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Dr Sophie Murray, Technical Officer at Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies at the launch of the competition in the Dunsink Observatory. Photograph by Marc O’Sullivan

Clare photographers have eyes on prize in the skies

SOME out of this world imagery has put two Clare photographers in the running for a prestigious prize.

Two Clare men have been chosen for the next stage of the ‘Reach for the Stars’ astrophotography competition, run by the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (DIAS). The competition aims to find the best astro-photographs taken in Ireland over the past year.

Jason Murphy, from Ennis has been shortlisted with two photographs in the ‘Out of this World’ category.

Gavin Sheehan, from Bridgetown, meanwhile has been shortlisted in the ‘Back on Earth’ category.

While a high-profile judging panel will select the overall winning entries in the coming weeks, an online vote was launched this week so members of the public can also have their say.

All shortlisted images can now be viewed on the ‘Reach for the Stars’ website, www.reachforthestars.ie, where members of the public can also cast their vote for their favourite image.

Over 160 images were submitted to the competition in total this year, with 40 selected for the shortlist and public vote.

There are two categories in the competition: ‘Out of this World’ and ‘Back on Earth’. The ‘Out of this World’ category features images depicting elements of astronomical interest. The ‘Back on Earth’ category features astro-landscape images that depict an element of astronomical interest and elements such as nature, cityscapes, land or water.

The winning images selected by the judging panel and the public vote will be announced in July, and an outdoor exhibition will be staged by DIAS in August to showcase the best images.

Alongside the Public Choice Award for the winner of the online public vote, an overall winner and runners-up will be chosen by the judging panel for ‘Reach for the Stars’, which includes: Professor Peter Gallagher, Head of Astrophysics at DIAS; Brenda Fitzsimons, Picture Editor of The Irish Times; John Flannery, Vice-President of the Irish Astronomical Society; and Niamh Breathnach, Director, Alice PR & Events.

This year will also see the inclusion of a special prize to mark the 75th anniversary of the School of Cosmic Physics. One photograph that depicts the work of one or more of the research areas carried out at the School will be selected for the prize.

Commenting this week Professor Gallagher said, “I’m delighted to return for a second year of judging for the ‘Reach for the Stars’ competition. The standard of entries has been excellent again this year. It’s amazing what the photographers have been able to capture, from stars and galaxies that are millions of light years away to stunning scenery back on earth.

“I’m particularly excited to be involved in selecting this year’s special prize to mark the 75th anniversary of DIAS’s School of Cosmic Physics.

“I’ll be looking for an image that depicts the work of one or more of the research areas carried out at the School. This includes research on everything from solar and stellar physics and space weather to planetary science, geological formations and star formations.

“We hope the people of Clare will get involved again this year in the public vote and cast their vote for their favourite image.”

Also commenting, Dr. Eucharia Meehan, CEO and Registrar of DIAS, said, “The online public vote to select the winner of the Public Choice Award is a great way to introduce people to the world of astrophotography.

“Some of the entries capture very complex astronomical features, while others depict stunning Irish landscapes to showcase different aspects of astronomy.

“It will be a difficult task for people to choose a favourite in the online public vote – and for the judging panel to select an overall winner.

“I’m so impressed by the level of creativity and skill we have amongst photographers in Clare and right across the country.”

Votes for the Public Choice Award are restricted to one vote per person, and voting will close at midnight on Sunday, July 3.

Further information, including the online gallery and background information on the competition, is available at reachforthestars.ie/exhibition/.

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