Dublin photographer claims prize in the Reach for the Stars astrophotography competition

by Gazette Reporter
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A Dublin man’s photo, ‘Ghost Ship’, has been selected as a winning image in the 2023 Reach for the Stars astrophotography competition, run by the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies.

‘Ghost Ship’ took first prize in the ‘Back on Earth’ category. The winning image depicts the Port Láirge shipwreck as it lies beached in Bannow Bay near Saltmills in Co. Wexford. The rusting ship was once a steam dredger with the Waterford Harbour Commission from around 1907 up to the 1980s. Adrian Hendroff from Stepaside, Dublin, captured the Milky Way above the ship and a faint glow of the Northern Lights is visible in the background.

In addition to being the overall winner in the ‘Back on Earth’ category, Mr Hendroff also scooped the top prize in the Public Choice category receiving the most votes in the online public vote for his image ‘Illuminate’. This image depicts Hook Lighthouse, built in 1172, which is the oldest intact operational lighthouse in the world. This photograph captures the Milky Way stretching across the night sky over the lighthouse on a clear night in April.

Adrian Hendroff’s winning images will be showcased as part of an outdoor exhibition at DIAS’s premises at 10 Burlington Road, Dublin, from Tuesday, 1st August. The 13 top-rated images from the competition will be displayed alongside Adrian’s. The exhibition is free to attend.

A photo entitled ‘Winter Rose’, taken by Martin McCormack from Glasnevin, will also be displayed as part of the outdoor exhibition. The image was captured in Dublin city and shows the Rosette Nebula, also referred to as the Skull Nebula – a giant molecular cloud in the Monoceros constellation. The Nebula sits in the Milky Way about 5,200 light-years from Earth. Massive stars at its core have blasted a hole in the cloud of material with radiation and flows of charged gas particles, called stellar winds.

Commenting on Adrian Hendroff’s ’s winning photo, Professor Peter Gallagher, Head of Astrophysics at DIAS and a member of the judging panel for ‘Reach for the Stars’, said: “The image of the shipwreck near Bannow Bay mesmerised the panel when we saw it. The Milky Way captured above the ship in all its glory is perfectly framed with the rusting ship, seaweed laced mudflats and the faint glow of the Northern Lights. It’s clear a huge amount of thought and creativity went into capturing this image.”

Other Winning Images

Sara Harvey, from Bishopstown, Co. Cork, claimed first prize in the ‘Out of this World’ category. This category called for images depicting scenes or elements of astronomical interest such as deep space images or images of the solar system. The winning image ‘M51 – A Galactic Dance’ captures the Whirlpool Galaxy, located 31 million light years from Earth. The galaxy has a face-on appearance as seen from Earth, showing its distinct spiral structure and galactic core.

Runners up in the ‘Out of this World’ category were: Enda Kelly, from Wicklow Town, for his image ‘When the planets align. Lunar occultation of Mars.’ and David Mackie, from Athenry, Co. Galway, for his image ‘The Spaghetti Nebula’.

The two runners-up in the ‘Back on Earth’ category were: Patryk Sadowski, from Derry City, for his image ‘Manannán mac Lir & Aurora’ and Keith Levins, from Blackrock, Cork city, for his submission, ‘The Almighty Arch’.

Judges’ Feedback

The winners were selected by a judging panel following a meticulous judging process of over 70 entries. In addition to Prof. Peter Gallagher, the judging panel included Brenda Fitzsimons, Picture Editor, The Irish Times; Michael McCreary, President, Irish Astronomical Society; and Niamh Breathnach, Director, Alice Public Relations.

Commenting on the competition, Michael McCreary, President of the Irish Astronomical Society and member of the judging panel, said: “As a new member of the judging panel this year, I was honoured to be involved in the judging process. Astro-photography competitions are a great way to reconnect the general public to the night sky, capturing their imaginations with these stunning astro-photographs. Through the competition we can encourage as many people as possible to explore our world through the night sky. Joining a local astronomy club or society is a great way to get involved and there are lots of groups around the country.”    

Echoing Michael’s comments, Brenda Fitzsimons, Picture Editor, The Irish Times, said: “I am delighted to be involved again this year. Each year I am excited to see the entries that feature unexplored night scenes from the remote wilderness of our landscape and skies.”

Fellow judge Niamh Breathnach, Director of competition sponsors Alice Public Relations, remarked: “As ongoing sponsors of the competition, it’s been exciting to see how astro-photography has evolved over the last three years. There is a greater appreciation for our night skies with more and more people expressing their curiosity for what is happening above us. Each year we see new dark sky targets and areas of natural beauty. It makes our job very difficult choosing a winner from all of the amazing images.”

DIAS playing key role in space research

Commenting on the success of the competition, Dr. Eucharia Meehan, CEO and Registrar of DIAS said: “I would like to extend my congratulations to the winners of the competition on their breathtaking entries. Viewing the online gallery of this year’s entries, it’s clear the passion for astro-photography has been elevated to a new level.

“Photos of our night sky are a powerful tool to engage the general public in science and astronomy. Interconnecting science, history, and heritage, some of the images show the still pristine night sky above cultural heritage sites across Ireland while others incorporate detailed depictions of galaxies and nebulae far away. At DIAS, the area of space research is ever expanding with initiatives such as the Astronomical Observatories of Ireland being launched in May. This historic partnership will see DIAS – Dunsink Observatory partnering with Armagh Observatory and Planetarium and Birr Castle Demesne to develop a shared approach to science, research and heritage across the three sites.  It’s important that we continue to protect the sanctity of our dark skies so that future generations are able to enjoy the abject beauty of the cosmos.

“I’d like to thank all of those who entered for sharing their passion and creativity with us. I hope that the night sky continues to be a source of inspiration, creativity and wisdom going forward.”

Outdoor Exhibition

The winning images, along with a selection of the judges’ top-rated images in the Reach for the Stars competition will be available to view as part of an outdoor exhibition, from Wednesday, 2nd August 2023. The exhibition will hang at the railings of DIAS’s premises at 10 Burlington Road, Dublin and is free to attend.

The winning images are all available to view now online on www.reachforthestars.ie.

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

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