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"Strolls in the Star River" in the Bolivian Salar de Uyuni by Caren Zhao
Caren Zhao / TWAN 2015
“Strolls in the Star River” by Caren Zhao.

Photos: What the sky should look like without light pollution

By Maria Sanchez Diez

In polluted cities around the world, it’s a struggle to see the stars in our night skies. And it’s that struggle that The World at Night’s 6th International Earth and Sky Photo Contest tries to highlight, showing us images of how the world would look if we controlled light pollution.

The photography contest started in 2009 as an attempt to promote the night sky as a natural good that should be conserved and protected. The World at Night is a volunteer effort operating under Astronomers Without Borders, a US nonprofit focused on fostering interest in astronomy, in collaboration with the National Optical Astronomy Observatory.

The criteria for the contest is simple: Photographers must combine both the the Earth and the sky and pay “special attention” to astronomical perspectives and celestial phenomena.

In this year’s competition, participants submitted more than 1,000 images from 54 different countries. Here are some of the winners:

Eric Nathan‘s photograph of Cape Town’s emblematic Table Mountain won the overall contest and the “Against the Lights” category. The picture, called Star Trails Above Table Mountain, was taken with a stack of over 900 30-second exposures, according to the author.

Eric Nathan / TWAN 2015
“Star Trails Above Table Mountain”

The Enchanted Forest, by Lyubov Trifonova won the first prize in the “Beauty of the Night Sky” category. It shows the northern lights in Murmansk, Russia.

Lyubov Trifonova / TWAN 2015
“The Enchanted Forest”

Moonlit Darklings, an image of Mount Rainier in Washington under the moonlight and the reflection of the Milky Way, won Brad Goldpaint second prize in the “Beauty” category.

Brad Goldpaint / TWAN 2015
“Moonlit Darklings”

Evgeny Trisko‘s image Above the Light Pollution, shows another reflection of the Milky Way, this one over the Peak Terskol Observatory in the Mount Elbrus of Caucasus Mountains in Russia. It won the second prize in the “Lights” category.

Evgeny Trisko / TWAN 2015
“Above the Light Pollution”

This panoramic image of a Crater Lake National Park in Oregon and the crescent moon was taken by Ben Coffman on a winter morning and it is called A Raising of the Hackles. It won third prize in the “Beauty of the Night Sky” category.

Ben Coffman / TWAN 2015
“A Raising of the Hackles”

Blood Moon Rises Over Chongqing captures the progress of a lunar eclipse over the Yangtze River, in China. Zhou Yannan won the third prize in the “Against the Light” category.

Zhou Yannan / TWAN 2015
“Blood Moon Rises Over Chongqing”

This panoramic of how the aurora borealis spreads from Reykjavik (in the right of the image) to the town of Keflavik (in the left) won the fourth prize in the “Beauty of Night Sky” category. The Dome is by Sigurdur William Brynjarsson.

Sigurdur William Brynjarsson / TWAN 2015
“The Dome”

Malaysian photographer Hui Chieh Teoh turned his lens on the volcanos in the Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park of East Java in Indonesia for Star Trails over Bromo, which won fourth place in the “Against the Lights” category.

Hui Chieh Teoh / TWAN 2015
“Star Trails over Bromo”

A solitary figure stands amid the immensity of the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia, with the arc of the Milky Way in the background, in Caren Zhao’Strolls in the Star Rover, which won fifth place in “Beauty of the Night Sky” category.

Caren Zhao / TWAN 2015
“Strolls in the Star Rover”

Above and Underneath, an image of the night sky and the clouds over the illuminated cities below in the Russian region of Stavropol is another Evgeny Trisko image awarded fifth place in the “Against the Lights” category.

Evgeny Trisko / TWAN 2015
“Above and Underneath”

You can see more stunning images of the night sky in The World at Night site and in this video.