2021 AOSS Photo Contest

May 7, 2021 | Eric Verbeten

A challenging 2020 could not stop members of the UW-Madison Atmospheric Oceanic and Space Sciences community from capturing stunning images of our natural world. Photographs submitted to the 11th AOSS Photo Contest transport us to far-flung locales, sharing severe weather and atmospheric phenomena on large and small scales.

Each year university students, scientists, staff and professors show off their passion and camera skills to bring us these outstanding photos.

First place this year was awarded to David Mikolajczyk, an SSEC instrument technician with the Antarctic Meteorological Research Center, who captured this stunning halo while conducting field work in Antarctica in 2019. Mikolajczyk has made multiple trips to the frozen continent to conduct research and service Automatic Weather Stations installed across the ice.

He shot this photo at the United States Antarctic Program (USAP) West Antarctic Ice Sheet-Divide (WAIS-Divide) summer field camp, a temporary “Tent City” set up each season for scientists to do field work.

“Temperatures were around 0 degrees Fahrenheit and as I was heading to bed I looked up and saw these beautiful atmospheric optics caused by sunlight refracting through floating ice crystals,” says Mikolajczyk. “The red flag in the center, typically used to mark a tent’s location, proved useful to block out the sunlight.”

The large rainbow-colored ring that encircles the sun is a halo. On the halo (and on either side of the sun) are Sundogs, which are slightly brighter than the surrounding optics. The bright white speckles in the photo are the floating ice crystals that helped create these phenomena, says Mikolajczyk.

Take a look at the winning photographs, honorable mentions and the other stunning work submitted this year.

The Space Science and Engineering Center is proud to host the annual photo contest and support weather enthusiasts near and far.