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World at Night’ Winners Show Sky’s Fragile Wonders

The winners of the annual Earth and Sky Photo Contest show off the beauties of the night sky and highlight the effects of light pollution.

The 7th Annual International Earth & Sky Photo Contest showcases the wonders of the night sky and the earthly landscapes below. The contest was open to anyone of any age, anywhere in the world; to both professional and amateur/hobby photographers judged by a panel of nine judges in various fields of astronomy, photography and photojournalism.

Above: The first prize in the "Against the Lights" category (and the overall contest winner) belongs to Alex Conu, for his image "Northern Lights above Lofoten" taken from a mountaintop in Lofoten Islands, Norway.

Alex Conu / TWAN 2016

Organized since 2009 by The World at Night (TWAN), this year's selected theme was "Dark Skies Importance." The submitted photos were judged in two categories: "Beauty of The Night Sky" and "Against The Lights." The images were taken in 57 countries and those selected were those most effective in demonstrating how important the starry sky is and how bad the problem of light pollution has become.

Today, most city skies are virtually devoid of stars. According to to TWAN, light pollution (excessive light that scatters to the sky instead of illuminating the ground) is not only a major waste of energy, it also obscures the stars, disrupts ecosystems and has adverse health effects.

Above: The first prize in "Beauty of the Night Sky" category goes to Stephanie Ye from China for "The Tail of Aurora" captured in March 2015 in northern Norway.

Stephanie Ye / TWAN 2016

The second place winner in the "Against the Lights" category is Carlo Zanandrea from Italy for "All that Glitters is not Gold" taken in December 2015 showing constellation Orion rising over lights and fog in the province of Treviso in northeastern Italy.

Carlo Zanandrea / TWAN 2016

"The Photographer" by Nicholas Roemmelt from Austria is the second place winner in the "Beauty of the Night Sky" category, taken in March 2015 in Stockiness, Iceland.

"It was not easy for my buddy Nikki Haselwanter to literally 'freeze' for 15 seconds for the shot on the top of that sand dune with wind gusts of 25 m/s (56 mph). Blizzards kept on hitting the coastline that night and it had been challenging not to been blown away. But during clear gaps of few minutes we could witness the wonderful northern lights behind the Icelandic Vestrahorn."

Nicholas Roemmelt / TWAN 2016

"Ancient Ground, Modern Sky" is the third winner in the "Against the Lights" category, captured in August 2015 by Amirreza Kamkar from Iran.

Amirreza Kamkar / TWAN 2016

"Sacrament of Unification with Nature" is the third winner in the "Beauty of the Night Sky" category by Boris Dmitriev from Russia.

Boris Dmitriev / TWAN 2016

In the photo composite submissions, where frames of various exposure or focus settings are blended, the winner in the "Beauty of the Night Sky category is "Viking Lights" by Adam Woodworth of the U.S., captured in Newfoundland, Canada in June 2015.

Adam Woodworth / TWAN 2016

The "Against the Lights" category winner of photo composites is "Milky Way Like a Dolphin" by Alvin Wu from China.

The rising arc of the Milky Way is captured on MaunaKea observatory, Hawaii in April 2015 and shows the Gemini North telescope in the foreground.

Alvin Wu / TWAN 2016

In the photo sequence submissions, that also include star trails, the winner in the "Beauty of the Night Sky" category is "Total Solar Eclipse from Svalbard" by Thanakrit Santikunaporn from Thailand.

The sequence captured the eclipse phases every 3 minutes over the frozen landscape of Svalbard, Norway on March 20, 2015.

Thanakrit Santikunaporn / TWAN 2016

The "Against the Lights" category winner of photo sequences is "Mountain Liupan Startrails" by Sun Guo-Cai from China, captured in Ningxia region in Oct. 2015.

To read more about the contest and see this year's runner ups click here.

Related: TWAN's 2015 Winners

Gallery: May's Month in Space

Sun Guocai / TWAN 2016