The 2011 International Photo Contest Winners Announced

2011 May 9: Winners of the Second International Earth and Sky Photo Contest on Dark Skies Importance are announced. Two global programs of Astronomers Without Borders came together to organize this annual contest: The World at Night and Global Astronomy Month. Submissions to the contest had been received during the 2011 Global Astronomy Month (April). Submitted photographs were all taken since the beginning of 2010 and were all created in the “TWAN style”—showing both the Earth and the sky—by combining elements of the night sky set against the Earth horizon with backdrop of a notable location or landmark. This style of photography is called “landscape astrophotography.”

The contest was open to anyone of any age, anywhere around the world. About 240 entries were received with images made from about 30 countries including Argentina, Australia, Austria, Chile, China, Columbia, Cambodia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, India, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Malaysia, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, UK, USA, and Venezuela. Nearly 25% of the entries were from the United States. Other major contributors were Iran, Germany and China.

According to the contest theme of “Dark Skies Importance,” the submitted photos were judged in two categories: “Beauty of the Night Sky” and “Against the Lights.” The selected images are those most effective in impressing people on both how important and amazing the starry sky is and how it affects our lives, and also how bad the problem of light pollution has become. Today, most city skies have become virtually empty of stars. Light pollution obscures the stars, interferes with astronomical observatories and, like any other form of pollution, disrupts ecosystems and has adverse health effects.

The contest organizers wish to gratefully acknowledge the collaboration of the following sponsors in providing the contest prizes:

Scope City, Canadian Telescopes
Explore Scientific, Dubai Telescope

Woodland Hills Camera and Telescopes and Lumicon International

The contest was also supported by Sky&Telescope, a world’s leading astronomy magazine, with gift subscriptions for some of the winners, Starizona company in Tucson, and the University of Hawaii with technical support and server hosting for the contest submissions (special thanks to Mr. Narayan S. Raja at the University of Hawaii Institute of Astronomy).

The Photo Contest and Global Astronomy Month: the submission period of the Earth and Sky Photo Contest was during April 2011 as part of the worldwide activities coordinated by Astronomers Without Borders – for the Global Astronomy Month – an annual program for the international astronomy community to share the beauty of the night sky with others and connect with other astronomy enthusiasts around the world. The contest received notable collaboration from the GAM2011 coordinator, Mr. Thilina Heenatigala.

Contest Judging
The team of judges for the 2nd Earth and Sky Photo Contest included:
Mike Simmons (President of Astronomers Without Borders, and TWAN co-founder; contributing editor at Sky & Telescope magazine).
Connie Walker (Director of the Dark Sky Awareness project and Globe at Night program; senior science education specialist at the U.S. National Optical Astronomy Observatory.)
Wally Pacholka (Widely accomplished TWAN member in the United States)
Richard Wainscoat (Photographer and astronomer at the University of Hawaii; and chair of the International Astronomical Union’s Commission on Controlling Light Pollution)
Tunc Tezel (TWAN member in Turkey, and one of the contest main coordinators)
Babak Tafreshi (Founder and director of TWAN; award-winning night sky photographer; and board member of Astronomers Without Borders.)
Sze-leung Cheung (Dark Sky activist, astrophotographer, and Science Instructor at the University of Hong Kong)

Contest Winners
The first prize in the Against the Lights category goes to Thomas Kurat for his photo “Alps at Night”. It shows the starry sky above a misty Alpine valley and village lights in Austria. The photo won an Explore Scientific 127mm refractor telescope.

The first prize in the Beauty of the Night Sky category goes to Stephane Vetter for his photo “A Starry Night of Iceland” which displays the northern lights and the Milky Way above arctic landscape of Iceland. The photo won an ED 80mm ED 80mm Apochromatic telescope provided by the Canadian Telescopes.

The second-place winner in the Against the Lights category is Mehdi Momenzadeh from Iran for his panoramic photo “Isfahan Milky Way”. The photo won a $400 gift certificates from Dubai Telescope; a leading telescope and astronomical equipment provider in the Middle East.

“Galactic View from Planet Earth” by Alex Cherney from Australia is the second-place winner in the Beauty of the Night Sky category, receiving a $300 gift certificates from Woodland Hills Camera and Telescopes and one year subscription to Sky&Telescope magazine.

The other winners in the Against the Lights category are:
Third place: “Lisbon Sky Lights” by Miguel Claro from Portugal who receives a 10X42 Parks binocular from Scope City and a Night Sky Observers Guide. The photo shows stars and the crescent moon trail over a landmark bridge in Lisbon dominated by the city’s light pollution.

Fourth place: “Venus above Reunion Island” by Luc Perrot who receives a $100 gift certificates from Scope City and one year subscription to Sky&Telescope magazine.

Fifth place: “Lights from the Hidden City” by Ben Canales who receives a $100 gift certificates from Woodland Hills Camera and Telescopes. The photo is taken from mountains near Portland in the United States and displays how the lights from the cty illuminate clouds in the night sky.

The other winners in the Beauty of Night Sky category are:
Third place: “Beauty of Southern Sky” by Luc Perrot who receives a 10X42 Parks binocular from Scope City and a Night Sky Observers Guide. The French night sky photographer made this panoramic image from Reunion Island in the southern Indian Ocean.

Fourth place: “The Great Wall at Night” by Xiaohua from China who receives a set of 5 planetary telescope filters from Lumicon. The photo displays the Milky Way above one of the gates to the Great Wall of China.

Fifth place: “Startrails above an Alien Lake” by Grant Kaye who receives a $100 gift certificates from Woodland Hills Camera and Telescopes. The image shows startrails around the north celestial pole as captured from the bizarre looking structures at shores Mono Lake in California.


All the winning photos are also slated to appear on the TWAN Guest Gallery. There are over 50 more photos which are positively voted by the judges. These will be shown soon in a special photo report as well as on the TWAN Guest Gallery.

The 2011 International Earth and Sky photo contest was not the first contest by TWAN collaboration. In 2008 the first regional contest was organized in South America and India. During 2009-2010 the first International contest was held. Also see other notable photos from the last year contest.


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