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Earth & sky united: an international team of photographers uses the night sky to inspire worldwide oneness.

We all live under the same eternally peaceful sky. Dazzling Venus hovers in the Texas twilight just hours after it's seen by skygazers in Iran. The familiar stars of Ursa Major transit the Vatican's domes just as they do the spires of a Buddhist temple in China. The magnificent Milky Way arches above Arizona's Grand Canyon on the same night it's seen by Nepal's inhabitants gracing the sky above the Himalayan Mountains. These are views that connect all of us and can help create understanding and friendship.

The World at Night, or TWAN (www.twanight.org), is a new program developed by the nonprofit group Astronomers Without Borders (www.astronomerswithoutborders.org). The project seeks to cultivate a universal worldview by assembling a collection of stunning photographs of the world's most beautiful and historic sites set against a nighttime backdrop of stars, planets, and celestial events.

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When borders vanish, political and cultural differences often become irrelevant. Wars have been fought over boundaries, religion, race, and beliefs. But the view from space reveals the true nature of our cosmic home: a borderless planet divided only into land and sea. While few will experience that downward view firsthand, we can all gaze upward at a night sky that also has no borders. The stars shine equally upon all nations and regions.

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TWAN brings together an international team of astronomy enthusiasts who specialize in landscape astrophotography. Its aim is to show humanity as one family living together on a single planet amid the vast ocean of our universe. While its photographers have individually been widely published in print, television, and online media, never before has their work been exhibited together as a unified group. The organization was launched last December 25th, and NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day helped publicize the event by featuring a stunning image captured by TWAN member Wally Pacholka in Utah's Monument Valley (antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/ap071225.html).

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Another of TWAN's goals is to create a comprehensive survey of Earth's significant natural, cultural, and historic sites. Candidate locations are currently being tabulated, with an emphasis on World Heritage Sites. TWAN photographers will travel to many of these venues to create a unique collection of images uniting Earth and sky. The collection already portrays celebrated sites on every continent. There are starry vistas above the barren snowscapes of Antarctica, as well as ones made at some of the world's most visited sites, such as India's famous Taj Mahal.

TWAN will be participating in the International Year of Astronomy during 2009 as a special project. A sampling of TWAN images will form a major traveling exhibition. The first presentation is expected to begin later this year, followed by showings at venues worldwide, including the triennial IAU General Assembly at Rio de Janeiro in August 2009.

In addition to TWAN's impressive still images, many of its participants are working on time-lapse photography projects that show the sweeping sky above selected sites. These will be assembled into animations to be featured on an upcoming DVD, and a high-quality documentary film is also being planned.

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TWAN's photographers have found a common bond in the night sky, and their images convey this message in a profound and enthralling way. We hope to bring this message to the public, and if TWAN's opening months serve as an indicator, then we see a stellar future ahead.

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Babak A. Tafreshi and Mike Simmons promote understanding and friendship through astronomy outreach programs such as TWAN.
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Title Annotation:Gallery of the World at Night
Author:Tafreshi, Babak A.; Simmons, Mike
Publication:Sky & Telescope
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2008
Words:587
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