Amateur photographer stars with out-of-this-world image

A FULL moon rising over Melbourne's Williamstown dockyards has been unveiled as the winning image for this year's ninth Central West Astronomical Society's astrophotography competition, submitted by 35-year-old engineer Phil Hart.

The work, titled Melbourne Moon, was one of more than 50 works submitted by Australians country-wide to be judged in seven categories by world-renowned astrophotographer David Malin.

It involved weeks of preparation for Hart, who has been capturing images of the night sky for almost 20 years.

''I had planned it in advance using an online application that allows you to show what direction moon rise and moon set and sunrise and sunset will occur, so I used that and knew the date that I needed to be there to see the full moon rising,'' Mr Hart said.

''I also got a bit lucky with the weather … so all the ingredients came together for a shot that I'd been planning for a little while.''

Mr Hart, who also submitted images in the competition's other categories, has been a finalist in various photography competitions, including the Australian Museum Eureka Prize for science photography.

He said it was the challenge of capturing a night-time image that he enjoyed most.

''With long exposures you're getting star trail images that are totally different to the way your eye sees the world at night but in itself is a stunning image. So you're trying to plan and conceive shots that you can't actually see directly whereas daytime photography is completely the opposite,'' he said.

The competition's website states prizes went to works that not only showed technical skill but also captured the beauty of the sky and the ''intrinsic interest'' of astronomy.

As part of winning, Mr Hart won a Canon 60Da Digital SLR camera, specifically designed for astrophotography, but he said the real prize was the recognition that came with it.

The winning works will be displayed around the country, starting at the Sydney Observatory from Friday, August 17, until October 29.

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