Swirling images of the cosmos, views of Earth

The majestic mist of a nebula floating and extending into deep space; a rare flaming comet over Stonehenge; the incessant eruptions of the sun seen by NASA’s Curiosity Rover on Mars; and the Milky Way which shines above the lavender fields in France. Here are some of the fascinating images selected for the 2021 Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition.

Organized by the Royal Observatory Greenwich, UK in partnership with BBC Sky Night Magazine, the competition celebrates its 13th edition. The preselected images were selected from a pool of more than 4,500 applications from amateur and professional photographers located in 75 countries around the world.

James Rushforth, “Comet Neowise on Stonehenge” (2020). The image shows comet NEOWISE passing over Stonehenge in the UK. The comet is expected to return in about 6,800 years.

The competition covers nine categories, including “Aurorae”, “People and Space”, “Galaxies”, “Our Sun” and “Our Moon”. The overall winner will receive a cash prize of £ 10,000 ($ 13,800). In addition, a special prize will be awarded to a promising young astronomical photographer under the age of 16 (the winner will receive £ 1,500, or approximately $ 2,075).

The winners will be announced on September 16. Their work will then be presented in an exhibition at the National Maritime Museum in London, which opened on September 18. In addition, all winning and shortlisted entries will be published in a book that will be released in September.

Stefan Liebermann, “Harmony” (2020). A panorama of the Milky Way over the lavender fields in Valensole, France.
Yovin Yahathugoda, “Dolphin’s Head Nebula” (2021). The image records the dolphin’s head nebula in the constellation Grand Canis. Raw data was acquired using a telescope in Chile.

While some of the entrances penetrate deep into the galaxy with telescoping gear, others capture fleeting moments of beauty from an earthly perspective. For example, Göran Strand was able to record a bright lunar halo over a snowy field in Östersund, Sweden. In China, Daning Kai captured star trails, including the Orion Belt, through the heavily polluted Shanghai air. And in France, Rémi Leblanc-Messager used time at home during the COVID-19 containment to represent the trajectory of the Moon over the rooftops of Paris.

Take a look at a selection of the preselected images below.

Andrew McCarthy, “A Day Transit” (2020). The image shows the International Space Station (ISS) passing through a very thin waning crescent moon in broad daylight.
Andrew McCarthy, “The Magnetic Field of Our Active Sun” (2020)
Rémi Leblanc-Messager, “Full moon path above the sleeping city” (2021)
Anthony Sullivan, “The Milky Way Rising Above Durdle Door” (2020). The image was taken at Durdle Door on a natural limestone arch on the Jurassic Coast in Dorset, UK.
Jiajun Hua, “Magic City Sunrise” (2021). Sunrise in Shanghai, China.
Ed Hurst, “Luna Park” (2020). The image was taken at Luna Park in Sydney, Australia. Hurst took thousands of images, with the stars passing, and mixed them up to show the patterns of time.

A book is the disturbing and diverse tale of a very eventful year.

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