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Results of the 2019 NZ Astrophotography Competition

This years judge Phil Plait (the bad astronomer) had the following comments

SOLAR SYSTEM Winner: John Drummond, Moon and Jupiter

This shot of the conjunction of Jupiter and the Moon (taken moments before the planet was occulted) really stood out to me. Usually, lunar/planetary occultations show just a small part of the Moon’s limb with high enough magnification to see details on the planet. That’s great, but in a much wider shot like this you really get a sense of size, of distance. Jupiter is over 40 times wider than the Moon physically, but nearly 2,000 times farther away… yet I still got the sense of the immense nature of the planet here.

Commendations:

Ian Griffin: ISS Lunar transit

It takes a lot of technical skill to set up and get a shot like this, and Ian did beautifully here.

Otto Josef Gruebl: Solar Eclipse

This HDR shot is difficult to pull off, and even though Moon’s dark side faces us, you can see see just a tantalizing hint of Earthshine lighting up the maria.

Logan Carpenter: Jupiter, Ganymede, and Io’s shadow.

This image was processed just enough to catch Io as a glint across Jupiter’s face, and the shadow like a stain on the planet, You can even see details on Ganymede’s surface!

DEEP SKY Winner:

Rolf Wahl Olsen, Centaurus A …

It’s hard to believe this is an image taken by an “amateur”, but then Rolf’s dedication is intense. Made up of photos taken over several years, the detail here starts to approach what we see from space-based observatories. Shells of gas, probably from galaxy collisions, jets of material erupting from the central black hole, and hundreds of globular clusters punctuate this spectacular shot of the closest active galaxy to our own.

Commendations:

Patrick Hu, Orion Nebula

If you’re going to photograph the most photographed object in the sky you’d better bring it, and Patrick did. You can really see how the nebula is a cavity carved into the side of a giant dark molecular cloud here!

Paul Wilson, Milky Way

This magnificent photo really gives you the feel for how the dust clouds in the central parts of the galaxy redden starlight, and the Rho Ophiuchi/Antares complex really adds a lovely depth to the shot.

Liam Murphy, Lagoon Nebula

You’d be forgiven to think this was an image from the Very Large Telescope, the colors and resolution are so good. The diffraction spikes give it a dreamy quality, too, that really adds a layer to the beauty of it.

NIGHTSCAPE Winner:

Gan Chun Haw, Princess aurora dancing under the Milky Way

This photo has it all: A spectacular Milky Way arched across the wide-field sky, an aurora under it, and a lovely foreground. The two-toned aurora paralleling the Milky Way is breathtaking, and the LMC and SMC under the arch, punctuating the center of the image? Come on. Jaw-dropping.

Commendations:

Glen Butler, Abandoned house

Glen did a great job framing this star trail image, and the lighting on the house makes a bit dreamy and melancholy. The color contrast is wonderful, too, with the blueish sky, red paint, and green grass.

Evan McKay, Airglow over Tongariro

The framing of this one is great, and the intersecting parallel arcs of glowing clouds adds a symmetry that is both pleasing and satisfying. I tried to keep “commended” photos as separate topics from the winner, but this was so good I had to add it here.

Alex Gurvich, Eclipse Man

This shot is just so, so good. The timing of it is spectacular. The Sun moves through its own diameter on the sky in just two minutes, so the planning on this must have been tremendous. The Diamond Ring effect is a spectacular bonus, too.

OVERALL WINNER and Winner of the Harry WIlliams Trohpy for 2019

Gan Chun Haw, Princess aurora dancing under the Milky Way

All three category winners are simply gorgeous photos, but for overall winner I had to give it to Gan Chun Haw. It appeals to the astronomer with its magnificent view of our galaxy and its satellites; to the photographer due to the technical nature of getting the individual frames and stitching them together seamlessly; and mostly to the artist, because the stunning beauty of this image — the color contrast, the symmetric arches, the moody foreground — cannot be denied.