The Astronomy Photographer of The Year Shortlist Will Blow You Away

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  Last updated August 23, 2017 at 4:20 pm

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These photos are out of this world.

The Royal Observatory Greenwich has announced the shortlist for their annual Insight Astronomy Photographer of The Year competition, and the selections are incredible. From auroras to distant nebulae, a cheeky appearance of the ISS to the first ever photo of Uranus entered in the competition, the photos are making us want to reach for the camera and head outside tonight.

The competition is the largest international competition of its kind attracting 3800 entries from photographers in 91 countries. The winners will be announced on Thursday 14 September in Greenwich, and we can’t wait to see which masterpieces take out the prizes.

Fancy one of your shots and want to enter next year? Keep an eye on the Royal Observatory’s Insight Astronomy Photographer of The Year website.

We’ve selected 18 of our favourites from the 2017 finalists.

Auroral Crown. Yulia Zhulikova, Russia



Taken during an astrophotography tour of the Murmansk region, the Aurora Borealis swirls above the snow-covered trees illuminated by street lamps. The contrast of the turquoise Aurora and pink trees makes this photo one to remember.

Crescent Moon over the Needles. Ainsley Bennett, UK



The waxing crescent moon setting over the Needles Lighthouse on the Isle of Wight. Despite the moon being a thin crescent, the faint glow of its shape is defined by sunlight reflecting back from the Earth’s surface.

Fall Milk. Brandon Yoshizawa, USA



The spectacular snow-clad mountains of the Eastern Sierras, California, are dwarfed by our galaxy, the Milky Way, glistening above. Even something as monolithic as tall mountains is still made to feel insignificant by the universe.

NGC 2023. Warren Keller, USA



Set in the constellation of Orion, at a distance of 1,467 light years from Earth, is the emission and reflection nebula NGC 2023. Usually playing second fiddle to the famous Horsehead Nebula, the photographer has instead put NGC 2023 the spotlight. The level of detail in the nebula is absolutely stunning. The photo was taken at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile.

Mr Big Dipper. Nicholas Roemmelt, Denmark



A hiker observes the constellation of the Big Dipper through the entrance to a large glacial cave in Engadin, Switzerland. This is a panorama of two pictures, and each is a stack of another two pictures: one for the stars and another one for the foreground, but with no composing or time blending.

A Battle We Are Losing. Haitong Yu, China



The Milky Way rises above the Miyun Station, National Astronomical Observatory of China. The light pollution from the nearby suburbs of Beijing highlights the battle astronomers fight against encroaching civilisation, with light and electromagnetic radiation rendering many optical and radio observatories near cities both blind and deaf. That challenge was the inspiration for the photograph. The image used a light pollution filter (iOptron L-Pro) and multiple frame stacking to get the most of the Milky Way out of the city light.

Winter Ice Giant Uranus. Martin Lewis, UK



This is the first photograph of the Uranus to be entered into the competition. Located over 2.6 billion kilometres from Earth, photographing this ice giant is an obvious challenge.

Sh2-249 Jellyfish Nebula. Chris Heapy, UK



Situated in the constellation of Gemini, IC443 is a galactic supernova remnant, a star that could have exploded as many as 30,000 years ago. Its globular appearance has earned the celestial structure the moniker of the Jellyfish Nebula. The Jellyfish is a tangle of gaseous filaments expanding away from the initial supernova explosion.

ISS Daylight Transit. Dani Caxete, Spain



The International Space Station makes a surprise appearance transiting across the face of the moon. This photograph was taken in broad daylight and features no compositing.

Shooting Star and Jupiter. Rob Bowes, UK



The craggy cliffs of Dorset are the location for this photograph of a shooting star streaking aross the sky while Venus watches on. The image is of two stacked exposures: one for the sky and one for the rocks.

Ignite the Lights. Nicolas Alexander Otto, Germany



After a long hike from his small cabin to Kvalvika in the Lofoten Islands in Norway, the photographer arrived at the slopes above the beach around midnight. When he made it to the beach the sky ignited in a colourful spectacle of greens and purples framed by the mossy, green landscape. The image is stacked from six different exposures to combat high ISO and thermal noise in the foreground. The sky was added from one of these exposures. We’re suckers for Aurora photographs, and the wild landscape and Aurora complement each other spectacularly.

Orion’s Gaseous Nebulae. Sebastien Grech, UK



Located 1,300 light years away from Earth, the Orion Nebula is found in Orion’s Sword in the famous constellation named after the blade’s owner. The Orion Nebula is one of the most photographed and studied objects in the night sky. The stellar nursery that sees thousands of of new stars created is thought to measure about 24 light years across and have a mass 2,000 times that of our Sun.

Reflection. Beate Behnke, Germany



The reflection in the wave ripples of Skagsanden beach mirrors the brilliant green whirls of the Aurora Borealis in the night sky overhead. To obtain the effect of the shiny surface, the photographer had to stand in the wave zone of the incoming tide, and only when the water receded very low did the opportunity to capture the beautiful scene occur.

Beautiful Tromsø. Derek Burdeny, USA



The aurora activity forecast on the night of this photo was very low, so the photographer decided to stay in Tromso rather than journey out to the fjords. He instead took this photo of the Tromso harbour, but did not realise what he had captured until six months later when reviewing his images. The rainbow of city lights seem to elevate the Aurora above.

An Icy Moonscape. Kris Williams, UK



A lone watcher sits atop the peak of Castell-Y-Gwynt (Castle of the Winds) in Snowdonia, North Wales, in sub-freezing temperatures during winter. The photographer had set up his one man tent on the mountain and waited 15 hours in the -10° Celsius temperatures for the clouds and fog to clear. In the end he had a 20 minute window to capture this image.

Aurora over Svea. Agurtxane Concellon, Spain



The purples and greens of the Northern Lights radiate over the coal mining city of Svea, in the archipelago of Svalbard. The earthy landscape below the glittering sky is illuminated by the strong lights of industry at the pier of Svea.

The Road Back Home. Ruslan Merzlyakov, Latvia



Noctilucent clouds stretch across the Swedish sky illuminating a motorcyclist’s ride home providing this dramatic, almost spooky display. Noctilucent clouds are the highest clouds in the Earth’s atmosphere and form above 60,000 metres. Thought to be formed of ice crystals, the clouds occasionally become visible at twilight when the sun is below the horizon and illuminates them.

Solar Trails Above the Telescope. Maciej Zapior, Poland



A solargraphy pinhole camera was used to take this unexpected photograph. The image charts the movement of the Sun over the Astronomical Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences in Prague, with an exposure stretching from solstice to solstice (December 21, 2015 to June 21, 2016). Regular black-and-white photographic paper was used, and after exposure the negative scanned and processed using an editing program. The rainbow of colours of the trails are the result of the sensitivity of the paper changing as it is exposed to different temperatures and humidity through the seasons.

Images courtesy of Royal Museums Greenwich.

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About the Author

Ben Lewis
Ben Lewis is the Editor of Australia’s Science Channel, and a contributor to Cosmos Magazine. He has worked with scientists and science storytellers including Brian Cox, Chris Hadfield, Robert Llewellyn, astronauts, elite athletes, Antarctic explorers, chefs and comedians. Ben has also been involved in public events around Australia and was co-writer, producer and director of The Science of Doctor Who, which toured nationally in 2014 in association with BBC Worldwide Australia & New Zealand. Want more Ben? You can hear him on ABC and commercial radio in Adelaide, regional SA, across NSW, and the ACT. He also speaks at universities around Australia on communicating science to the public. Around the office he makes the worst jokes known to mankind.