judge Niamh Breathnach, Director of competition sponsors Alice PR & Events, remarked on the creativity shown by the photographers: “This year, the competition was split into two main categories, to recognise both the talent of photographers capturing stunning astronomy images against the beautiful Irish landscape, as well as those skilfully shooting deep space images. It was fantastic to see people’s creativity in capturing the various wonders of the night sky. We had a difficult job in choosing winners – with the standard so high, and the level of skill and artistic flair that came through from the entries. The competition really captured the imaginations of people from all corners of Ireland – which is what it is all about.”

DIAS playing key role in space research

Commenting on the success of the competition, Dr. Eucharia Meehan, CEO and Registrar of DIAS said: “I would like to congratulate the winners of the competition on their achievements, and thank them and indeed all entrants for sharing their creativity with us.

“This competition builds on DIAS’s – and Ireland’s – proud astronomical heritage. We have a rich history in space research, and are involved in a number of major astronomy projects around the world, including our work on the James Webb Space Telescope – the largest and most powerful space telescope ever built. It’s fantastic to be able to play a role in fostering an interest and appreciation astronomy with a wider community of people in Ireland, through Reach for the Stars.”

Outdoor Exhibition

The winning images, along with a selection of the judges’ top-rated images in the Reach for the Stars competition will be available to view as part of an outdoor exhibition, from Friday, 12th August 2022. The exhibition will hang at the railings of DIAS’s premises at 10 Burlington Road, Dublin and is free to attend.

The winning images are all available to view now online on www.reachforthestars.ie.

DIAS’s ‘Reach for the Stars’ competition is being run in partnership with The Irish Times and is sponsored by Alice PR & Events. The Irish Astronomical Society are initiative supporters.