Photography

Boundless beauty in the 2020 Astronomy Photographer of the Year awards

Boundless beauty in the 2020 A...
Runner Up - Aurorae. Lone Tree under a Scandinavian Aurora.
Runner Up - Aurorae. Lone Tree under a Scandinavian Aurora.
View 31 Images
Winner - Annie Maunder Prize for Image Innovation. Dark River. The artist printed out a massive image of the Milky Way and then created a three-dimensional sculpture out of the canvas
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Winner - Annie Maunder Prize for Image Innovation. Dark River. The artist printed out a massive image of the Milky Way and then created a three-dimensional sculpture out of the canvas
Winner - Aurorae. The Green Lady. Norway
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Winner - Aurorae. The Green Lady. Norway
Highly Commended - Aurorae. Iceland. Diamond Beach
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Highly Commended - Aurorae. Iceland. Diamond Beach
Runner Up - Aurorae. Lone Tree under a Scandinavian Aurora.
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Runner Up - Aurorae. Lone Tree under a Scandinavian Aurora.
Winner - Best Newcomer. Waves. The image shows the central region of the California Nebula (NGC 1499)
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Winner - Best Newcomer. Waves. The image shows the central region of the California Nebula (NGC 1499)
Overall Winner, and Winner - Galaxies. Andromeda Galaxy at Arm's Length
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Overall Winner, and Winner - Galaxies. Andromeda Galaxy at Arm's Length
Highly Commended - Galaxies. Attack on the Large Magellanic Cloud. Four lasers from one of the telescopes at Paranal Observatory pointing towards a globular cluster in the Large Magellanic Cloud. The lasers excite sodium atoms located in a layer about 80–90 km above the ground
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Highly Commended - Galaxies. Attack on the Large Magellanic Cloud. Four lasers from one of the telescopes at Paranal Observatory pointing towards a globular cluster in the Large Magellanic Cloud. The lasers excite sodium atoms located in a layer about 80–90 km above the ground
Runner Up - Galaxies. NGC 3628 with 300,000 Light Year Long Tail. The goal of this ambitious mosaic is to show the tidal tail, measuring 300,000 light years in length, with enough depth combined with a wide field of view to show it in its entirety
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Runner Up - Galaxies. NGC 3628 with 300,000 Light Year Long Tail. The goal of this ambitious mosaic is to show the tidal tail, measuring 300,000 light years in length, with enough depth combined with a wide field of view to show it in its entirety
Winner - Our Moon. Tycho Crater Region with Colours. These colours come mainly from metallic oxides in small balls of glass and can give useful information about the Moon’s geology and history. The blue shows a high titanium oxide concentration and the red shows high iron oxide concentration
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Winner - Our Moon. Tycho Crater Region with Colours. These colours come mainly from metallic oxides in small balls of glass and can give useful information about the Moon’s geology and history. The blue shows a high titanium oxide concentration and the red shows high iron oxide concentration
Runner Up - Our Moon. Partial Lunar Eclipse With Clouds. During the 2019 partial lunar eclipse, the photographer managed to capture this fantastic image of the Moon while a small cloud passed in front of it
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Runner Up - Our Moon. Partial Lunar Eclipse With Clouds. During the 2019 partial lunar eclipse, the photographer managed to capture this fantastic image of the Moon while a small cloud passed in front of it
Highly Commended - Our Moon. Moon Base. This photo shows the Full Moon over the highest peak of the Krkonoše Mountains, Śnieżka
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Highly Commended - Our Moon. Moon Base. This photo shows the Full Moon over the highest peak of the Krkonoše Mountains, Śnieżka
Winner - Our Sun. Liquid Sunshine. Solar minimum may be seen as a quiet Sun and deemed dull in white light, but if you look closely at the small-scale structure, the surface is alive with motion
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Winner - Our Sun. Liquid Sunshine. Solar minimum may be seen as a quiet Sun and deemed dull in white light, but if you look closely at the small-scale structure, the surface is alive with motion
Highly Commended - Our Sun. Ultraviolet. A portrait of the Sun captured through a specialized solar telescope that transmits light at the calcium K-line – a narrow slice of the spectrum in the near UV
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Highly Commended - Our Sun. Ultraviolet. A portrait of the Sun captured through a specialized solar telescope that transmits light at the calcium K-line – a narrow slice of the spectrum in the near UV
Runner Up - Our Sun. 145 Seconds of Darkness. This image was captured during the total solar eclipse seen on 2 July 2019
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Runner Up - Our Sun. 145 Seconds of Darkness. This image was captured during the total solar eclipse seen on 2 July 2019
Winner - People and Space. The Prison of Technology. The star in the centre of the image is the Albireo double star, surrounded by the trails of moving satellites
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Winner - People and Space. The Prison of Technology. The star in the centre of the image is the Albireo double star, surrounded by the trails of moving satellites
Highly Commended - People and Space. AZURE Vapor Tracers. The colours were created by the ‘Auroral Zone Upwelling Rocket Experiment (AZURE)’ from Andøya Space Centre which dispersed gas tracers to probe winds in Earth’s upper atmosphere
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Highly Commended - People and Space. AZURE Vapor Tracers. The colours were created by the ‘Auroral Zone Upwelling Rocket Experiment (AZURE)’ from Andøya Space Centre which dispersed gas tracers to probe winds in Earth’s upper atmosphere
Runner Up - People and Space. Observe the Heart of the Galaxy. Climbing the radio telescope at the Mingantu solar radio telescope array
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Runner Up - People and Space. Observe the Heart of the Galaxy. Climbing the radio telescope at the Mingantu solar radio telescope array
Runner Up - Planets, Comets and Asteroids. In the Outer Reaches. Uranus
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Runner Up - Planets, Comets and Asteroids. In the Outer Reaches. Uranus
Winner - Planets, Comets and Asteroids. Space Between Us... This image shows the really close alignment of the Moon and Jupiter that happened on 31 October 2019
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Winner - Planets, Comets and Asteroids. Space Between Us... This image shows the really close alignment of the Moon and Jupiter that happened on 31 October 2019
Highly Commended - Planets, Comets, and Asteroids. The Ghost of Alnilam and a Near Earth Asteroid.
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Highly Commended - Planets, Comets, and Asteroids. The Ghost of Alnilam and a Near Earth Asteroid.
Winner - Skyscapes. Painting the Sky. Finnish Lapland
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Winner - Skyscapes. Painting the Sky. Finnish Lapland
Highly Commended - Skyscapes. Voice of the Universe. An aerial radar tower on the edge of the city of Taiyuan
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Highly Commended - Skyscapes. Voice of the Universe. An aerial radar tower on the edge of the city of Taiyuan
Runner Up - Skyscapes. Desert Magic. Wadi Rum, Jordan
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Runner Up - Skyscapes. Desert Magic. Wadi Rum, Jordan
Highly Commended - Stars and Nebulae. The Misty Elephant's Trunk. IC 1396, otherwise known as the Elephant’s Trunk
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Highly Commended - Stars and Nebulae. The Misty Elephant's Trunk. IC 1396, otherwise known as the Elephant’s Trunk
Winner - Stars and Nebulae. Cosmic Inferno. NGC 3576 is a well-known nebula in southern skies, but is shown here without any stars
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Winner - Stars and Nebulae. Cosmic Inferno. NGC 3576 is a well-known nebula in southern skies, but is shown here without any stars
Runner Up - Stars and Nebulae. The Dolphin Jumping out of an Ocean of Gas. This target is officially known as Sh2-308, but the photographer has always enjoyed calling it the Dolphin Nebula.
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Runner Up - Stars and Nebulae. The Dolphin Jumping out of an Ocean of Gas. This target is officially known as Sh2-308, but the photographer has always enjoyed calling it the Dolphin Nebula.
Highly Commended - Young Competition. Light Bridge in the Sky.
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Highly Commended - Young Competition. Light Bridge in the Sky.
Runner Up - Young Competition. Detached Prominences. This is the Sun imaged from London in September 2019
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Runner Up - Young Competition. Detached Prominences. This is the Sun imaged from London in September 2019
Highly Commended - Young Competition. The Carina Region. This is an image of the Carina constellation, home to one of the biggest and brightest nebulae in the sky, the Eta Carina Nebula, seen in the top right
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Highly Commended - Young Competition. The Carina Region. This is an image of the Carina constellation, home to one of the biggest and brightest nebulae in the sky, the Eta Carina Nebula, seen in the top right
Winner - Young Competition. The Four Planets and the Moon.
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Winner - Young Competition. The Four Planets and the Moon.
Highly Commended - Young Competition. Collision Course! An image of the Andromeda Galaxy (Messier 31) as well as two smaller galaxies (Messier 32 and Messier 110)
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Highly Commended - Young Competition. Collision Course! An image of the Andromeda Galaxy (Messier 31) as well as two smaller galaxies (Messier 32 and Messier 110)
View gallery - 31 images

In its 12th year, the world’s most spectacular astronomy photography contest continues to deliver stunning images. This selection of winning shots from the 2020 Insight Investment Astronomy Photographer of the Year span everything from a gorgeously impressionistic shot of colorful stratospheric clouds, to a surreal snap of a laser homing in on a distant globular cluster.

This year’s top prize went to Nicolas Lefaudeux for an unusual shot of the Andromeda Galaxy. Lefaudeux used a technique called tilt-shift photography to generate his unique portrait. He 3D-printed a novel object purposely designed to hold his camera at a specific angle to the telescope in order to capture this highly original perspective.

Overall Winner, and Winner - Galaxies. Andromeda Galaxy at Arm's Length
Overall Winner, and Winner - Galaxies. Andromeda Galaxy at Arm's Length

The broad contest spans eight main categories covering everything from Galaxies and Aurorae, to Stars and Nebulae. There are also additional awards given to the Best Newcomer and Best Young Astrophotographer.

Not only focusing on deep space photography, the contest celebrates earthbound perspectives as well. Thomas Kast’s evocative shot of nacreous clouds took the top spot in the Skyscapes category, impressing the judges with its painterly qualities.

Winner - Skyscapes. Painting the Sky. Finnish Lapland
Winner - Skyscapes. Painting the Sky. Finnish Lapland

“Clouds are said to be the bane of astronomers, but they can also be the inspiration for a breathtaking astrophoto,” says Steve Marsh, one of the judges this year. “These rare, incredibly high nacreous clouds reflect color like oil does on water and this photographer has captured them perfectly.”

Runner Up - Stars and Nebulae. The Dolphin Jumping out of an Ocean of Gas. This target is officially known as Sh2-308, but the photographer has always enjoyed calling it the Dolphin Nebula.
Runner Up - Stars and Nebulae. The Dolphin Jumping out of an Ocean of Gas. This target is officially known as Sh2-308, but the photographer has always enjoyed calling it the Dolphin Nebula.

Winner of the Planets, Comets and Asteroids category presented another mind-bending composition. Lukasz Sujka’s impeccably timed shot of a close alignment between the Moon and Jupiter was described by one of the judges as “phenomenal”.

Winner - Planets, Comets and Asteroids. Space Between Us... This image shows the really close alignment of the Moon and Jupiter that happened on 31 October 2019
Winner - Planets, Comets and Asteroids. Space Between Us... This image shows the really close alignment of the Moon and Jupiter that happened on 31 October 2019

“This small project is a big challenge that involves a lot of luck and good seeing conditions,” explains Sujka. “To capture this phenomenon in such a big scale was quite demanding in data acquisition as Jupiter and the Moon traveled across the sky quite fast. It happened in altitude only 9 degrees above the horizon. I wanted to show the huge emptiness and the size of space, which is why there is a lot of ‘nothing’ between the two major parts of the image.”

Take a look through our gallery at all of this year’s stunning celebrated entries.

Tickets are on sale now for the annual exhibition of entries, opening October 23 at the National Martime Museum in London, England.

View gallery - 31 images
5 comments
Ray6969
Great article, Rich, thanks!
Expanded Viewpoint
WHAT?!?! Excuse me? A laser homing in on a globular cluster?? How does that work? Light travels at varying speeds, depending upon what medium it is going through, but it does have an upper limit to it. We use a unit of measurement called a light-year, the distance light will travel in a year, because stellar distances are so large! And, even coherent laser light scatters as it goes, so any reflection of it by the time it returned from any object even in our own solar system, would be very hard to detect. A laser beam shot at our Moon if starting out at .125" diameter on Earth, would expand to about 1/4 of a mile diameter by the time it got there, then the reflection will expand the same amount again on the return trip to the observer.

Randy
Bushpossum
Well it works like this, Randy:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lunar_Laser_Ranging_experiment
David V
Stunning photography. Absolutely stunning.
I've seen the Northern lights myself, dancing and swirling and every time I see photos like these, I just want to go back. Magic. And kudos to the younger entrants.
bwana4swahili
A nice selection of 'astrophotography' even though a few would be hard pressed to be such, in particular the winning image; simply an image with out-of-focus stars!