Eleven awesome astro photographs have walked away with honors in the latest Insight Investment Astronomy Photographer of the Year Awards, with the winning shot of Andromeda (above) capturing the £10,000 top prize.
These out of this world space shots were taken on everything from specialist stargazers to mirrorless cameras like the Canon EOS R, high end DSLRs like the Nikon D850 to enthusiast bodies like the Nikon D610, proving that great astro shots are possible with whatever kit you're using.
• Read more: Best cameras for astrophotography
The overall winner was the stunning 'Andromeda Galaxy at Arm's Length?' captured by Nicolas Lefaudeux on the original Sony A7S in Forges-les-Bains, Île-de-France.
"To most of us, our closest neighboring galaxy Andromeda can also feel so distanced and out of reach," said competition judge Ed Robinson, "yet to create a photograph that gives us the impression that it is just within our physical reach is truly magical, and somewhat appropriate as we adjust after such socially distanced times“.
Lefaudeux bested amateur and professional astrophotographers from all over the world, earning the Royal Observatory Greenwich’s prestigious title of Insight Investment Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2020 – along with the top prize of £10,000.
His photograph will lead the exhibition of winning images that will run at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London, from 23 October 2020 to 08 August 2021.
The winners and shortlisted images, along with a number of winning shots from previous years, will appear in the official book available from the Royal Museums Greenwich shops from 11 September, and other book stores from 17 September.
All the winning images and further information about the exhibition can be found at the official Royal Museums Greenwich website, and following are the winners of each category…
Overall winner, Galaxies winner:
Andromeda Galaxy at Arm's Length by Nicolas Lefaudeux (France)
"Have you ever dreamt of touching a galaxy? This version of the Andromeda Galaxy seems to be at arm’s length among clouds of stars. Unfortunately, this is just an illusion, as the galaxy is still 2 million light years away. In order to obtain the tilt-shift effect, the photographer 3D-printed a part to hold the camera at an angle at the focus of the telescope. The blur created by the defocus at the edges of the sensor gives this illusion of closeness to Andromeda."
Sky-Watcher Black Diamond 100 mm apochromatic refractor telescope at f/9, iOptron iEQ30 mount, Sony A7S (modified), ISO 2000, 2 hours 30 minutes total exposure
'The Green Lady' by Nicholas Roemmelt (Germany)
"The photographer had heard a lot of stories about the ‘lady in green’. Although he has had the chance to photograph the Northern Lights many times, he had never seen the ‘green lady’ before. On a journey to Norway, she unexpectedly appeared with her magical green clothes making the whole sky burn with green, blue and pink colors.
Canon EOS R, 14 mm f/1.8 lens, ISO 6400, 4 x 1.6-second exposures
Our Moon winner:
'Tycho Crater Region with Colours' by Alain Paillou (France)
"The Tycho crater is one of the most famous craters on the Moon. This huge impact has left very impressive scars on the Moon’s surface. With the colors of the soils, Tycho is even more impressive. This picture combines one session with a black-and-white camera, to capture the details and sharpness, and one session with a color camera, to capture the colors of the soils. These colors 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. This picture reveals the incredible beauty and complexity of our natural satellite.
Ceslestron C9.25 telescope at f/10 and f/6.3, Orion Sirius EQ-G mount, ZWO ASI178MM and ASI178MC cameras, multiple 15-millisecond exposures
Our Sun winner:
'Liquid Sunshine' by Alexandra Hart (UK)
"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. This surface is about 100 kilometers thick and the ever-boiling motion of these convection cells circulate, lasting for around 15 to 20 minutes. They are around 1,000 kilometers in size and create a beautiful ‘crazy paving’ structure for us to enjoy.
Celestron C11 XLT Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope at f/50, Baader Solar Continuum Filter with ND3.8 AstroSolar Film, Sky-Watcher EQ6 Pro mount, ZWO-ASI174MM camera, 8.431-millisecond exposure
People and Space winner:
'The Prison of Technology' by Rafael Schmall (Hungary)
"The star in the centre of the image is the Albireo double star, surrounded by the trails of moving satellites. How many more might there be by the time we reach next year’s competition? There could be thousands of moving dots in the sky. In order to create astrophotos, photographers have to carefully plan where to place the telescope, and this will be more difficult in the future with more satellites in the way.
Sky-Watcher Quattro 200/800 astrograph telescope (modified) at f/4, Sky-Watcher EQ6-Pro GOTO mount, Canon EOS 6D camera, ISO 1600, 5 x 150-second exposures
Planets, Comets and Asteroids winner:
'Space Between Us…' by Łukasz Sujka (Poland)
"This image shows the really close alignment of the Moon and Jupiter that happened on 31 October 2019. In the full resolution picture, you’ll see that there are three of Jupiter’s moons also visible. This small project is a big challenge that involves a lot of luck and good seeing conditions. To capture this phenomenon in such a big scale was quite demanding in data acquisition as Jupiter and the Moon travelled 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.
Sky-Watcher Newtonian 10" telescope at f/4.8, Baader MPCC Coma Corrector filter, Sky Watcher NEQ-6 mount, ZWO ASI178 MM-C camera, 300 x 10-millisecond exposures per channel
'Painting the Sky' by Thomas Kast (Germany)
"The photographer was searching for clear skies in Finnish Lapland to capture the beauty of a polar night and couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw what was waiting behind the clouds. Polar stratospheric clouds are something the photographer has been searching for many years and had seen only in photographs until that day. He took his camera onto a frozen river to get a good view and started to take photos. The clouds slowly changed their shape and colors. It was like watching someone painting, especially when the Sun was lower – it started to get a darker orange and the pink shades became stronger."
Nikon D850, 120 mm f/16 lens, ISO 64, 1/40-second exposure
Stars and Nebulae winner:
'Cosmic Inferno' by Peter Ward (Australia)
"NGC 3576 is a well-known nebula in southern skies, but is shown here without any stars. Software reveals just the nebula, which has been mapped into a false color palette. The scene takes on the look of a celestial fire-maelstrom. The image is intended to reflect media images taken in Australia during 2019 and 2020, where massive bushfires caused the destruction of native forests and have claimed over 12 million acres of land. It shows nature can act on vast scales and serves as a stark warning that our planet needs nurturing.
Alluna Optics RC-16 telescope at f/8, 5 nm Ha filter, Paramount ME II mount, SBIG STX-16803 camera, 32 x 10-minute exposures
Young Competition winner:
'The Four Planets and the Moon' by Alice Fock Hang (Reunion), aged 11
"Photographing a planetary alignment requires rigor and patience but also a lot of luck. That evening, despite preparing everything for a week, the photographer encountered clouds. The magic started after sunset, where the moonset, Venus, Mercury, the star Antares, Jupiter and Saturn could be seen over the Indian Ocean. By looking at the sky map, The photographer could see that Pluto was there also above Saturn but invisible in my image. Note also the presence of Alpha Centuari on the left of the image as well as our immense galaxy, the Milky Way.
Nikon D610 camera, 35 mm f/3.2 lens, ISO 3200, 18 x 13-second exposures
Sir Patrick Moore Prize for Best Newcomer winner:
'Waves' by Bence Toth (Hungary)
"The image shows the central region of the California Nebula (NGC 1499). It tries to show the uncontrollable vast energy of nature, in a form which resembles the huge waves of a storm in the ocean. The RGB channels are used the create the colors of the stars, and all of the nebulosity are synthesized from the hydrogen-alpha and the SII channels. The color assignment of the narrowband channels is done in a way to create an image close to true color, but preserving the fine details and the depth provided by the narrowband filters.
Sky-Watcher Quattro 200P telescope at f/4, Sky-Watcher EQ6-R mount, ZWO ASI1600MM Pro camera, RGB-Ha-SII composite, 7 hours 50 minutes total exposure
Annie Maunder Prize for Image Innovation winner:
'Infrared Saturn' by Julie F Hill (UK)
"Dark River is a sculptural work that maps, or mirrors, the Milky Way celestial entity using one of the largest images ever made of its central areas. Referencing Elizabeth Kesseler’s notion of the astronomical sublime, as well as Gaston Bachelard’s idea of ‘intimate immensity’, this gigapixel image of the Milky Way, showing around 84 million stars, is reworked into a sculptural ‘affective space’ that affords a bodily and imaginative engagement with the viewer.
"The image was obtained with the VISTA survey telescope at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile and contains nearly nine billion pixels. This was an incredibly large file to work so the artist had to cut it down into manageable pieces to then print. She made 2.2 x 1 meter sections, which she then laboriously printed and glued together by hand to create a 9 x 5 meter sheet when flat. The image was digitally printed at 300dpi using archival pigment inks, onto a Japanese paper which is lightweight yet robust.
"In creating this piece, the artist was emulating the mosaic process used by astronomers when processing and compositing data. The artist retained the naturalistic colors the astronomers used to color the image, which makes the celestial more earthly and relatable. The full-sized print is sculpted to adapt to the space in which it’s displayed."
VISTA Survey Telescope, Infrared J 1.25 μm, Infrared H 1.65 μm, Infrared 2.15 μm channels, ESO/VVV Survey/D. Minniti Acknowledgement: Ignacio Toledo, Martin Kornmesser
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