Astronomy Photographer of the Year exhibits the greatest space photography on the globe, from beautiful skyscapes to wonderful pics of faraway planets and galaxies.

Anna Dobrovolskaya-“Waterfall” Mints (Israel)

“Arvidsjaur is the nearest city to this waterfall, which is located in the middle of nowhere in Lapland. It was quite chilly, so the photographer took her camera outside to catch the star trails as she waited for the aurora to begin. The final few pictures captured the beginning of the Northern Lights, so the photographer chose to combine all of the frames and get this remarkable result.”

Every year, photographers from all over the world fight for a spot in the final exhibition and the renowned title.

The Royal Observatory Greenwich has revealed the shortlist for the thirteenth Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition. The finalist photos offer an inspirational look into the realm of astronomy, with everything from the Northern Lights reflected in the lakes of rural Sweden to stunning vistas of spiral galaxies.

While the overall winner who will be revealed in mid-September will receive a £10,000 cash prize, there will also be awards in a variety of other categories. Aurorae, People and Space, Our Sun, and Galaxies are all included. There will also be a Young Astronomy Photographer of the Year award given to a young photographer under the age of 16.

A glance over some of the shortlist demonstrates how much there is to observe and explore in our cosmos. Some photos are rooted on Earth while others, such as Damian Peach’s depiction of Saturn transport us to the farthest reaches of the solar system. The candidates come from all around the world and include well-known names like Andrew McCarthy who is recognized for his amazing backyard astrophotography.

Take a look at some of our favorite images from the Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2017 while we wait for the professional panel of judges to decide the final decision.

Benjamin Barakat’s “Château de Chambord” (UK)

“This majestic château in Chambord, Centre-Val de Loire, France, was an outstanding site picked by the photographer’s closest friend and mentor Ralf Rohner but it proved to be a hard one because the castle had periods of illumination with a minute gap every 15 minutes. During the breaks, the photographer snapped as many photos as he could and when processing them, he had to try to imitate the reflection owing to the temporal delay produced by the castle lights.”

“The Soul of Space” (a close-up of the Soul Nebula) Kush Chandaria (UK), 13 years old

“The Soul Nebula is one of those amazing objects where no matter where you point your telescope, there are always some wonderful structures and features to be discovered. This was the situation with this particular photograph. The faint features and structures deep inside the nebula began to appear after 14 hours of exposure. To capture this target, the photographer used narrowband filters and generated a Hubble Palette composite.”

Damian Peach’s “Saturn at its Finest” (UK)

“In this image, Saturn is presented at its finest for 2020, with a plethora of features throughout the planet and ring system. The renowned polar hexagon may be seen around the pole at the bottom, as can numerous other belts and zones. The well-known Cassini and Encke divisions dominate the ring view.”

Yang Sutie’s “Star Watcher” (China)

“As the photographer drove down the mountain road late at night he saw a mound on the right side of the road. The mountains and the Milky Way were aligned in front of the photographer, so he pulled over to the side of the road, climbed up the side of the road, set the camera to shoot automatically, and then drove back and forth in this curve. Then he ascended up the hill and merged himself into the scene.”

Andrew McCarthy’s “The Magnetic Field of Our Active Sun” (USA)

“This image depicts how the Sun’s magnetic field pulls up sections of the chromosphere after a big solar flare, with magnetic field lines visible along the limb in hydrogen-alpha radiation. This occurred at the same time when a very big active area was located along the front of the solar disc. This was shot in black and white and partially inverted to accentuate the contrast on the surface as well as the atmospheric characteristics on the limb, which were then displayed in fake color for aesthetic purposes. His was one of the most fascinating phenomena on the Sun in all of 2020, and it marks the first significant activity since the start of the next solar cycle. The photographer is delighted with how the processing captures the essence of the Sun in a genuinely blue sky while retaining close to the correct hydrogen-alpha tones.”

Steven Mohr’s “NGC 2024 – Flame Nebula” (Australia)

“The Flame Nebula, also known as NGC 2024 and Sh2-277, is an emission nebula in the constellation Orion that is located between 900 and 1,500 light-years from Earth. The easternmost star in the Belt of Orion, the brilliant star Alnitak (just beyond the field of view at the top of this image), beams intense ultraviolet light into the Flame, knocking electrons away from the vast clouds of hydrogen gas that exist there. Much of the light is caused by the recombination of electrons with ionized hydrogen. The dark network that appears in the center of the glowing gas is caused by additional dark gas and dust that sits in front of the light section of the nebula. The Flame Nebula is part of the Orion Molecular Cloud Complex, which also includes the well-known Horsehead Nebula.”

Jashanpreet Singh Dingra (India), 14 years old, wrote “Pleiades Sisters.”

“This is an excellent shot of a winter sky filled with stars over the photographer’s location. The Pleiades, also known as the Seven Sisters and Messier 45, is an open star cluster in the constellation Taurus that contains middle-aged, hot B-type stars. It is the closest star cluster and Messier object to Earth, and it is the most visible in the night sky to the human eye. This image’s data was processed using Deep Sky Stacker, Photoshop CC 17, and Gimps.”

Antoni Cladera Barceló’s “The Star Observer” (Spain)

“In 1993, UNESCO designated Menorca as a Biosphere Reserve, and in 2019, it was designated as a Starlight Reserve. This shot was taken at a natural stone bridge formed by water erosion. As the Milky Way rises vertically over the natural arch, a watchman keeps guard. The photographer used light pollution from Mallorca, a neighboring island, to lend a soft and warm tone to the arch. The photographer sought to humanize the scenery and include the human aspect into the composition to demonstrate that we are only visitors to nature.”

Zhang Xiao’s “The Milky Way on the Ancient Village” (China)

“Hongcun, a historic town in China at the foot of Huangshan Mountain, has a history of more than 900 years and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000. Its extant buildings exhibit the distinct traits of Ming and Qing Dynasty Hui Style Architecture. A galaxy of stars descended on the famed Yuezhao Lake which is encircled by historic structures. This shot was taken around 1 a.m. when the village’s lamps had gone out and no one was around.”

“Dugi Otok – Variant A” by Ivan Vucetic (Croatia)

“The image depicts a fascinating star trail above Dugi Otok in Croatia, as well as the remarkable link between our planet and the Universe in a way that the human sight cannot perceive.” The photographer wanted to catch the reflection of the stars on the lake as well as the sky, however, the wind rose during the long exposure period required for star trails, and viewing circumstances were not good enough for a clear reflection of the stars. To get the final look, the photographer had to utilize stars from the sky in post-processing.”

Bernard Miller’s “NGC 3981” (USA)

“This is a photograph of NGC 3981. It is a spiral galaxy in the constellation Crater located 65 million light-years distant. Its windswept appearance is due to a collision with another galaxy that took away its outer arms. The galaxy is a member of the NGC 4038 group, which includes the well-known interacting Antennae Galaxies. This group is a subset of the broader Crater Cloud, which is a subset of the Virgo Supercluster.”

Steven Mohr’s “NGC 2024 – Flame Nebula” (Australia)

“The Flame Nebula, also known as NGC 2024 and Sh2-277, is an emission nebula in the constellation Orion that is located between 900 and 1,500 light-years from Earth. The easternmost star in the Belt of Orion, the brilliant star Alnitak (just beyond the field of view at the top of this image), beams intense ultraviolet light into the Flame knocking electrons away from the vast clouds of hydrogen gas that exist there. Much of the light is caused by the recombination of electrons with ionized hydrogen. The dark network that appears in the center of the glowing gas is caused by additional dark gas and dust that sits in front of the light section of the nebula. The Flame Nebula is part of the Orion Molecular Cloud Complex, which also includes the well-known Horsehead Nebula.”

Siu Fone Tang’s “Sunspot Looking Out Into Space” (USA)

“This image depicts a close-up of a sunspot and the plasma as it flickers and follows the magnetic lines produced by the Sun. The picture displays the chromosphere which was captured using a hydrogen-alpha filter. The image is composed of many shots that have been layered together and then improved in Photoshop. It is an inverted perspective that generates more contrast.”

Jiajun Hua’s “Sunrise of the Magic City” (China)

“Shanghai is one of China’s most economically developed cities. The photograph was shot 16 kilometers from the financial area of Lujiazui. Every year, photographers have only a few weeks to capture the spectacle of the Sun rising over the Central Business District (CBD). After a few days of waiting, the photographer finally saw the Sunrise from Shanghai’s most wealthy district on a highly polluted morning. The image is made up of four successive exposures from the same perspective and it depicts the process of the Sun rising.”

Larryn Rae’s “Iceland Vortex” (New Zealand)

“This is a 250-degree panoramic of Iceland’s Aurora Borealis. The photographer stumbled across an estuary that wonderfully mirrored the sky on a cold winter night, snapped the panorama first, and then grabbed an image of himself out on the ice. This is one of the most stunning aurora photos that the photographer has ever shot, and it sums up an awe-inspiring winter journey to Iceland that also reinforced the sensation of being a little part of the planet’s existence in the face of a very strong natural environment. The panorama is made up of twenty pictures, two rows of 10, shot with a Canon 5DMk3 and a Canon 16-35mm lens.”

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