Tyrone lensman hooked on stargazing

A County Tyrone photographer has progressed to the voting stage of the prestigious Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (DIAS) ‘Reach for the Stars’ astrophotography competition.

Wednesday, 5th May 2021, 9:28 am
Updated Wednesday, 5th May 2021, 10:50 am

Adam Jeffers from Cookstown, features in the online public vote that was launched by Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, during a private visit to DIAS’s Dunsink Observatory.

‘Reach for the Stars’ aims to find the best astro-photographs taken in Ireland over the past year. While a high-profile judging panel will select the overall winning entries, an online vote is running over the coming weeks, so members of the public can also have their say.

Members of the public can now view all images shortlisted for the competition and cast their vote for their favourite via an online gallery on the DIAS website. Votes for the Public Choice Award are restricted to one vote per person, and voting will close at midnight on Sunday (May 9).

Cookstown photographer Adam Jeffers.

Speaking to the Mail this week, Adam said he is “absolutely delighted” to have progressed in the competition and “very encouraged to see so much interest in astrophotography and astronomy across Ireland”.

He said: “My curiosity started as a child when I would stay up late and sit out and watch the stars. It’s a bit of a cliche, but when I caught a glimpse of Saturn’s rings through my first telescope I was hooked - I could actually see objects in space with my own eyes that previously I had only observed in the pages of books.

“I have a real passion for astrophotography and have even built my own observatory at home. I have travelled to Iceland and the USA to catch a glimpse of astronomical phenomena - the Aurora Borealis and a total solar eclipse.

“The great thing about astrophotography is that while you can spend considerable amounts on equipment, you can catch spectacular images with just a phone and some patience.

Neowise Comet pictured from Beaghmore Stone Circles.

“Although our climate isn’t ideal, planning does help, checking the weather forecasts and making sure the skies are clear. The added challenge of cloud-dodging makes it all the more rewarding.”

Adam said he has always been fascinated by the array of colours and amount of detail going on in the images.

“I enjoy the science behind the nebulae and galaxies that I image, as well as the sheer scale of it all - it literally is astronomical and at times hard to comprehend.

“It really is quite amazing to think that the night sky is so busy, and that the light from these deep space objects has been travelling for thousands and even millions of years on the journey to the earth.

“My image in the ‘Reach for the Stars’ competition is entitled “Comet C/2020 F3 (Neowise) over megalithic Beaghmore Stone Circles” and it shows a once in a lifetime glimpse of Comet Neowise as it passed through the solar system and close to the Earth in July 2020.

“As Neowise approached the Earth it got heated by the Sun and became much brighter than scientists expected.

“Neowise won’t make another close encounter with the Earth for about 7,000 years.”

Professor Peter Gallagher, Head of Astrophysics at DIAS and a member of the judging panel for ‘Reach for the Stars’, said: “We are blown away by the images submitted to the competition.

“From stars and galaxies to meteor showers and the moon – there are dozens of fantastic entries.

“We are delighted to be able to showcase all the eligible submissions online, so that the public can enjoy them too.

“The enthusiasm for the competition has really proven to us the interest there is in astronomy amongst the public, and the many talented photographers that are out there.

“We encourage people to take a look online and cast their vote for their favourite.”

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