What shows up when the sun goes down?

See the winners of our annual photo contest, plus other favorites.

  • EDITOR'S CHOICE/Ground Strike: An off-duty fire lookout caught this spectacular and threatening connection at 3 a.m. in Idaho’s Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness.

    Mark S. Moak
  • EDITOR'S CHOICE/Northbound: During sunset at Death Valley’s Racetrack Playa, the photographer saw the track of perhaps the park’s strangest phenomenon — its “moving” rocks.

    John Mumaw
  • RUNNER UP/Mesa Arch: A nighttime display in Canyonlands National Park, Utah.

    Whit Richardson
  • The Wondrous Heavens: This tree is located in Southern Utah, pictured here under the Galactic Center of the Milky Way. The photographer's composition was elevated when an unexpected thunderstorm rolled in.

    Wayne Suggs
  • Cold Nights of Hot Plasma: Nothing makes a sub-zero Alaskan night more beautiful than the aurora! Ionized oxygen and nitrogen dance almost 100 miles above the frozen landscape of Fairbanks. After a three day trip from the surface of the sun, protons slam into Earth's upper atmosphere creating the colorful plasma ribbons. The northern lights are common, yet illusive! One never knows when or where they will appear. The sky may be dark and quiet for hours on end, then suddenly erupt into light with little to no warning. Once they do show up, the peak of the storm may only last a minute or two.

    Jack Taylor
  • Aurora over Montana's Rocky Mountain Front: A brilliant aurora illuminates the northern sky near Choteau, Montana.

    Ralph Thornton
  • Desert Gold: In Joshua Tree National Park, light painting, plus overflow lights from Palm Springs in the far distance, make for a magical, golden image.

    Vicky Ramakka
  • At Joshua Tree: A quieter-than-usual Joshua Tree National Park during the federal government shutdown in January. Pictured here is the aptly-named Jumbo Rocks Campground.

    Matt Harding
  • Sprite Sky: The photographer had just passed through Kingman Ariz., when this large and distant electrical storm made its appearance. They managed to capture this and a dozen more "sprites." The green hue to the sky is due to the airglow that was present. The orange illumination in the clouds is light pollution from below.

    Tyler Lausten
  • Orion and Running Man Nebulae: This image was "shot" through a 127mm Explore Scientific refractor employing a Canon XSi DSLR camera west of Taos, N.M. It is a result a result of combining 24 separate images.

    Lewis (Willis) Greiner
  • Coyote Gulch: Polar star trails are captured from the floor of the Escalante Canyons of Southern Utah. Another camping party just downstream filled the canyon with light and music late into the evening.

    Zach Schierl


Even with light pollution on the rise across the West, you can still find places where the night skies inspire. So for this year’s annual photo contest, we asked readers for examples of their own nighttime photography. They did not disappoint, sharing nearly 150 photos of moonscapes, starlight and other wonders of the evening and night. Enjoy the winners, chosen by our editors with help from readers. See all the entries here.