7 Ethereal Photos Of The Earth And Sky

Winners of a photography contest about light pollution

It's amazing what you can see from Earth. Just take a look at these images from the 5th International Earth and Sky Photo Contest, a competition for so-called "landscape astrophotography." The photos all show a bit of our home planet, along with views of sky and astronomy phenomena. All photos were taken in the past year. You get the sense that as fantastic as these pictures are, they're all showing things that are accessible to (at least some) humans right here on Earth. That's not always true of gorgeous space photos we feature.

The International Earth and Sky Photo Contest is meant to bring attention to the problem of light pollution. It seeks photos from two extremes, either showing some of the few dark places left on Earth, or showing the effect of light pollution on lovely landscapes. This year's top winner fits in the latter category, showing beams of electric light obliterating an otherwise clear night sky.

"Both contest categories provide a visual awareness of the disappearing starry night sky," contest co-founder Connie Walker said in a statement.

Astronomers Without Borders and the U.S. National Optical Astronomy Observatory, where Walker works, run the contest together. Itching to enter your own work? Organizers will announce details about the 6th International Earth and Sky Photo Contest in February 2015. The contest is open for submissions from March through April 22, Earth Day.

Click below to see the pretty, pretty pictures.

Light in the Sky
This photo, which won first place, shows electric light in the Cibiana Pass through the Italian Alps. Photographer Giorgia Hofer snapped this just after a fireworks show, while the sky was still smoky. The titles of all of these slides are the names the photographers gave their own work.Giorgia Hofer, The World At Night
Over the Top
What is this magical place? It's the top of Piton de la Fournaise volcano on Réunion Island, in the Indian Ocean. That's the Milky Way, of course, above the volcano.Luc Perrot, The World At Night
False Dusk and Falls at Oregon Coast
Here's Hug Point on Oregon's Pacific coast. On the left is a small waterfall. Above the sunset is a wash of white light called zodiacal light, AKA "false dusk" or "false dawn." Zodiacal light results from sunlight reflecting off of dust grains in the inner solar system. It appears only at sunrise and sunset, usually in the spring or autumn.Ben Coffman, The World At Night
Reflected Aurora
This is Reine, a Norwegian fishing village and tourist destination. The photo seems brightly lit because there was a lot of moonlight that night, photographer Alex Conu explained to contest judges.Alex Conu, The World At Night
Bioluminescence & Star Trails
This long-exposure image shows stars over Gippsland Lakes in Victoria, Australia. In the water are bioluminescent plankton.Phil Hart, The World At Night
Unlimited Sky
Stars sparkle over Maranjab Salt Lake in Iran as cities send up golden domes of light from below. Can you see the constellation Orion in the middle of the photo? "The reflected starlight from the water is polarized. That's why the reflected image is more clear than sky," photographer Ghohroodi told judges.Majid Ghohroodi, [The World At Night](Majid Ghohroodi, The World at Night)
Heavenly Street
This long-exposure image shows stars over Taishan or Mount Tai in China. A stream of bright white light follows the mountain trail, called Heavenly Street. The stream is formed by the flashlights visitors to the mountain carry as they walk to the peak in the pre-dawn, to catch the sunrise.Song Hongxiao, The World At Night