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Australian Gemini School Astronomy Contest: 2012

2012's Winning Image Released!
Winning Image from the 2012 Gemini School Astronomy Contest, proposed by Ryan Soares of Perth's Trinity College.
Image credit: Ryan Soares (Trinity College), Travis Rector (U. Alaska Anchorage), and the Australian Gemini Office.
Click here for a high-resolution version (10 MB).

On 12 February 2013, the winning image from the 2012 Gemini School Astronomy Contest was unveiled to the public. Contest winner Ryan Soares, from Perth's Trinity College, received a framed print of his image at an event held at the Year 12 student's school. The image shows three spiral galaxies from Lyon Galaxy Group #455: NGC 7232 (upper right), NGC 7232B (left), and NGC 7233 (centre). Hosted by Jacinta Delhaize and Mehmet Alpaslan from the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research in Perth, the celebration featured a video connection to the Gemini Observatory headquarters in Hawaii.

For images from the unveiling event and more details, see Gemini's media release.

The Australian Gemini Office is pleased to announce that the winner of the 2012 Gemini School Astronomy Contest is
Ryan Soares from Trinity College in East Perth, WA

The prizes for runners-up in the contest go to
The STAR Group from The Heights School in Modbury Heights, SA
The Astronomy Club from St. Margaret's Anglican Girls School in Ascot, QLD.

Congratulations to all of our winners and to the many other entrants who did such a great job with their submissions. Ryan's image will be revealed early in 2013, so keep an eye on the AusGO webpages.

And check back here soon for details about our 2013 contests!

Contest Details

In 2012, students in Australia have a chance to use an hour of observing time on one of the world's largest optical telescopes, the 8-metre Gemini South telescope in the Andes Mountains of Chile.

How? By picking an object in the Southern sky and writing a winning explanation of why it would be interesting to digitally photograph.

See below for more contest details.

Facebook You can also follow the contest through the AAO's Facebook page.

Teachers: Please help us spread the word to your pupils about this exciting opportunity. Download our new flyer! [PDF]

How to Enter

In one page, explain why your selected target would be a good choice to be imaged by the Gemini South Telescope. Justify your answer with reasons of scientific interest and visual appeal.

Download the entry form here (in Microsoft Word format).
[Alternatively, a hard copy can be printed from this PDF file.]

Submit both pages of the form:

Entries must be received by: Friday 11 May 2012

The contest is open to any Australian students in Years 5-12, as well as inter-school groups and clubs of students, provided each entry has a clearly designated submitting school and teacher. Entries may be written individually or in groups, but must be submitted by a teacher. Limit of two entries per school.

What You May Win

The best-ranked entry will have their object imaged by Gemini. The professionally processed picture will then be presented to the school by astronomers who will explain what the image reveals about the target.

The classes for the top three entries will be eligible to participate in a Live From Gemini program, an introduction to the Gemini telescopes provided via a video link to experts in one of the Gemini control rooms.

Selection of Winner

Judging of the entries will take place by a panel comprised of astronomers, educators, and science journalists. The selection criteria will be to find the entry that best describes both the scientific interest of the target and the visual appeal of the resulting image.

Target Limitations

To be observable during the time frame of May-August, there are restrictions on the allowed position of the object. Like latitude and longitude on the Earth, objects in the sky have coordinates in Right Ascension and Declination (see this page for an explanation). The targets for this contest must meet the following requirements:
1. Right Ascension (RA) greater than 14 hours OR less than 1 hour.
2. Declination (Dec) between -60 degrees and 0 degrees.

Picking A Target

Please check out this webpage for some ideas and things to keep in mind.

Previous Results

In the three years this contest has been held, we've had a fantastic and diverse set of winning images.

The Glowing Eye Nebula. Image credit: Daniel Tran (PAL College),
Travis Rector (U. Alaska Anchorage), Terry Bridges (Queen's U.), and
the Australian Gemini Office NGC
6872 and IC 4970. Image credit: Sydney Girls High School Astronomy
Club, Travis Rector, Angel Lopez-Sanchez, and the Australian Gemini
Office NGC 7552. Image credit: Benjamin Reynolds (Sutherland Shire
Christian School), Travis Rector (U. Alaska Anchorage), and the
Australian Gemini Office

The image at the left shows the "Glowing Eye" planetary nebula, the Grand Prize winner in our 2009 contest. The winning entry was submitted by Year 10 student, Daniel Tran, of PAL College in Cabramatta, NSW. For more information about the 2009 contest, check out this page.

The winners of our 2010 contest were the Astronomy Club of the Sydney Girls High School. Their image in the centre shows the colliding galaxies NGC 6872 and IC 4970. Find more details about the 2010 contest here.

The winning image from the 2011 contest is on the right, and shows the central region of the spiral galaxy known as NGC 7552. The target was chosen by contest winner Benjamin Reynolds, from Sutherland Shire Christian School in Sutherland, NSW. For additional information about the 2011 contest, click here.

The Canadian Gemini Office has also run similar competitions in 2002, 2003 (here and here), 2005, and 2009.


Contact Info

For further inquiries, please contact Dr. Christopher Onken of the Australian Gemini Office by e-mail at, or by phone on (02) 6125 8039.

Details of Observations

Because the Gemini Observatory wants to make the best possible use of every part of the nighttime darkness, it matches the observations it obtains to the changing atmospheric conditions over the course of the night. As a result, it's not certain when any particular program will be observed. Therefore, we won't know precisely when the images for the contest will be taken, and the students participating in the winning program will not be able to travel to the telescope. When the observations are taken, the students will be notified and a message will be posted on this webpage.

The Gemini Observatory

Named for the constellation of Gemini, "the twins", the Gemini Observatory consists of a pair of telescopes. One of these is located atop Cerro Pachon in the Andes Mountains of Chile; the other is on top of Mauna Kea in Hawai'i. At 8-metres in diameter, the Gemini telescopes are among the largest optical telescopes in the world, and are the premier facilities to which the entire Australian astronomical community has access. The particular instrument used in the contest is GMOS, the Gemini Mulit-Object Spectrograph, which provides the ability both to take fantastic images and to study the spectra of several hundred objects at a time. Each of the Gemini telescopes has a copy of the GMOS instrument, and they are the most heavily used instruments in Gemini's toolbox. For more information about Gemini, visit the Gemini Observatory website, see the Gemini FAQ, or go to the home page of the Australian Gemini Office.

Contest Organisers

The Australian Gemini Office
in conjunction with
Dr. Terry Bridges (Queen's University, Canada)
Mr. Robert Hollow (CSIRO/ATNF)
Ms. Helen Sim (CSIRO/ATNF)
Prof. Travis Rector (University of Alaska Anchorage, USA)

Additional Legalities

This contest is open to Australian students in Years 5-12. The Gemini Observatory image produced in conjunction with this contest shall be made available to the press and shall be subject to the Gemini Observatory Image Usage Policy. All decisions of the judging panel and the contest organisers shall be final.
Australian Gemini Office, ausgo -@-