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VLA Image Contest

by Davis Murphy last modified Jul 27, 2020

VLA 40th Anniversary Image Contest Rules and Conditions


This contest is designed to increase the number of compelling, high-quality radio astronomy visuals available for a wide range of education and public outreach programs. Any type of data-based visuals can be submitted including but not limited to; radio/composite emission images, animations, data visualizations, 3D models. All visuals submitted should contain and showcase radio data obtained with NRAO’s Very Large Array telescope but they can display other multi-wavelength data as well. Entries submitted to this contest will be used by NRAO’s Education and Public Outreach department in social media posts, the NRAO Image Gallery, and made available for use by scientists, students, teachers, the general public, the media, and EPO professionals. 

NRAO will award prizes for First Place, Second Place, Third Place, and Honorable Mentions consisting of: First Prize \$1,000, Second Prize \$500, Third Prize \$250, Honorable Mentions \$100 each.

Entry Rules  

  • Any type of data based visuals can be submitted, including but not limited to: radio/composite emission images, animations, data visualizations, 3D models. 

  • All visuals submitted should contain and showcase radio data obtained with NRAO’s Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array telescope but they can display other multi-wavelength data as well.

  • Participants are allowed to submit more than one visual, but need to use a new form for each submission. Participants cannot win more than one prize. 

  • Employees of AUI/NRAO are not eligible to compete.

  • Deadline for submission: Friday, September 18, 2020

  • Submission form: https://forms.gle/DMy4tRcBH2cMmXmEA 

For still image files, include:

  1. JPEG, PNG, or TIFF file 

  2. Minimum of 18in x 24in (46cm x 61cm) @ 300dpi

  3. FITS used to create image 

  4. Detailed description of the image (e.g. spectral bands, spectral color assignments, instruments, facility, subject name, date, distance, spatial coordinate frame, spatial reference dimension, spatial scale) 

  5. Public-friendly description of the image that relays the importance of the radio data shown as well as any other contextual information.  

For Animation/Video files, include:

  1. MP4, GIF, AVI, or MOV file

  2. Minimum of 1920x1080px resolution

  3. Detailed description of the science being shown (e.g. spectral bands, instruments, facility, subject name, date)

  4. Detailed description of how the animation/video was created and any associated FITS files.

  5. Public-friendly description of the animation or video that relays the importance of the radio data shown as well as any other contextual information.  


  1. NRAO will appoint a panel of judges to select the winning visuals. 

  2. The judges come from a range of disciplines; they will be considering images according to criteria comprising aesthetics, artistic merit, originality, scientific accuracy, and scientific significance. See Judging Criteria for more details. 

  3. Where there is reasonable doubt about whether a visual meets the entry criteria of the competition, the organizers reserve the right to disqualify the visual.  Wherever possible, the entrant(s) will be given the opportunity to answer queries from the judges before a final decision on disqualification is made.

Copyright and use of images 

In consideration of your entry to this contest being accepted, you grant to NRAO and AUI the unconditional right to reproduce, prepare derivative works, distribute, perform, or display the work being entered. You represent and warrant that you are the exclusive holder of any and all rights to the work and that no other individual or entity may claim any rights, title, and/or interest in the work. You additionally warrant that you have all necessary rights required to grant NRAO/AUI the unconditional and unlimited use and exploitation of the work. You also warrant that you have sufficient permission of any recognizable persons appearing in the image to be able to grant rights to NRAO/AUI.


By participating, you release NRAO, AUI, contest judges and staff members, their parent companies, affiliates, subsidiaries and their agents, respective officers, directors, employees, volunteers, and agents from any and all liability or responsibility for any claim arising in connection with participation in the Contest or any prize awarded.


By submission of the work to the Contest, you agree and accept all Contest terms and conditions, and the Release. By entering, you agree to be bound by these Contest rules and procedures, the terms and conditions on use of images, and the decisions of the sponsors and judges, which are final and binding on all matters. This Contest is void where prohibited and is subject to all applicable federal, state and local laws.

Judging Criteria   

Aesthetics and Originality: Does the visual show a unique way of presenting the radio data to the public? Is the visual appealing to look at, impactful, and does it draw in the viewer to learn more about the data being visualized? 

Artistic Merit: Does the visual show effective use of design elements to focus attention via placement and use of color, tone, or line; contrast; dynamics of form and shape; balance; unity of elements; and use of space? If 3D software is used, how effective is the framing, choice of camera lens, camera view and/or lighting? Is an overall level of skill demonstrated in the application and handling of the visualization technique and media?

Scientific accuracy: The visual is produced to convey a specific message or idea from the data. How well does the visual tell the story identified in the scientific and public statements? Is the data represented accurately. Pictorial manipulation or distortion of scientific data is sometimes necessary or even preferred, but it should be done clearly, with purpose and knowledge (described in the scientific statement). It should not be misleading or cause confusion. Does the visual do an effective job at representing and highlighting the radio data?

Scientific significance: Does the visual illustrate an important scientific aspect of  astronomy in an effective way? Is the significance well explained in the public statement?