From telescopic images of distant galaxies and deep space, to landscape photography of our own Milky Way and its celestial bodies, the entries for this year’s annual Astronomy Photographer of the Year awards reflect our enduring fascination with outer space and the night sky. Now in its fifth year, the competition and exhibition continue to showcase breathtaking images from both amateurs and more experienced astrophotographers from around the world.
The overall winner, and winner of the Earth and Space category, was Australian photographer Mark Gee, with his image ‘Guiding Light to the Stars’ (above). Depicting the central regions of the Milky Way, over 26 million light years away, this tangle of dust and stars appears almost to be radiating from the lighthouse to the right. To create the image, Gee took a panorama of 20 individual shots, on his Canon 5D, with a 30 second exposure, then stitching them together to create this stunning image that captures the rich astronomical delights of the Southern Hemisphere.
The runner up in the Earth and Space category was Norwegian photographer Fredrik Broms’ ‘Green Energy’ (above left), of the dramatic shifting light of the Aurora Borealis, depicting surreal glowing sheets of gas above the moonlit snow.
‘The Milky Way Galaxy’, (above right) was the runner up for the Young Astronomy Photographer of the Year, (for those 16 and under), by Jacob Marchio, aged 14 from the USA, taken on a Nikon D3100. Showing the cumulative glow of tens of billions of stars at the very centre of the Milky Way, with dark lanes of interstellar dust and gas. The winner of this category came from 10-year-old Ariana Bernal, with ‘Goodbye Sun, Hello Moon’ (below), taken using a Canon 5D. With the Moon rising on the left just above the Golden Gate Bridge and the Sun setting on the right, the image illustrates the celestial cycle of Earth on a grand scale.
The winner of the Our Solar System category came from Chinese photographer Man-To Hui, with ‘Corona Composite of 2012: Australian Totality’ (below, first), taken on a Canon 50D. In this image of a total solar eclipse, the delicate wisps of sunlight emerging from behind the Moon reveal a glow of gas that has a temperature of over one million degrees Celsius. Alan Friedman from the USA was the runner up, with the telescopic image ‘Magnetic Maelstrom (below, second), depicting sunspots in a close-up section of the Sun.
Laszlo Francsics from Hungry, won the special prize for Robotic Scope Image of the Year, with ‘The Trapezium Cluster and Surrounding Nebulae’ (below), showing a section of the Orion Nebula, often described as a ‘stellar nursery’ due to the vast number of stars within its glowing gas and dust clouds. In this category, images come from robotic telescopes, which combine modern telescope technology with the internet. Members of the public can sign up for time on state-of-the-art equipment in some of the best observing sites in the world, control the telescope remotely and downloaded their images via the web.
In the special People and Space prize, Mark Gee won once more, with his ‘Moon Silhouettes’ (below, first), taken on a Canon EOS-1D X. Shot from over 2km away, the tiny scale of the people on the observation desk is emphasised compared to the Moon rising behind them on the horizon. Ben Canales, from the USA was the runner up with his image ‘Hi.Hello.” (below, second), taken on a Canon 1DX, showing the Milky Way appearing like a column of smoke rising from the horizon.
In the Deep Space category American photographer Adam Block won with his painterly telescopic image ‘Celestial Impasto: Sh2 -239’ (below), depicting dark clouds of dust swirling around gas illuminated by newly formed stars. The runner up in this category was Tom O’Donoghue from Ireland, with his telescopic image ‘Rho Opiuchi and the Antares Nebula’, taken in Spain, with a total of 60 hours of exposures needs to create the final image bursting with stars.
The Sir Patrick Moore Prize for Best Newcomer went to Sam Cornwell, from the UK – an amateur when it comes to astrophotography – with ‘Venus Transit, Foxhunter’s Grave, Welsh Highlands, taken on a Canon 5D in the Brecon Beacons. As an astronomical highlight of 2012, the rare event of the Venus transit, as it crosses the face of the Sun, has been captured here in its final moments through a chance gap in the clouds.
The 2013 judging panel was made up of individuals from the worlds of science, art, astronomy and photography, including space scientist and TV presenter Dr. Maggie Aderin-Pocock, editor of Sky at Night magazine, Chris Bramley, Royal Observatory astronomer Dr. Marek Kukula, and astrophotographer Pete Lawrence. A free exhibition of the works will be on at the Royal Observatory Greenwich until 24 February 2014, (be sure to catch one of the spectacular shows in their Planetarium when you are there), and a book has also been produced with Harper Collins including all shortlisted and winning works. For more info visit rmg.co.uk.