The World At Night
Presents celestial wonders above the world's landmarks, aims to preserve the natural night skies, with 40 photographers in more than 20 countries
The World At Night (TWAN) program started in 2007 with accomplished dedicated night sky photographers from across the planet who brought decades of experience and images to an international effort aligned with nature conservation, art and science education, and humanity. TWAN creates and exhibit thousands of finely selected stunning and true night photos and timelapse videos of the world’s most beautiful and historic sites against a nighttime backdrop of stars, planets and celestial events. TWAN is a bridge between art, humanity, and science. The eternally peaceful sky looks the same above all the landmarks and symbols of different nations and regions, attesting to the truly unified nature of Earth as a planet rather than an amalgam of human-designated territories. Those involved in global programs learn to see humanity as a family living together on a single planet amidst the vast ocean of our Universe. This global perspective motivates us to work for a better, more peaceful planet for all the world’s inhabitants.
TWAN was initially a program of Astronomers Without Borders (AWB) nonprofit organization and later became an independent partner as it grew. UNESCO and the International Astronomical Union designated TWAN as the first special project for the International Year of Astronomy 2009. This recognition paved the way for exhibitions and public talks across the world. Today, the TWAN team continues to produce new images and to share its members’ visual stories with the public. The World at Night images reach millions of people worldwide, allowing them to reclaim a night sky that most modern people have lost. It is work that calls to mind the beauty of the universe and human life on our planet. This neglected element of our lives can be reintroduced by better knowing the light pollution and how we can control it.
Taking photos of the hidden Earth and the shining sky offers experiences that go beyond any technical or artistic enjoyment of photography. It builds a connecting bridge to the entire universe. TWAN presents true nightscape photographs in the knowledge that all of the images are original and were made in accordance with the rules of documentary photography, which excludes the digital blending of images taken at different places or through different lenses. There are no added moons or manipulated skies! Many of the images are single-exposure captures or a series of photos stitched together to create a digital panorama. A smaller portion of images are photo-composite of various exposures due to technical limits or for its educational benefits, this is explained fully in the captions. The majority of images are taken in the recent years, but old rare film photographs of the most spectacular celestial phenomena in the past three decades are also featured.
The World at Night is a volunteer effort and relies on contributions by photographers, volunteer coordinators and financial sponsors. If you or your organization would like to sponsor the activities of TWAN please contact us.Contact Twan
An award-winning National Geographic photographer and a science communicator has captured breathtaking scenes of the night sky in all continents in the past two decades, an effort to reveal the wonders of science to public, to preserve the natural night environment, and to merge the powers of art and science.
An author, photographer, amateur astronomer and the founder of Astronomy for Equity. He was the founding president of Astronomers Without Borders and the Mount Wilson Observatory Association and is a past president of the Los Angeles Astronomical Society. He has extensive experience in international astronomy throughout the world.
- Our History Timeline
- 1996-2006 | The various ideas of TWAN was gradually developing by Babak Tafreshi in Iran through his photography work and international travels. in Dec 2006 TWAN proposal was created by Babak in Tehran in collaboration with Mike Simmons in Los Angeles.
2007 | Communication with the potential members was initiated to create a core team of the world's best photographers in this field. On Dec 25 TWAN was officially launched and the website was announced on popular astronomy & photography sources.
2008 | TWAN was approved as the first Special Project of International Year of Astronomy 2009 by UNESCO and International Astronomical Union. The first major TWAN workshop & exhibit was hosted in Nehru Planetarium in New Delhi, India. Sky & Telescope magazine dedicated the annual special edition, Beautiful Universe 2009, to the The World at Night photography, as our first major publication.
2009 | The International Year of Astronomy (IYA2009) launched many TWAN events. Our first traveling exhibit started in Seoul in collaboration with the National Observatory. The project traveled to several cities in Korea until 2013. In August TWAN exhibits were already reached six continents. In the US several traveling sets visited 24 galleries in popular shopping malls in 18 states and was covered by the national media including PBS Newshour. In September, for his global contribution to night sky photography, TWAN founder Babak Tafreshi received the Lennart Nilsson Award, the world’s most recognized award at the time for scientific imaging. He shared the 2009 award with NASA Cassini mission imaging director Carolyn Porco. On this year TWAN also started the annual International Earth and Sky Photo Contest, with a focus on preserving dark skies and natural night environment.
2010 | In a growing collaboration with National Geographic News website, TWAN became a regular source of night sky images. The first major event in the Middle East started in March, an exhibition and national-level photography workshop in Zanjan, Iran. The workshop continued annually with TWAN members invited as keynote speakers. In September, Zauber der Sterne (The Night's Magic) became our first book by German publisher KOSMOS, authored by TWAN members Stefan Seip, Gernot Meiser, and Babak Tafreshi. The book was also published in Dutch and Japanese. The well-known German astronomy magazine Sterne und Weltraum featured TWAN in a cover story. The collaboration continues to now, for over a decade, with monthly double-page dedicated to a TWAN photo.
2011 | The documentary film "Acquainted with the Night" by Canadian director Michael McNamara was released, featuring TWAN project and its founder on a trip to Nepal, along the film journey from sunset to sunrise, revealing a world that never sleeps. A long-term collaboration started with the European Southern Observatory (ESO), with several TWAN members became ESO Photo Ambassadors and the first photo expedition was organized to create new public outreach images of ESO observatories in the Atacama Desert of Chile. In the same year Babak Tafreshi moved from Iran to Germany, expanding TWAN activities in Europe. In October The World at Night fully digital exhibit started in the Ars Electronica Center in Linz, Austria, for several months with various displays, interactive tools, and 16x18 meters unique screen (DeepSpace Hall) sharing the images and time-lapse videos, along with lectures and side events including a lecture tour by TWAN director and Prof. David Malin in Austria.
2012 | Babak Tafreshi officially joined the National Geographic, expanding the project's future horizons. With new TWAN members were added from several other countries, the team expanded to 35 photographers in about 20 countries, and hundreds of guest contributors.
2013 | With new exhibits in Tokyo (Konica Minolta Plaza), Doha (Qatar National Convention Centre), and Portugal, the project images reached galleries and science centers in more than 30 countries including traveling exhibits in the US, Korea, Germany, Hungary, Sweden, Brazil, Chile, Australia, Iran. In October Astromaster Photo Workshop started in La Palma - Canary Islands, the TWAN annual master-class of night sky photography and timelapse imaging.
2014 | TWAN online collection of finely selected photos & videos, 360 images and VRs, reached the milestone of 5000 pieces, including 3500 by the team and over 1500 by guest contributors. In April the 2nd photo expedition for the European Southern Observatory was organzied to document the Atacama Desert night sky and to create publicly available images for science outreach.
2015 | The World at Night fulldome show for live programs in planetariums was produced. The first of its kind was created up to 5K in resolution with unique true 360 photographs of the world at night and stories to connect science, culture, and nature. The project continues to develop with new imagery. In September, TWAN organized the International Nightscape Conference with a small but very diverse group of 25 photographers from 15 countries in La Palma, Canary Islands, the first of its kind initiative to bring together all aspects of this field.
2016 | The 3rd Atacama Desert photo expedition for European Southern Observatory (ESO) to create publicly available images for science outreach.
2017 | The five-episode "Borderless Sky" documentary about 5 TWAN photographed was released by ZDF and Arte in Germany/France and later internationally. Produced by Taglicht Media the series features the challenging and inspiring work of TWAN members following stories in 5 continents. In March the first Exhibit in China started in Shanghai Astronomical Museum and continued the next years in Beijing Planetarium and several other venues. In December the 8th International Earth and Sky Photo Contest became the world's most popular photo contest in nightscape photography with images submitted from about 65 countries. This was the closing year of the TWAN contest.
2018 | TWAN passed more than 300 featured images by the team members on the highly popular NASA educational page, Astronomy Picture of the Day (apod.nasa.gov).
2019 | The World at Night new book, authored by Babak Tafreshi and representing collective work of TWAN team, was published in English, German, French, Japanese (and Chinese in 2022). In October the Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand organized a TWAN-lecture tour by Babak in a dozen of cities in the country.
2020 | After 13 years of expanding our initial website, a brand-new site is launched in November that allows us to take TWAN to the next level.
Our Partners & Collaborators
- International Astronomical Union
- The world's leading organization to promote & safeguard the science of astronomy in all its aspects.
- International Dark-Sky Association
- Nonprofit organization based in Arizona with more than 10,000 members in 80 countries that advocates and promotes night sky preservation through reduction of light pollution. darksky.org
- Shahob Saqri
- TWAN website developer
- Moayede Khodakarami
- TWAN Social Media & Guest Gallery
- Gernot Meiser & Pascale Demy
- TWAN-Germany coordinator
- Jeff Dai
- TWAN-China coordinator
- Kwon O Chul
- TWAN-Korea coordinator
- Asadollah Ghamarinezhad
- TWAN-Iran coordinator
- Ajay Talwar
- TWAN-India coordinator
- Tamas Ladanyi
- TWAN-Hungary coordinator
- P-M Heden
- TWAN-Sweden coordinator
- Marcelo Souza
- TWAN-Brazil coordinator
- Christoph Malin
- TWAN-Austria Coordinator
- Tunc Tezel
- TWAN-Turkey coordinator