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Galway astro-photographers make shortlist for next stage of competition

Three Galway astro-photographers have been selected for the next stage of the prestigious ‘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.

The Galway photographers on the list include David Mackie from Athenry, who has been shortlisted in the ‘Out of this World – Deep Sky’ category for his image ‘The Colours of Space’; Enda O’Loughlin from Loughrea with his image ‘Aurora Borealis Towers Over Tower’, and Felix Sproll from Salthill with ‘Aurora over Poulnabrone Dolmen’ – both shortlisted in the ‘Night Sky in Your Hand’ category.

Enda O’Loughlin from Kilchreest, Loughrea, explained in his submission that he got an alert on his phone from an Aurora app saying there was a potential that the aurora may be visible in your area.

“The value on the phone was saying KP9, so I went outside and pointed the phone up into the sky, I could not believe my eyes as I saw the colours and amazing angel wings of the aurora arching across the sky,” he said.

“It was a surreal experience to see this. I then went down the road to my local landmark Kilchreest Tower and took a photo from there with my iPhone,” he added.

David Mackie from Athenry captured the Pleiades in all their splendour for his shortlisted entry.

“Taurus is one of the more easily recognized constellations in in the Irish autumn/winter sky. And the Pleiades, or the Seven Sisters, is a well-known feature of Taurus being visible to the naked eye as a fuzzy patch with, if your eyes are sharp enough, a cluster of stars contained within.

“In this image the Pleiades can be seen in all their splendour in the lower left of the image, with the clouds of gas and dust reflecting the blue light of the hot stars of the cluster.

“But this image covers a huge area and towards the right moves into the constellation of Perseus with another region of dust and gas known as The California Nebula – so called because its shape resembles the outline of the US State of California,” he added.

Capturing his image involved several nights of photography between early November 2023 and mid-January 2024 from East Galway.

“The final image is a mosaic made up of three separate, overlapping, images stitched together to cover the whole region,” says David.

“Each of the separate images contains around 120 three-minute exposures for a total exposure of nearly 18 hours.

“The 120 exposures have been stacked together to give a raw image for each of the mosaic panels which have then been stitched together and processed in dedicated Astrophotography software to bring out the details of the image,” he adds.

Felix Sproll from Salthill captured the Aurora over Polnabrone Dolmen in Clare.

“The Aurora of a lifetime, what else do I need to say. Still buzzing from this. I recently got a new phone and was delight to test out the night mode, even handheld the image was clear,” he says.

A high-profile judging panel will select the overall winning entries in the coming weeks – but there is also an online vote was launched so members of the public can also have their say.

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

Votes for the Public Choice Award are restricted to one vote per person, and voting will close at midday on Friday, July 5.

Pictured: Shortlisted….David Mackie’s Colours of Space.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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