Noctilucent Clouds and Aurora by John Andersen
Noctilucent Clouds and Aurora (John Andersen)

Photo of the Week Contest Winners: 2017

Here are the winning selections—the best of the best from the images submitted by our readers during the 2016/17 contest season.

This was a banner year for our long-running Photo of the Week contest. The sheer number of quality submissions was outstanding. We were impressed and, when it came time to pick the winners, a touch overwhelmed. As SkyNews editor emeritus Terence Dickinson commented, “This was the toughest contest to judge so far—so many worthy entries!” To everyone who sent in photos, we thank you for making our lives so delightfully difficult.

Grand Prize

Tenting Under the Milky Way by Darren Foltinek

Winner: When esteemed and experienced astro­photographers Alan Dyer and Terence Dickinson both independently describe your photo’s composition as “excellent,” you know you’ve done well. Really well.

This breathtaking image by Darren Foltinek of Calgary, Alberta, beautifully depicts the grandeur of a night spent under a pristine dark sky. It was taken at Gooseberry Mesa, Utah, while Foltinek and some friends were on an extended camping trip. “Our days were spent riding the fantastic mountain biking trails and enjoying the spectacular desert vistas,” he writes, “and my nights were spent photographing the stunning dark skies.” Here we see the centre of the Milky Way Galaxy near the horizon, on up through Aquila and into Cygnus. And, yes, that’s Foltinek seated in the foreground, taking it all in. The final image was assembled from 25, 120-second frames captured with a 50mm lens and a Canon EOS 6D DSLR camera.

Best Lunar or Planetary Photo


Winner: Saturn and Mars get a lot of attention from observers, but no planet rewards viewing night after night the way Jupiter does. It’s never the same twice. And for those with the right equipment and skill, Big Jove’s ever-changing cloud face makes the planet a wonderful (if challenging) imaging subject. Daniel Borcard took this Jupiter portrait from his backyard observatory in Saint-Roch-de-l’Achigan, Quebec. He used a Celestron 9.25-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope, a 2.5× Tele Vue Powermate Barlow lens and a ZWO ASI224MC colour astronomy camera to acquire the 18,000 frames assembled for this image


Honourable Mention: This exquisitely detailed lunar photo consists of 21 individual segments skilfully processed and assembled into the mosaic presented here. Each “tile” is made up of 150 images, stacked and optimized for sharpness and contrast. Denis Marquis of Quebec City, Quebec, recorded the raw video data with a ZWO ASI224MC colour camera (fitted with a ZWO IR850 infra­red filter) and a Celestron 9.25-inch EdgeHD Schmidt-Casse­grain telescope working at f/10.

Best Deep-Sky Image


Winner: Nothing says “deep sky” like galaxies. Part of the attraction is the seemingly endless variety of forms these distant island universes can take. Ursa Major’s M81 (left) and M82 provide a striking example of this variety—a graceful spiral paired with a messed-up “starburst” galaxy. Saint-Liboire, Quebec, imager Martin Bernier took this detailed photo of the galactic duo last February with a QSI 683wsg(-8) cooled CCD camera attached to an Astro-Tech AT12IN 12-inch f/4 imaging Newtonian reflector telescope. The image consists of three segments totalling 530 individual exposures shot using several narrowband filters.

North America Nebula

Honourable Mention: Black and white photography offers a different perspective on the universe—our eye is drawn to details in texture and shape that are normally overwhelmed by vivid colours. For this view of the North America Nebula region, Oleg Bouevitch of Nepean, Ontario, used a Takahashi FSQ-106EDX III f/5 astrographic telescope and an Atik 383L+ CCD camera to acquire 210 minutes of imaging data shot through an Astrodon 3nm Hydrogen-alpha narrowband filter for each of the six panels making up this mosaic.

Best Tripod-Mounted Unguided Photo

Northern Lights on Ice by Warren Finlay

Winner: Ice, snow and a display of the aurora borealis. These elements effectively evoke the serene chill of a Canadian winter night. Warren Finlay of Edmonton, Alberta, captured this riveting scene on January 29, 2017, from the shore of Black Nugget Lake, located roughly 60 kilometres southeast of Edmonton. He used a Canon EOS 6D DSLR camera and a Canon 24-70mm USM zoom lens (set to 24mm and f/2.8) for this 20-second exposure at ISO 3200.

Supermoon Rising by David Galbraith

Honourable Mention: The perigee full Moon (a.k.a. “supermoon”) of November 13, 2016, generated a lot of excitement and inspired many readers to photograph the event, including David Galbraith of Dundas, Ontario. He recorded this sequence from nearby Burlington, where the Moon rose behind the Brant Street Pier, overlooking Lake Ontario. Each individual 1/200-second frame was shot at ISO 400 with a tripod-mounted Nikon D800 DSLR camera and a zoom lens set to 50mm focal length and f/11.

Readers’ Choice Award

Noctilucent Clouds and Aurora by John Andersen

Winner: Several atmospheric phenomena are in play in this photo by John Andersen. He set up his camera at Langdon, Alberta, during morning twilight on July 9, 2016, and captured this striking scene featuring noctilucent clouds and a faint band of green aurora. (Keen-eyed viewers will also note the great blue heron in the foreground.) Noctilucent clouds, also known as “night clouds,” are the highest clouds in the Earth’s atmosphere, forming in the mesosphere at altitudes as great as 85 kilo­metres above our planet’s surface. They’re usually observed in the summer months from latitudes greater than 50 degrees north, though displays can be seen occasionally from more southerly locations. Andersen used a Canon EOS 6D DSLR camera equipped with a 24-70mm zoom lens set to 70mm and f/2.8 for this 8-second exposure at ISO 1000.