Gorgeous Photos of Earth and the Night Sky: TWAN Photo Contest Winners Announced

The winners of the 7th annual Earth & Sky Photo Contest have been announced, and wow, these images are absolutely stunning! The contest really highlights the beauty of the night sky, and its mission is to spread the message to cut down on light pollution while helping to preserve the last remaining natural night environments and night skies in the world. The contest was organized by The World at Night (TWAN) and other sister organizations.

“The sky above us is an essential part of our nature, a heritage for us and other species on this planet,” said TWAN founder and contest chair, Babak Tafreshi.”The contest main goal is to present the night sky in this broader context that helps preserving the natural night sky by reconnect it with our modern life.”

See more winning photos below:

The second place winner in the ‘Against the Light’ category is Carlo Zanandrea from Italy for "All that Glitters is not Gold" taken in December 2015 showing constellation Orion rising over lights and fog in the province of Treviso in northeastern Italy. Credit and copyright: Carlo Zanandrea.
The second place winner in the ‘Against the Light’ category is Carlo Zanandrea from Italy for “All that Glitters is not Gold” taken in December 2015 showing constellation Orion rising over lights and fog in the province of Treviso in northeastern Italy. Credit and copyright: Carlo Zanandrea.

Just last week, a group of Italian and American scientists unveiled a new global atlas of light pollution, and sadly, they said the results show the Milky Way is “but a faded memory to one-third of humanity and 80 percent of Americans.”

“We’ve got whole generations of people in the United States who have never seen the Milky Way,” said Chris Elvidge, a scientist with NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. “It’s a big part of our connection to the cosmos — and it’s been lost.”

These photos from Earth & Sky Contest really display that important connection, with people and places on Earth being a big part of many of the images – the classic definition of “TWAN-style” photography. 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 public on both how important and delicate the starry sky is as an affecting part of our nature, and also how bad the problem of light pollution has become,” TWAN said in their press release. “Today, most city skies are virtually devoid of stars. Light pollution (excessive light that scatters to the sky instead of illuminating the ground) not only is a major waste of energy, it also obscures the stars, disrupts ecosystems and has adverse health effects.”

"The Photographer" by Nicholas Roemmelt from Austria is the second place winner in the 'Beauty of the Night Sky category, taken in March 2015 in Stockiness, Iceland. Credit and copyright: Nicholas Roemmelt
“The Photographer” by Nicholas Roemmelt from Austria is the second place winner in the ‘Beauty of the Night Sky category, taken in March 2015 in Stockiness, Iceland. Credit and copyright: Nicholas Roemmelt

The winning images were chosen on their “aesthetic merit and technical excellence,” said David Malin of the judging panel, who is well-known pioneer in scientific astrophotography. “We believe they accurately reflect the state of the art in TWAN-style photography. The competition encourages photographers with imagination to push their cameras to their technical limits, and to produce eye-catching images that appear perfectly natural and are aesthetically pleasing.”

This photo, "Viking Lights" by Adam Woodworth from USA, won in the composite section of the ‘Beauty of the Night Sky’  category, where frames of various exposure or focus settings are blended. This image was captured in Newfoundland, Canada in June, 2015. Credit and copyright: Adam Woodworth.
This photo, “Viking Lights” by Adam Woodworth from USA, won in the composite section of the ‘Beauty of the Night Sky’ category, where frames of various exposure or focus settings are blended. This image was captured in Newfoundland, Canada in June, 2015. Credit and copyright: Adam Woodworth.
In the photo sequence submissions, the winner in the Beauty category is "Total Solar Eclipse from Svalbard" by Thanakrit Santikunaporn from Thailand. He captured the eclipse phases every 3 minutes over frozen landscape of Svalbard, Norway on March 20, 2015. Credit and copyright: Thanakrit Santikunaporn.
In the photo sequence submissions, the winner in the Beauty category is “Total Solar Eclipse from Svalbard” by Thanakrit Santikunaporn from Thailand. He captured the eclipse phases every 3 minutes over frozen landscape of Svalbard, Norway on March 20, 2015. Credit and copyright: Thanakrit Santikunaporn.

The contest was open to anyone of any age, anywhere in the world; to both professional and amateur/hobby photographers. It has been an annual event since 2009 (initially for the International Year of Astronomy) by TWAN, the National Optical Astronomy Observatory, and Global Astronomy Month from Astronomers Without Borders. The contest supports efforts of the International Dark Sky Association (IDA) and other organizations that seek to preserve the night sky.

The images were taken in 57 countries and territories including Algeria, Antarctica, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Egypt, England, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Guam, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Lithuania, Madagascar, Malaysia, Malta, Morocco, Norway, New Zealand, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Reunion (France), Romania, Russia, Scotland, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Spain, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania, Thailand, Ukraine, and USA.

See all the images and more information about them at TWAN. Click on each image for larger versions. A larger version of the lead image can be found here.

You can see the global atlas of light pollution here, which was created from data from the NOAA/NASA Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership satellite and calibrated by thousands of ground observations.

And here’s a video that includes all the winning images:

5 Stunning Timelapse Videos Show the World at Night in Motion

Award-winning photographer Babak Tafreshi from The World At Night (TWAN) has been traveling the world to captures nightscapes in various locations. He has shared five beautiful timelapse videos of night sky landscapes “from locations that never been filmed like this before,” he said.

The first video, “Lake of Fire at Night” shows the gorgeous view of the Milky Way above Lagoa do Fogo, a volcanic crater lake in the Sao Miguel island of Portugal, Azores, on the Atlantic Ocean.

Kilimanjaro at Night

Here, travel to Mount Kilimanjaro and view it under the starry skies of Amboseli. You’ll see the Magellanic Clouds and fast-passing satelites, along with African wildlife.



Stars Above Himalayas

See the stars above the roof of the world. Mt Everest and other Himalayan peaks in the World Heritage Sagarmatha National Park of Nepal appear in this nightscape timelapse clip.


Santorini by Night

Santorini, Greece is lovely by day. And at night, the island is filled with lights, limiting the night sky view. But here you can see rare views of the starry sky above the island during a major blackout.


Magic Telescopes

The MAGIC telescopes, located near the mountain top of the Roque de los Muchachos on the Canary island of La Palma, are part of a highly sensitive gamma ray observatory, with giant 17 meter wide dishes. The multi-mirrored telescope pair observes gamma rays indirectly by detecting brief flashes of optical light, called Cherenkov light. See them here with the beautiful night sky above and clouds below.

See more of Tafreshi’s videos on Vimeo and more photos and information at his website.

Wow! See the ‘International Earth & Sky Photo Contest’ Winners

Need a little eye candy? Look no further! Here are the latest winners of the International Earth and Sky Photo Contest. This was the 5th annual contest, which is organized by The World at Night (TWAN), the National Optical Astronomy Observatory, and Global Astronomy Month from Astronomers Without Borders. This contest stresses the importance and awareness of dark skies, look for images that portray the “TWAN style” —showing both the Earth and the sky—by combining elements of the night sky set in the backdrop of the Earth horizon, often with a notable scenery or landmark.

The 2014 contest had two categories: “Beauty of The Night Sky” and “Against The Lights.”

“Both contest categories provide a visual awareness of the disappearing starry night sky and hopefully an understanding as to its cause,”said contest judge Connie Walker, associate scientist and education specialist at the National Optical Astronomy Observatory. “The added hope is that the photos will provide an incentive to be more actively involved in reasonable light pollution solutions and therefore dark skies preservation.”

Click on each of the image here for larger versions.

The first prize in Beauty of the Night Sky category was awarded to Luc Perrot from Réunion Island of France (southern Indian Ocean), for his image “Over the Top,” below, shot on Feb 28, 2014. A volcano in the Reunion Island peaks out of a sea of clouds and rests under stars.

“The photograph beautifully captures a scene that is eternal, the central bulge of the Milky Way is rising majestically over Piton de la Fournaise volcano,” said contest judge David Malin, who is widely known as a pioneer in scientific astrophotography “The image shows no sign of human presence, and is a reminder that the foreground landscape and the dark dust lanes in the Milky Way are made of the same elements, seen here as delicate clouds and solid mountain peaks.”

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Here are the “Beauty of the Night Sky” top winners:

1- Luc Perrot, Reunion Island (France)
2- Ben Coffman, USA
3- Nicholas Roemmelt, Austria
4- Ibrahim Elawadi, Egypt
5- Phil Hart, Australia

We loved this image, below, from Nicholas Roemmelt of Austria for his outstanding capture of aurora over Kirkjufell waterfalls in Iceland in a moonlit night of March 2014, titled “Kirkjufell Nights” which won third place in the “Beauty of the Night” category.

Contest judge and long-time National Geographic photographer James Richardson regards this image “a fantastic confluence of the forces of nature. This is, of course, just one small corner of our universe, and yet we see swirling all the waterfalls carving at the rocky landscape, the mountain resisting erosion, the aurora sweeping around the pole and the stars beyond, part of the whole. The organizational power of this photograph is just wonderful.”

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The first prize in “Against the Lights category” (and the overall contest winner) goes to Giorgia Hofer of Italy for his photo “Light in the Sky” taken on January 1, 2014 from Cibiana Pass in the Dolomites (Alps), northern Italy.

“I tried to portray the mist produced by the drones launched fireworks on the evening of new that were illuminated by a nearby light tower. in the only dark part of the sky the Big Dipper (the prominent part of constellation Ursa Major) is perfectly framed by the rays,” said the photographer.

Contest judge James Richardson said of this photo, “This captures the great ambiguity we feel about the night and night lighting. It is at once beautiful and beautifully composed. But it is also night lighting obscuring the beauties of the night. A beautiful image that confronts us with our own, conflicted desires.”

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The entire “Against the Lights” winners are:
1- Giorgia Hofer, Italy
2- Alex Conu, Romania
3- Majid Ghohrudi, Iran
4- Mark Gee, New Zealand
5- Song Hongxiao, China

We also loved the fifth place winner in the “Against the Lights” category. “Heavenly Street” by Song Hongxiao of China is a long-exposure photo sequence of March 30, 2013 that captures star trails from the sacred Taishan or Mount Tai. Says the photographer: “Its been an ancient China tradition that people climb to the top of Mountain Tai to watch the beautiful sunrise and pray. In this picture thousands of people are walking across the Heavenly Street. The lights from their flashlight interplays with the stars in the sky.”

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There are also 70 images as honorable mention which you can see in the video below, or in the contest Guest Gallery. The images were submitted (or taken) from 55 countries and territories.

You can find out more about this contest and the judges here. Keep your eye out for the chance to participate in next year’s contest at TWAN’s contest page.

Beautiful Noctilucent Clouds 2013 — The Movie

Noctilucent clouds taken from the ISS Image Credit: NASA

Intrigued by mysterious noctilucent, or night-shining clouds? This beautiful new film from TWAN (The World At Night) photographer P-M Hedén combines timelapse and real-time footage to provide a stunning compilation of his month in the field in Sweden this summer to capture these lovely blue electric clouds. Noctilucent clouds are visible sometimes low in the northern sky during morning and evening twilight, usually through late May through August, and they seem to be increasing the past few years.

Enjoy the stunning, tranquil views (lots of wildlife and night sky imagery too!) and lovely music in this new film, just published yesterday.

For more information about NLCs, Bob King wrote a great overview for us earlier this year about these “visitors from the Twilight Zone!

Noctilucent clouds 2013 The Film from P-M Hedén on Vimeo.

Stunning Astrophotos Reveal the Importance of Dark Skies

The World at Night’s (TWAN) annual Earth & Sky photography contest showcases the stunning beauty of the night sky while highlighting the challenges of keeping our skies free from light pollution. TWAN has now announced the winners of this year’s contest, and the winning photos are simply breathtaking. This year’s theme of “Dark Skies Importance,” were judged in two categories: “Beauty Of The Night Sky” and “Against The Lights,” said Babak Tafreshi, the founder and director of TWAN,” and the winners were selected from submissions by photographers in about 45 countries.”

The selected images were judged to be those most effective in impressing the public on both how important and delicate the starry sky is as an affecting part of our nature, and also how bad the problem of light pollution has become.

Tafreshi added that “the amazing number of eye-catching entries from across the world tells how public attention to night sky is growing as well as interest to sky photography and we are very pleased if TWAN has a role on this increasing awareness.”

The overall contest winner and first prize in the Beauty Of The Night Sky category is our lead image, taken by Stephane Vetter of France, for his March 2013 panoramic photo “Sky Above Godafoss” of aurora and the Milky Way over the “Waterfall of the Gods” in Iceland.

See more winners and more information about the contest below:

The first prize in Against The Lights category goes to Andreas Max Böckle of Austria for his photo “Under the Hood” taken from overlooking the city of Salzburg in a moonlit night:

Stars over Salzburg, Austria by Andreas Max Böckle, the first winner in Against the Lights category in TWAN 2013 Earth & Sky Photo Contest.
Stars over Salzburg, Austria by Andreas Max Böckle, the first winner in Against the Lights category in TWAN 2013 Earth & Sky Photo Contest.

David Malin, one of the judges and a world-known pioneer in scientific astrophotography said, “The 685 entries the judges examined (more than twice than the 2012 judged images) represent some of the best TWAN-style photographs ever gathered together in one place… I feel privileged to have seen so many beautiful images in such a short time!”

Click on the images here to see larger versions. You can see all the winners (and the great prizes they won) at the TWAN website, and this video highlights the winning photos:

‘Crossed Destinies,’ the Milky Way of Reunion Island, Indian Ocean by Luc Perro from France is the 2nd place winner in the Beauty of the Night Sky category in the TWAN 2013 Earth & Sky Photo contest.
‘Crossed Destinies,’ the Milky Way of Reunion Island, Indian Ocean by Luc Perro from France is the 2nd place winner in the Beauty of the Night Sky category in the TWAN 2013 Earth & Sky Photo contest.

See the Winners of the Earth & Sky Photo Contest

Enjoy this delightful video put together by Babak Tafreshi from The World At Night showing the winners of the third International Earth and Sky Photo Contest. With the theme of ‘Dark Skies Importance,’ these are lovely landscape astrophotos, “ in appreciation of the night sky beauty as an essential element of our nature, importance of preserving dark skies, and public awareness on the growing threat of light pollution,” Tafreshi said.

The organizers of the contest were the TWAN group along with the National Optical Astronomy Observatory, emphasizing Global Astronomy Month (April) and the contest was part of the Dark Skies Awareness project. The 2012 contest submission period was during the month of April, and submissions were to be in the “TWAN style” of landscape astrophotography — combining elements of the night sky set in the backdrop of the Earth horizon with a notable location or landmark.

Here’s the winning photograph by Norbert Span from Austria, “Stars Above Innsbruck:”

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You can all the images here.

The contest is open to anyone of any age, anywhere around the world. Interested in entering this contest next year? Check out the contest info page.