The “Reach For The Stars” Competition Will Soon Name The Best Images Taken in Ireland

2nd Jul 2024
The “Reach For The Stars” Competition Will Soon Name The Best Images Taken in Ireland

This year marks the exciting return of the large-scale astrophotography competition, “Reach For The Stars,” now in its fourth edition. The event has once again captivated the interest of both amateur and professional photographers from around the globe. The works are evaluated by a panel of expert judges, but everyone can also get involved by voting for their favorite photo on the competition’s website!

Competition For Irish Sky Photographers

The contest is organized by the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (DIAS) in partnership with The Irish Times and sponsored by Alice Public Relations. It was open for photographs taken in Ireland between 28th April and 10th May.

“There are lots of astronomical events coming up in April alone – we’ve just had a solar eclipse, the Lyrid meteor shower will take place later this month, along with a full moon before the closing date of the competition – so there are plenty of opportunities for people to get out there and capture some shots,” said Professor Peter Gallagher, Head of Astronomy and Astrophysics at DIAS and member of the judging panel.

Prof Peter Gallagher
Prof Peter Gallagher. Credit:

A New Category For Amateur Astrophotographers

Great news for amateur astrophotographers: this year, the competition has introduced a new category, the “Night Sky in Your Hand”, which focuses on mobile phone astrophotography. This addition aimed to encourage more people to get involved and capture the beauty of the night sky with their smartphones.

“With the addition of the new mobile phone category this year, I’m excited to see the range of entries we’ll get,” commented Professor Gallagher. “This new element really opens the door for lots of amateur and budding astrophotographers who might not necessarily have the equipment but have an eye for a good shot to showcase their work.”

All The Categories Of “Reach For The Stars”

Overall, the competition called for submissions under five distinct categories.

1. Night Sky in Your Hand

Images taken with only a smartphone and without telescopes of an astronomical scene.

“The Trees Cheering the Aurora”
“The Trees Cheering the Aurora”. Credit: Jullian Brandão
“The Aurora Reflected on Lough Owel”
“The Aurora Reflected on Lough Owel”. Credit: Ronan Hunt
“Sam and Lucy's First BIG Aurora”
“Sam and Lucy’s First BIG Aurora”. Credit: Seanie Morris

2. Out of this World: Planetary

Images of the planets, sun and moon.

“Bray Head Moonrise”
“Bray Head Moonrise”. Credit: Anthony Lynch
“Jupiter's Dance - The NEB's New Dawn”
“Jupiter’s Dance – The NEB’s New Dawn”. Credit: Enda Kelly
“The Devil Comet Nears Perihelion”
“The Devil Comet Nears Perihelion”. Credit: Brian O’Halloran

3. Out of this World – Deep Sky

Images of celestial objects that exist outside our solar system, such as nebulae, star clusters, and galaxies.

“Orion and the Running Man”
“Orion and the Running Man”. Credit: Colm O’Dwyer
“Ocean of Stardust”
“Ocean of Stardust”. Credit: Laurynas Zubrickas
“The Jewels of the Swan”
“The Jewels of the Swan”. Credit: Martin McCormack

4. Back on Earth – Landscape

Images that depict a feature of astronomical interest as a prominent feature and elements such as nature, land, or water.

“Queen Maeve's Aurora”
“Queen Maeve’s Aurora”. Credit: EDDIE LEE
“Meander”. Credit: Cian Ryan
“Winter Milkyway”
“Winter Milkyway”. Credit: Shane Lavelle

5. Back on Earth – Landmark

Images that depict a feature of astronomical interest prominently and elements such as cityscapes, buildings, houses, historic structures, or monuments.

“Sentinal”. Credit: Tom O’Donoghue
“Pink Moon Rising Over Grianan”
“Pink Moon Rising Over Grianan”. Credit: Patryk Sadowski
“The Flare”
“The Flare”. Credit: Ronald McClelland

All shortlisted images are showcased for public voting here.

British Participants

Notably, Patryk Sadowski, a resident of Kingsmere Gardens in Derry, has been selected among the photographers shortlisted for the awards. He is nominated in the “Back on Earth: Landmark” category for his photograph “Pink Moon Rising over Grianan” (above) and in the “Back on Earth Landscape” category for his picture “Fanad Head Aurora 2024”.

“Fanad Head - Aurora 2024”
“Fanad Head – Aurora 2024”. Credit: Patryk Sadowski

Ronald McClelland, also from Derry, has made the shortlist in the “Back on Earth – Landmark” category for his photograph “The Flare” (above).

Terms And Conditions

Entrants could submit up to two images per category, and the deadline for entries was 5 p.m. on Friday, 10th May 2024.

As stated on the contest website, “all submissions will be screened by a shortlisting panel to ensure they meet the eligibility criteria. The shortlisted images in each category will then proceed to be evaluated by the judging panel and will also be included in an online public vote.”

The judges are Brenda Fitzsimons, Picture Editor at The Irish Times; Michael McCreary, President of the Irish Astronomical Society; Peter Gallagher, Senior Professor and Head of Astronomy and Astrophysics at DIAS; and Niamh Breathnach, Senior Director at Alice Public Relations.

Prizes For Winners

The winning photographers in the “Out of this World” and “Back on Earth” categories, as selected by the judging panel, receive a prize package that includes:

  • Publication of their images on the DIAS and Irish Times websites;
  • Passes to the three sites of the Astronomical Observatories of Ireland – Dunsink Observatory (Race to Space Escape Room), Armagh Observatory and Birr Castle Demesne;
  • A €500 voucher for photographic/telescopic equipment;
  • A 12-month digital subscription to The Irish Times.

Public Choice Category Prize

The winner of the Public Choice category, as voted for by the public, and the winner of the ‘Night Sky in Your Hand’ category receive a voucher to the value of €250 for photographic/telescopic equipment, along with passes to the three sites of the Astronomical Observatories of Ireland – Dunsink Observatory (Race to Space Escape Room), Armagh Observatory and Birr Castle Demesne.

The winning and highly commended images of the “Reach For The Stars” competition will also be included in an exhibition at DIAS during 2024.

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