Northern Ireland

'Reach for the Stars' photography competition features striking image of Belfast night sky

Newtownabbey man Ciarán P. O’Donnell was among the winners for his entry, 'Cygnus Mosaic in Hubble Palette'
Newtownabbey man Ciarán P. O’Donnell was among the winners for his entry, 'Cygnus Mosaic in Hubble Palette'

AN "astonishingly beautiful" image of the Co Antrim night skies is among the winners of an all-island astronomy photographic competition.

More than 180 entries were judged in the inaugural 'Reach for the Stars' event, with Newtownabbey man Ciarán P O’Donnell among one of two-runners up for his striking 'Cygnus Mosaic in Hubble Palette' scene.

Mr O'Donnell's photograph captured a mosaic of the Cygnus Constellation, which covers an area of the sky the same width as 40 full moons.

Josh Mathews, from Moyard in Co Galway was selected as the overall winner for his 'To the Waters and the Wild', while Tom O’Hanlon from Tullamore, Co Offaly was also announced as a runner-up, for his entry 'North Star Jesuit House'.

Run by the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, the competition attracted interest from professional and amateur 'astrophotographers'.

Neolithic tombs, beaches and urban parks were featured in the entries.

Brenda Fitzsimons, picture editor with the The Irish Times and a member of the judging panel, said: "I’m simply in awe of the talent, perseverance and technical ability applied to accomplish these wonderful images.

"The winning photographs are not only astonishingly beautiful and well-balanced images, but are perfectly executed. It is evident that the photographers have immense technical knowledge and patience."

Fellow judge Professor Peter Gallagher, head of Astrophysics at the Institute said the standard was excellent.

"The chosen images showcase a variety of striking and impressive astronomy scenes, and capture the talent of astrophotographers in Ireland."

John Flannery, Vice-President of the Irish Astronomical Society added that he was "blown away" by the level of skill, imagination and creativity shown.

"Many of the images captured very complex astronomical features that are extremely difficult to photograph, and require great skill and patience. It is great to see such interest in astronomy from both amateur and experienced photographers and astronomers across the country," he said.

A selection of the images are available to view online on the DIAS website as part of an exhibition.


A selection of the judges' top-rated images in the 'Reach for the Stars' competition – including Ciarán P. O’Donnell’s entry – is now available to view in an online exhibition on the DIAS website, An outdoor exhibition at DIAS's premises on Burlington Road in Dublin is planned for the coming weeks, followed - later in the summer - by an exhibition at DIAS Dunsink Observatory.

DIAS as a leader in astronomy

Commenting on the success of the competition, Dr. Eucharia Meehan, CEO and Registrar of DIAS, said: “I would like to congratulate the winners of the competition on their achievements, and thank them and indeed all entrants for sharing their creativity with us.

“This competition builds on DIAS’s – and Ireland’s – proud astronomical heritage. DIAS Dunsink Observatory is one of Ireland’s most important scientific sites and has been recognised by the European Physical Society as a ‘site of historical significance’. We hope that the competition has inspired people to explore astronomy and astrophotography, and encouraged them to look up into the night sky and appreciate its beauty.”

DIAS’s ‘Reach for the Stars’ competition is being run in partnership with The Irish Times and is sponsored by Alice PR & Events. The Irish Astronomical Society are initiative supporters.