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SOCORRO, N.M. October 2, 2012 – The Magdalena Ridge Observatory, New Horizons West, and the Enchanted Skies Star Party are hosting the inaugural High Altitude Astrophotography contest atop South Baldy.

To enter the contest, the contestant must be present at Magdalena Ridge Observatory on Wednesday or Thursday, October 10 or 11, to take pictures from the observatory site. Photographers have until noon Friday, October 12, to submit images.

The contest is being held in conjunction with the Enchanted Skies Star Party, the pre-eminent astronomy event in the Southwest, which is also October 10 to 12 in Socorro.

“The astrophotography contest is a continuing part of MRO's outreach activities. We welcome the opportunity to join with the Enchanted Skies Party and New Horizons to create an opportunity for amateur astronomers of all ages throughout the country to view and photograph the stars from Magdalena Ridge,” said Ifan Payne, MRO Program Director.

Digital images are to be submitted online at http://www.mro.nmt.edu/news/essp2012contest/. Each contestant is allowed only one entry. Registration for the event is required. For detailed rules and registration information please visit http://www.mro.nmt.edu/news/essp2012contest/.

“We hope to bring in some really serious amateur astronomers from all over the country,” said Alisa Shtromberg, an optical instrumentation engineer who is helping organize the event. “This is a good opportunity to put the Magdalena Ridge Observatory on the map and let astronomy enthusiasts know about the projects at the MRO.”

The grand prize winner’s photograph will be featured in Astronomy magazine, receive one week of free stay at Rancho Hidalgo for two ($1,000 value) and a $500 gift certificate to Starizona, second and third place winners will receive $250 and $100 gift certificates to Starizona, respectively.

New Horizons West (affiliated with Rancho Hidalgo) is an educational non-profit organization based in Animas, N.M. New Horizons provides academic programming in the science, technology, engineering, and math fields that increases academic achievement and college and career aspirations.

The Magdalena Ridge Observatory is about 30 miles west of Socorro atop South Baldy in the Cibola National Forest.

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By Thomas Guengerich/New Mexico Tech