The World At Night



The World At Night (TWAN) is a program to create and exhibit a collection of stunning landscape astrophotographs and time-lapse 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. Astronomers Without Borders was created to work toward this goal. TWAN is an innovative new approach to expanding this global perspective.


The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the International Astronomical Union (IAU) have designated TWAN as a Special Project of the International Year of Astronomy 2009. The project began to make global exposure during the year of astronomy and continues to grow further beyond. TWAN-style Earth and sky photographs are being taken by some of the best landscape astrophotographers around the world. The resulting collection of nightscape photography is presented in an international traveling exhibition and in a virtual exhibition on the TWAN web site.   Books and DVDs of the Earth and sky images will also be published.  Time-lapse digital photographs of the night sky that are being created at particular locations will be used in a high-quality documentary film of celestial motion over the planet's most important sites.  TWAN is bringing together photographers, astronomers and organizations worldwide to create a new international team.  That team fulfils TWAN's primary goal of bringing to the public a new way of seeing the wonders of our planet by portraying Earth’s people as one family and our world as a living planet we must care for.


Wars are fought over boundaries that have been created in the name of politics, religion, race or beliefs. But the view from space reveals the true nature of our cosmic home – a border-less planet divided only into land and sea.  While few will experience that view first-hand, the same is also true in reverse; the night sky above us – a view that is accessible to everyone on the planet – also has no visible borders. This common view is a bridge that connects us, creating understanding and friendship. When borders vanish, political and cultural differences become irrelevant. The beauty of brilliant Venus might be seen in Texas just hours after it is seen by sky gazers in Tehran. The famous stars of the Big Dipper might be viewed over the Vatican while Buddhists in China share the same celestial view over their temples. The magnificent Milky Way might be viewed over the Grand Canyon while people in Nepal are awed by the same celestial view over the Himalaya. We all live under the same eternally peaceful sky.  And the Earth we inhabit under it belongs to us all.


Material released by TWAN will include photographs, descriptions of the subject sites, the site’s historical, cultural or environmental significance, how TWAN was conducted, how TWAN affected participating photographers and any further relevant issues of global importance such as peace, ecology and light pollution.


TWAN material will be distributed by the following methods:

  • Photo exhibitions, slide shows and seminars in many different countries, with initial emphasis on countries that contributed to the collection.

  • A virtual exhibition on an interactive web site with links from the web sites of hundreds of Affiliates of Astronomers Without Borders.

  • A documentary film of time-lapse digital photographs from selected sites suitable for large screen presentation.

  • A book of photographs and information titled "The World At Night."

  • A multimedia DVD of photographs and information titled "The World At Night."

  • Post cards and posters based on project photographs.

  • Television programs based on time-lapse and video images transmitted via local networks and satellite.

  • TWAN tours in conjunction with the AWB astro-tours program taking photographers, astronomers and others involved in TWAN to the sites pictured in the photographic collection.  Tours will be lead by TWAN project leaders and local TWAN photographers.


TWAN began in the autumn of 2007 with the creation of the web site, site selection, photographer selection and the creation of an image database.  Acquisition of new images began in late 2007 while imaging and compilation of existing images continues through all phases of the project. image acquisition continues.  The first exhibition took place in the autumn of 2008, while TWAN exhibitions will reach to over 20 countries by the end of 2009 and continue further.


While most all of TWAN imagery highlights our astronomical world at night, celestial events warrant the attention of TWAN photographers at any time of the day or night. Unusual imagery of day-time celestial events appear in the TWAN collection when they offer exceptional educational value or artistic beauty in connection with important earthly locations. A small percentage of TWAN photos and videos feature daytime eclipses, analemmas, transits, sunrises, sunsets, or unusual atmospheric phenomenon. While this imagery is not our main focus it is offered as a way to complete the TWAN collection from an astronomical and geographical point of view. TWAN is the world's leading source of landscape astrophotography. It also serves as an aid to astronomy education and popularization where many aspects of sky-gazing and visual astronomy are illustrated by real images.


  Support TWAN

The World at Night is a volunteer effort operating under Astronomers Without Borders, a US not for profit corporation.  The success of TWAN depends 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.


  TWAN team:

Babak A. Tafreshi, TWAN founder, is a science journalist, an award-winning photographer, and astronomy communicator using all media. He is based in Germany but could be spoted anywhere on the planet, from the Sahara to the Himalayas or Antarctica. He is a board member of Astronomers Without Borders organization, a photo ambassador for the European Southern Observatory (ESO), and contributing photographer at Sky&Telescope magazine. More



Mike Simmons is an author, photographer, amateur astronomer and the founder and president of Astronomers Without Borders.  He is a past president of the Los Angeles Astronomical Society and was the founding president of the Mount Wilson Observatory Association.  He has extensive experience in international astronomy and has many contacts throughout the world. More




Astronomers Without Borders (AWB) is the coordinating organization for TWAN. AWB has a growing network of affiliate organizations worldwide that will participate in developing the TWAN project. Potential collaborating organizations will be drawn from the fields of astronomy, photography, nature and peace-building.


The International Astronomical Union (IAU) consists of about 10,000 professional astronomers in 90 countries is the world's leading organization to promote and safeguard the science of astronomy in all its aspects through international cooperation. The IAU has designated TWAN as a Special Project of the International Year of Astronomy 2009.


The International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) is a worldwide organization based in Arizona that advocates and promotes night sky preservation through reduction of light pollution. TWAN will be promoted and photographers will be recruited through IDA’s network of more than 10,000 members in 80 countries.


The Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) is a NASA web site ( that posts an astronomy or space science image daily along with information on the image and its subject, along with relevant links. Established in 1995, the site now has the largest archive of annotated astronomical images on the Internet, including many TWAN-style photos.




David Malin, a world-known photographic scientist-astronomer 

Jerry Bonnell, the co-director of the APOD and astrophysicist at Goddard Space Flight Center



  Other collaborators:

Gernot Meiser and Pascale Demy, TWAN-Europe event coordinators

Shahob Saqri, TWAN website designer/programmer

Moayede Khodakarami, TWAN social media  

Kwon O Chul, TWAN-Korea event coordinator

Stephane Guisard, TWAN-Chile event coordinator

Dr. Marcelo Souza, TWAN-Brazil event coordinator

John Goldsmith, TWAN-Australia event coordinator

P-M Heden, TWAN-Sweden event coordinator

Tamas Ladanyi, TWAN-Hungary event coordinator

Johannes Stübler, TWAN-Austria event coordinator

Asadollah Ghamarinezhad, TWAN-Iran event coordinator

Tunc Tezel, TWAN-Turkey event coordinator

Ajay Talwar, TWAN-India event coordinator

Sze-leung Cheung, TWAN-Hong Kong event coordinator

Dr. Nassim Seghouani, TWAN-Algeria event coordinator



  Potential future collaborators:

UNESCO has designated TWAN as a Special Project of the International Year of Astronomy 2009. Many of the TWAN imaging sites are designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It is hoped that TWAN Involves in more collaboration with UNESCO in creating publications and organizing global acitivities.




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