Winners of the Third IAU OAE Astrophotography Contest Announced

Published: 15th December 2023 10:00 (UTC)

From the phases of Venus to the path of the Sun over the course of a year, the IAU Office of Astronomy for Education (OAE) third astrophotography contest has showcased a wide variety of awe-inspiring astronomical phenomena. After receiving nearly 430 remarkable entries from 40 different countries and territories worldwide, a panel of international astrophotographers and astronomy educators has now selected the winners, among which are many images taken with ordinary smartphones.

Astronomy is often considered a ‘gateway to science’ and beautiful celestial images are a valuable educational tool. When shared as open resources, they can have a lasting impact on teachers and learners globally. The OAE, building on the success of its previous contests, continues to expand its collection of high-quality educational resources, all of which are available under free licences, while recognising the dedication of those who contribute to it.

This year’s contest welcomed astrophotography enthusiasts at all skill levels. Participants submitted captivating images in various categories, including phases of Venus, day arcs of the Sun and solargraphs, sunrise and sunset locations throughout the year, and images captured exclusively with smartphones and mobile devices. Time-lapse videos highlighting the rotation of the Big Dipper or the Southern Cross were also invited.

The entries were judged not only on their aesthetic and technical merits, but also on their educational value in the context of primary- and secondary-school teaching. The winners of this year’s contest will receive well-deserved cash prizes. In the category of still images with smartphones, six winners have been awarded €100 each. In each of the other categories, three winners have been awarded €750, €500, and €250 for first, second, and third place, respectively. Additional images and videos have been recognised with honourable mentions.

Astrophotography is an extraordinary educational tool as it enriches learning with a visually engaging experience,” says Marcella Giulia Pace, one of the winners. “Through stunning images that capture the slow flow of time in space, students gain a unique visual perspective on the Universe's complexity and beauty. This dynamic and experiential approach not only makes the subject more accessible but also sparks scientific curiosity, providing educators with an effective tool to inspire a passion for cosmic studies. This method transcends mere visual revelation, opening minds, broadening horizons, and igniting interest in the vast, mysterious Universe.

All winning entries will be featured prominently in the OAE’s collection of astronomy education resources and the IAU Image Arquive. They will be accessible under a Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) 4.0 International License, while ensuring that the talented photographers retain copyright to their images.

The OAE is again partnering with the OAE Center Italy as a co-sponsor of the contest. Livia Giacomini, panel member and editor-in-chief of the OAE’s astroEDU platform, says: “I was really impressed to see how many different topics can be explained with a simple image, going from very distant astrophysical objects to explanations of everyday phenomena that take place on Earth, the planet we are just starting to protect. I was aware that a picture says more than a thousand words, but with this contest it is also very clear that a picture can also teach more than a thousand words.

This year the OAE is also delighted to collaborate with its sister office, the IAU Office for Astronomy Outreach (OAO), another co-sponsor. As part of the OAO’s mission of “astronomy for everyone”, it will host an e-exhibit and gala to honour the winners and entrants who receive honourable mentions in the smartphone astrophotography category. The date of this event will be announced soon.

Kelly Blumenthal, OAO Director, says: “Astrophotography is often seen as only available to those with significant resources and experience. In May 2023 we held a series of workshops on smartphone astrophotography, demonstrating that anyone can be an astrophotographer. We are proud to co-sponsor this contest and are excited to see the creative ways these images are used in astronomy education and outreach.

The IAU congratulates all the talented participants in and winners of the third OAE Astrophotography Contest, whose contributions to astronomy education will inspire and educate generations to come.

The winning entries in each category are:

Still images of phases of Venus:
First place: Phases of Venus, by Stephane Gonzales, France
Second place: A Matter of Perspective, by Christofer Baez, Dominican Republic

Honourable mentions:
Venus and Mercury trails, by Marcella Giulia Pace, Italy

Still images of day arcs of the Sun and Solargraphs:
First place: The Eclipse Clock/Eclipse on a Polar Day, by Stephanie Ye Ziyi, China
Second place: The Path of the Sun, by Frank Niessen, Germany
Third place: Equatorial Sunrise Eclipse, by Fabrizio Melandri, Italy

Honourable mentions:
Solstices and Equinox, by Tunç Tezel, Turkey
The Last Hour of the Day, by Fabrizio Melandri, Italy

Still images of sunrise and sunset location over the year:
First place: When the Sun Bounces, by Milos Obert, Slovakia
Second place: Occasive Amplitude, by Marcella Giulia Pace, Italy
Third place: Where the Sun sets every month, by John Paul Pile, the Philippines

Still images taken exclusively with smartphones/mobile devices:
Northern Lights Color, by Jason Johnson, USA
Star Trail in the Southern Hemisphere with Bortle 4 scale light pollution, by Slamat Riyadi, Indonesia
The Milky Way in the Smart World, by Biagio Meli, Italy
Milky Way Over Quiver Tree, by Jianfeng Dai, China
Retrograde Motion of Mars, by Rob Kerby Guevarra, the Philippines
Fire of the Sky, by Stephanie Ye Ziyi, China

Honourable mentions:
Smartphone Partial Eclipse Combined, by Douglas Duncan, USA
Full Flower Moon 2023, by Joslynn Appel, USA
Jupiter, Venus, Moon Conjunction, by Joslynn Appel, USA
Northern Lights — Teepees, by Oanh Vuong, USA
The Geminid Fireball, by Jianfeng Dai, China
Milky Way Stargazer, by Jianfeng Dai, China
Learning Nights, by Juan Pablo Botero Londoño, Colombia
Milky Way over H.E.S.S Observatory, by Jianfeng Dai, China
Sailing the Celestial Seas, by Lucy Yunxi Hu, China
24 Hours of Rainbows, by Fabrizio Guasconi, Italy
Star Trails, by Govind Gunjar, India
Starry Popocatépetl, by David Olivos Sánchez, Mexico
Our Sky, by Ema Radulović, Serbia
Lugu Lake Without Clouds, by Liu Yang, China
Star Trails of the Forbidden City, by Stephanie Ye Ziyi, China

Time-lapse videos of the rotation of the Big Dipper or Southern Cross:
First place: Southern Sky over La Silla, by José Rodrigues, Portugal
Second place: The Rotating Planet, by Jianfeng Dai, China
Third place: The Big Dipper in the Polar Night, by Stephanie Ye Ziyi, China

Honourable mentions:
Beautiful Night in the Atacama Desert, by Uwe Reichert, Germany
Big Dipper Over the Mono Lake, by Fabrizio Melandri, Italy
Big Dipper and Comet Neowise C/2020 F3, by Giorgia Hofer, Italy
The Big Dipper With the Sardinia Radio Telescope, by Antonio Finazzi, Italy

You can view all of the winners and honourable mentions here.

More information
The IAU is the international astronomical organisation that brings together more than 12 000 active professional astronomers from more than 100 countries worldwide. Its mission is to promote and safeguard astronomy in all its aspects, including research, communication, education and development, through international cooperation. The IAU also serves as the internationally recognised authority for assigning designations to celestial bodies and the surface features on them. Founded in 1919, the IAU is the world's largest professional body for astronomers.

The IAU Office of Astronomy for Education is hosted at Haus der Astronomie (HdA), managed by the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy. The OAE’s mission is to support and coordinate astronomy education by astronomy researchers and educators, aimed at primary or secondary schools worldwide. HdA’s hosting the OAE was made possible through the support of the German foundations Klaus Tschira Stiftung and Carl-Zeiss-Stiftung.

The OAE is supported by a growing network of OAE Centers and OAE Nodes, collaborating to lead global projects developed within the network. The OAE Centers and Nodes are: the OAE Center China–Nanjing, hosted by the Beijing Planetarium (BJP); the OAE Center Cyprus, hosted by Cyprus Space Exploration Organization (CSEO); the OAE Center Egypt, hosted by the National Research Institute of Astronomy and Geophysics (NRIAG); the OAE Center India, hosted by the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA); the OAE Center Italy, hosted by the National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF); the OAE Node Republic of Korea, hosted by the Korean Astronomical Society (KAS); OAE Node France at CY Cergy Paris University hosted by CY Cergy Paris University; and the OAE Node Nepal, hosted by the Nepal Astronomical Society (NASO).

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Eduardo Monfardini Penteado
OAE Main Office

Lars Lindberg Christensen
IAU Director of Communications