Mayo photographer to feature in the Reach for the Stars astrophotography exhibition

Mayo photographer to feature in the Reach for the Stars astrophotography exhibition


A portion of ‘Wild Atlantic Milky Way’ by Mayo’s Shane Lavelle, which features in the 2023 Reach for the Stars astrophotography outdoor exhibition. (See full image below.) Photo: Shane Lavelle

A Mayo man’s photograph has been selected to feature in the 2023 Reach for the Stars astrophotography outdoor exhibition, run by the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (DIAS).

The photo – entitled ‘Wild Atlantic Mily Way’ – was captured by Shane Lavelle from Castlebar, and image depicts the Milky Way galaxy rising over the Wild Atlantic Way on Achill Island.

The unique patterns in the water made by the waves flowing through the rocks below the clear skies of Mayo’s coast add dimension and contrast to this image.

Shane’s image will be showcased as part of an outdoor exhibition at DIAS’s premises at 10 Burlington Road, Dublin, from tomorrow (Wednesday). The 14 top-rated images from the competition will be displayed alongside Shane’s. The exhibition is free to attend.

Sara Harvey from Bishopstown, Co. Cork, claimed first prize in the Out of this World category. This category called for images depicting scenes or elements of astronomical interest, such as deep space images or images of the solar system. The winning image – ‘M51 – A Galactic Dance’ – captures the whirlpool galaxy, located 31 million light years from Earth. The galaxy has a face-on appearance as seen from Earth, showing its distinct spiral structure and galactic core.

‘Ghost Ship’ took first prize in the Back on Earth category. The winning image depicts the Port Láirge shipwreck as it lies beached in Bannow Bay near Saltmills in Co. Wexford. The rusting ship was once a steam dredger with the Waterford Harbour Commission from around 1907 up to the 1980s. Adrian Hendroff from Stepaside captured the Milky Way above the ship and, as the icing on the cake, a faint glow of the Northern Lights is visible in the background.

Runners-up in the Out of this World category were Enda Kelly from Wicklow town for his image ‘When the planets align. Lunar occultation of Mars’ and David Mackie from Athenry, Co. Galway, for his image ‘The Spaghetti Nebula’.

The two runners-up in the Back on Earth category were Patryk Sadowski from Derry city for his image ‘Manannán mac Lir & Aurora’ and Keith Levins from Blackrock, Cork city, for his submission ‘The Almighty Arch’.

The winners were selected by a judging panel following a meticulous process examining over 70 entries. In addition to Prof. Peter Gallagher, the judging panel included Brenda Fitzsimons, picture editor with The Irish Times; Michael McCreary, president, Irish Astronomical Society; and Niamh Breathnach, director, Alice Public Relations.

Commenting on the success of the competition, Dr. Eucharia Meehan, CEO and registrar of DIAS, said: “I would like to extend my congratulations to the winners of the competition on their breathtaking entries. Viewing the online gallery of this year’s entries, it’s clear the passion for astro-photography has been elevated to a new level.

“Photos of our night sky are a powerful tool to engage the general public in science and astronomy. Interconnecting science, history, and heritage, some of the images show the still pristine night sky above cultural heritage sites across Ireland while others incorporate detailed depictions of galaxies and nebulae far away.

“At DIAS, the area of space research is ever expanding with initiatives such as the Astronomical Observatories of Ireland being launched in May. This historic partnership will see DIAS – Dunsink Observatory partnering with Armagh Observatory and Planetarium and Birr Castle Demesne to develop a shared approach to science, research and heritage across the three sites. It’s important that we continue to protect the sanctity of our dark skies so that future generations are able to enjoy the abject beauty of the cosmos.

“I’d like to thank all of those who entered for sharing their passion and creativity with us. I hope that the night sky continues to be a source of inspiration, creativity and wisdom going forward.”

The winning images along with a selection of the judges’ top-rated images in the Reach for the Stars competition will be available to view as part of an outdoor exhibition from tomorrow (Wednesday). The exhibition will hang at the railings of DIAS’s premises at 10 Burlington Road, Dublin, and is free to attend. The winning images are all available to view now online on

DIAS’s ‘Reach for the Stars’ competition is being run in partnership with The Irish Times and is sponsored by Alice Public Relations. The Irish Astronomical Society are initiative supporters.

Shane Lavelle’s ‘Wild Atlantic Milky Way’ in all its glory. Photo: Shane Lavelle