These stunning award-winning photos will make you fall in love with night sky all over again

“The sky above us is an essential part of our nature,” Babak Tafreshi said in a statement announcing the winners of this year’s International Earth and Sky Photo Contest.

Tafreshi established the program The World at Night (TWAN), which co-founded this annual photo contest in 2008. The goal of the contest is to raise awareness about light pollution, which drowns our view of planets, stars, and galaxies in the night sky — a sight that is growing more rare each year as cities swell bigger and brighter.

“Perhaps from this perspective we can better preserve the natural night sky and reconnect it with our modern life,” Tafreshi said about the contest.

Here are the 10 award-winning photos for this year, selected from an initial pool of over 1,000. You can learn more about the contest on the TWAN website.

The bright band of the Milky Way Galaxy is a beautiful backdrop to this photo of Mt. Rainier in Washington state.

Mount Bromo is the smoking, distant volcano in this photo composition taken in East Java, Indonesia with star trails -- the arcs of light in the sky -- in the background.

City lights illuminate the clouds in this photo of Russia's northern Caucasus Mountains. Peak Terskol Observatory sits at the center against a starry night sky.

The moon, located right of center, lights this snow-covered forest in Murmansk, Russia. Above, a bright-green aurora borealis adorns the night sky.

Here, a giant aurora stretches across the night sky connecting the Icelandic cities of Keflavik on the left with Reykjavik on the right.

This tranquil photo shows the Moon and Milky Way band against the pristine horizon of Crater Lake National Park in Oregon.

Here, natural star light is a backdrop to the synthetic city lights of Cape Town, South Africa.

Stars pepper the night sky while lights from distant towns shine through low-hanging clouds in this photo taken in the Pyatigorsk, Stavropol region of Russia.

The world's largest salt flat is in Bolivia, where this stunning photo shows the Milky Way arcing across the reflective surface.

The judges also honorably mention dozens more photos, which are provided in this Vimeo video below:

Now that you've seen all the beauty above us, check out the secrets that lie beneath us:

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