Galway photographer wins national competition with stunning image

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MIlky Way Arch over Pine Island. Photo Credit: Felix Sproll

Galway photographer Felix Sproll claimed the top prize at the annual Reach For the Stars astrophotography competition for his incredible image of the night sky.

Felix was chosen as one of two overall winners of the competition for his stunning picture capturing the Milky Way in a clear night sky over Pine Island at Derryclare Lough in Connemara.

The ‘Milky Way Arch over Pine Island’  came out in top in the ‘Back on Earth’ category of the competition, which is run by the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies.

“It was great to win as there was a very high standard of images this year,” Felix said.

“It’s tough to get astro pictures here in Ireland with all the wind, rain, and clouds, so it’s great to have a competition like this in Ireland where there’s a level playing field.”

Professor Peter Gallagher, Head of Astrophysics at DIAS and a member of the judging panel for ‘Reach for the Stars’ said, “Felix’s image capturing the iconic Pine Island in Connemara, with the Milky Way sparkling overhead is a beautiful shot and shows Ireland at its very best.”

“There is something very magical about this image – with the light from the moon rising over the town in the backdrop. It really blew us away, and it’s obvious Felix has a very keen eye for detail.”

One of two runners up in this category was Aisling McGuire from Moyard, Co. Galway for her submission, ‘The Bens Under the Milky Way’.

Felix added that it was great to see two Galwegians coming on top in the same category, and that their two photos were taken on the same night, not far from each other.

All of the photos entered into Reach for the Stars can be viewed online at https://reachforthestars.ie, and an outdoor exhibition of the pieces will be held DIAS’s premises in Dublin from August 12.

The other big winners of the competition were Tom Dineen and Raluca Dana Lica, who claimed first prize in the ‘Out of this World’ category.

Their winning image ‘A Fiery Rosette’ captured the Rosette Nebula – an emission nebula in the constellation of Monoceros, located about 5,200 light-years away from Earth.

The image data was captured by Raluca in her backyard in Naas town, Co. Kildare, over 11 nights, with Tom completing the image processing.

Anthony Lynch from Dublin scooped the top prize in the Public Choice category with his photo of the International Space Station flying past the sun.

And a special School of Cosmic Physics 75th Anniversary Prize was also awarded to Sean O’Riordan from Kilmallock, Limerick for his image ‘Zodiacal Light above Cliffs of Moher’.

The winners were selected by a judging panel following a rigorous judging process of over 180 entries.

In addition to Prof. Peter Gallagher, the judging panel included Brenda Fitzsimons, Picture Editor, The Irish Times; John Flannery, Vice-President, Irish Astronomical Society; and Niamh Breathnach, Director, Alice PR & Events.

Commenting on the competition overall, Brenda Fitzsimons, Picture Editor, The Irish Times, said: “From glistening Galaxies to tranquil landscapes, the combination of science and serene captured in these breath-taking images were a pleasure to judge.”