Astronomy and photography fans from NI asked to ‘reach for the stars'

  • Astronomy and photography fans have a chance to win a behind-the-scenes tour of one of Europe’s best-known observatories as part of a prize package on offer for a new astrophotography competition.

    The ‘Reach for the Stars’ competition is organised by the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (DIAS), and is now open for entries. The competition is seeking the best astro-photographs captured on the island of Ireland over the period 1st January 2020 to 31st March 2021.

    Commenting on the competition, Professor Peter Gallagher, Head of DIAS Astrophysics, said: “We all love looking up at the night sky and admiring how spectacular it can be. With recent advances in cameras and indeed in phone cameras, astrophotography has grown in popularity in recent years.”

    “2020 has been a great year for astronomy fans, featuring supermoons, sunspots appearing for the first time in years, and Jupiter and Saturn coming together in the evening sky on the winter solstice. People across the country are capturing breath-taking images of such events.

    "With the ‘Reach for the Stars’ competition, we are asking for people to submit their images – we want to see what Ireland’s astro-photographers can offer!”

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    Prof Gallagher stressed that entrants do not need to be astronomy or photography professionals. “Anyone with an interest in astronomy and photography – whether as a hobby, a burning passion or a fulltime career – can enter,” he said.

    “Our only stipulations are that entrants must be over 18; they must have taken their photograph on the island of Ireland during the time period specified; and – obviously – their photograph must depict something of astronomical interest.”

    Prize Package

    Entries to the ‘Reach for the Stars’ competition will be judged by Professor Gallagher, along with Brenda Fitzsimons, Picture Editor of The Irish Times; John Flannery, Vice-President of the Irish Astronomical Society; and Martina Quinn, Managing Director of Alice PR & Events.

    Entrants may submit up to three images to the competition, and the deadline for entries is 5pm on Friday, 2 April 2021.

    The winning entrant will receive a prize package that includes:

    • Publication of their images on the DIAS and Irish Times websites;
    • A VIP tour of DIAS Dunsink Observatory – with the opportunity to peer through Ireland’s largest refractor telescope.
    • A €500 voucher for photographic / telescopic equipment; and
    • A 12-month Premium Digital subscription to The Irish Times.

    DIAS also intends to stage an exhibition of the winning and highly commended images during 2021, if circumstances allow.

    Proud Astronomical Heritage

    Commenting at the competition, Dr. Eucharia Meehan, CEO and Registrar of DIAS, said: “We are running the ‘Reach for the Stars’ competition as part of the DIAS80 programme of events, marking 80 years since DIAS was established.

    “The competition builds on DIAS’s – and the island of 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’.

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    The winner of this competition will have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to visit the observatory and use some of the unique equipment– I think that’s a dream come true for astronomy fans.”

    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.

    Further information, including the competition guidelines and entry form, is available at

    About the author

    Niamh is a Sync NI writer with a previous background of working in FinTech and financial crime. She has a special interest in sports and emerging technologies. To connect with Niamh, feel free to send her an email or connect on Twitter.

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