From landscape shots across skies alight with swathes of brightly coloured gas and dust, to telescopic images of distant, deep space star clusters, this year’s winners for the Astronomy Photographer of the Year Awards present a spectacular selection of cosmic delights.
Now in its sixth year, the competition continues to showcase dazzling images from amateur and professional astrophotographers from around the world that reflect our enduring fascination with the night sky and outer space. The awards also play an important part in maintaining public interest around space exploration and scientific observation.
The winning image from the Earth and Space category, and overall winner (picked from the winners of each category), was Aurora over a Glacier Lagoon by James Woodend, taken in Iceland’s Vatnajökull National Park. High energy electrons cause oxygen to emit green light and the arcs of the aurora are shaped by the shifting forces of the Earth’s magnetic field. (pictured above)
The runner up in Earth and Space was Matt James’ Wind Farm Star Trails, taken in Bungendore, Australia, with the rotation of the Earth turning stars into a streaks of light (pictured above). Moon Balloon by Patrick Cullis was among the highly commended entries for this category; an image of the Earth from 87,000 feet, with the moon in the background, taken with the aid of a high altitude balloon. (pictured below)
Bill Snyder’s Horsehead Nebula (IC 434) won the Deep Space category, taken using a PlaneWave 17-inch telescope and a Apogee U16 camera, with a total exposure time through various filters of 13 hours. This cloud of dust and gas is often lost is complete darkness, but is one of the most photographs objects in the night sky. (pictured above)
The runner up in the Deep Space category was David Fitz-Henry’s telescopic image The Helix Nebula (NGC7293). It shows a dying star at the centre of a nebula (a cloud of gas and dust in space), and is not too dissimilar to how are own sun will appear at the end of it’s evolution. As described during the ceremony, “it is an image of our future”. (pictured above)
Highly commended images in this category came from Marco Lorenzi with At the Feet of Orion (NGC 1999), Rogelio Bernal Andreo’s California vs Pleiades and Veil Nebula Detail (IC 340) by J P Metsävainio. (All pictured above)
In the Our Solar System category, the winning image came from Alexandra Hart with Ripples in a Pond, taken using a TEC140 refractor telescope and a PGR Grasshopper 3 camera, depicting the Sun’s boiling surface. (pictured above)
Runner up in this category was a telescopic photo of the Moon’s surface called Best of the Craters by George Tarsoudis. To give a sense of scale, the large central crater has a diameter of 86km (pictured above). The highly commended entries including Tunç Tezel’s Diamond and Rubies, depicting a total eclipse, with the Moon blocking the Sun’s light, capturing an effect known as the ‘diamond ring’. (pictured below)
The Young Astronomy Photographer of the Year award went to 15 year old twins Shishir & Shashank Dholakia for their telescopic photo The Horsehead Nebula (IC434) (pictured above), with another one of their images being highly commended, depicting the The Heart Nebula (IC1805) which sits 7500 light years away from Earth. (pictured below)
Also among the highly commended images was Moon Behind the Trees by 12 year old Emily Jeremy (pictured above).
Special prizes included People and Space, won by Eugen Kamenew with Hybrid Solar Eclipse 2, taken at sunrise in northern Kenya (pictured above); with Julie Fletcher’s Lost Souls as runner up, shot with a 20 second exposure at Lake Eyre in remote South Australia, showing the dust of our solar system lit up by the Sun. (pictured below)
Robotic Scope Image of the Year went to Mark Hanson with NGC 3718, a deep space image of a galaxy 52 million light years from Earth, taken using one of the increasing number of computer-controlled telescopes at prime observing sites around the world which can be accessed over the internet by members of the public. (pictured above)
The Sir Patrick Moore prize for Best Newcomer went to Chris Murphy with Coastal Stairways, taken in the Wairarapa district of New Zealand. (pictured above)
To see the full selection of winners, runners up and highly commended images visit www.rmg.co.uk/royal-observatory A free exhibition of the works will be on at the Royal Observatory Greenwich until 22 February 2015, (be sure to catch one of the spectacular shows in their Planetarium when you are there), and a book has also been produced with Collins including all shortlisted and winning works.