The best space photos of 2021: Sparkling starfields to majestic nebula
The endless expanse of space is a beautiful and fascinating subject for photography. From the dramatic births and deaths of stars, to galactic glamor shots and planetary close-ups, here are some of the most breathtaking space photos of 2021.
Stars are born in stellar nurseries – clouds of dust and gas that collapse under their gravitational pull and ignite – and this dynamic process is a favorite subject of telescopes like Hubble, for their contrast of bright young stars and dark clouds. In the prime of their lives, stars can gather in clusters, and these sparkling starfields also make for stunning shots. And finally, millions of years later, star deaths are just as photogenic, producing sublime nebulae that allow us to project our imaginations onto their ambiguous shapes. Zooming out, galaxies cluster together as well, bending the mind with their immense scale.
Other images have more historic impact. This year, astronomers released a new view of the supermassive black hole at the heart of the galaxy M87, complete with measurements of its polarization, revealing the twists and turns of its magnetic field. In February, NASA’s Perseverance rover touched down on Mars, with a jetpack-mounted camera capturing the moment the wheels hit the red soil.
And of course, some of the best shots come courtesy of the Royal Observatory Greenwich’s Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition. Chinese photographer Zhong Wu won the Galaxies category with an image called The Milky Ring, stitched together from 1,000 shots of the Milky Way taken from China and New Zealand – meaning it was captured from both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.
Come and explore the cosmos with us in our gallery.