Running since 2009, the Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year is one of the world's most exciting astrophotography competitions with a grand prize of £10,000 (US$13,000). Ahead of the winners announced in October the shortlisted photographs have just been revealed delivering a spectacularly mind-bending array of images.

The expansive competition annually gathers thousands of entries every year, spread across eight main categories. The categories span images of the Sun and the Moon, to images of deep space objects such as Nebulae and Galaxies. A Skyscapes category captures more earthly perspectives of the cosmos, and another category focuses specifically on photographs of Aurorae.

While professional photographers are allowed to enter the competition, certain rules do make it more approachable for amateur enthusiasts. Rules disallow images previously submitted to news agencies or media outlets, and images using data from professional research observatories cannot be entered.

One of the more spectacular shortlisted entries came from photographer Jake Mosher who captured a perfectly framed time-lapse shot in Montana's northern Rocky Mountains (see lead image at top of page). "I noticed this tree a couple of years earlier and told myself that I had to go back for one of these shoots," explains Mosher on the genesis of the photograph. "It took several test frames of long exposures to make sure that I had Polaris in the right place, but eventually things lined up the way I had imagined."

Another extraordinary shortlisted image came from Dani Caxete, a photographer based in Madrid, Spain. Using a space calendar called CalSky, Caxete tracked the exact moment in time the International Space Station would transit the sun, in between two massive sunspots. Caxete had less than a second to capture the photograph and managed to snap a stunning celestial moment in time.

Stunning timing seems to be a hallmark of many shortlisted entries in the 2018 competition and Tianyuan Xiao's remarkable photograph is no exception. This image, a composite of two separate snaps, shows a thunderstorm illuminating the Florida sky underneath the gigantic shadow of the Milky Way.

The winners of the competition will be revealed in late October, but take a trip through our gallery for a closer look at more dazzling shortlisted entries.

View gallery - 26 images