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Shercock youth is Astronomy Photographer of the Year

Wednesday, 16th September, 2009 5:00pm

Story by Sean McMahon
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A young man from Shercock who is studying for his junior certificate at Bailieborough Community School, has scooped a top award in the Astronomy Photographer of the year awards.

Paul Smith was just 14 years of age when he took the picture less than a year ago and has now emerged as the young category winner with a photograph called 'Occultation of Venus'. The picture was shot around 5 o'clock on the evening on December 1, 2008.

The only son of J.J. and Geraldine Smith is absolutely thrilled to win this superb award, which showcased his amazing talents with a camera. People from around 25 countries submitted entries for the competition.

The awards ceremony took place in the Royal Observatory in Greenwich last Wednesday evening.

The Astronomy Photographer of the Year awards is run by the Royal Observatory in Greenwich and the Sky at Night Magazine. This is the first year the awards have been staged.

The competition Judge Dan Holdsworth commented: "This is a very striking image. The photographer has just caught this in a perfect balance."

Paul Smith told The Anglo-Celt that it was amazing to see Venus disappearing and then reappearing from behind the Moon. "I just had to get a photograph to remember it by," said an excited Paul.

Currently studying for his Junior Certificate, Paul is not sure what he wants to do later in life but does not rule out something in the photographic area. He has had photographs published by The Anglo-Celt previously.

What's in the picture. Well an occultation takes place when one planet or moon appears to move in front of another, temporarily hiding it from view. The word comes from 'occult', which means hidden.

In Paul's photograph, the moon has passed in front of Venus, only for the planet to reappear several hours later. Like the moon, Venus goes through a set of phases as it moves around the sun. In the picture Venus is almost full, while the Moon is still in a crescent phase.

Paul used a Canon 400D DLSR camera, celestron C8-N 8 inch reflector, ISO 200, 1/80 second exposure. Essentially the lens was taken out of the camera and it was attached directly to the telescope.

Paul said he became interested in photography and astronomy in national school, when a teacher spoke about the subjects in class. He got a telescope the following Christmas and then he got a camera and then combined the two hobbies and it has all resulted in these award winning photographs.

The judges for the competition were Will Gater, Rebekah Higgitt, Dan Holdsworth, Dr Marek Kukula, Pete Lawrence, Chris Lintott, Sir Patrick Moore, Damian Peach and Graham Southorn.

The Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2009, was organised as part of the International Year of Astronomy.

Paul's prize for winning his category is £250 sterling and the 'Sky at Night Magazine' free for 12 months. He will also receive another £50 sterling for having a 'highly commended' picture in the Young Category, called 'Venus'. That picture was taken of Venus just over Lough Sillan in Shercock.

This year has been designated the International year of Astronomy by the UN, to celebrate the first telescope observations by Galileo 400 years ago.

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