Out-of-this-world discovery lands scientist trio Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2023

Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2023
The Running Chicken Nebula - Young category winner.Taken with an ASA N20 f/3.8 Newtonian telescope, ASA DDM85 mount, FLI Proline 16803 camera, 1,900 mm f/3.8, 5.5 hours total exposure (Image credit: Runwei Xu and Binyu Wang)

The 15th Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition has crowned Marcel Drechsler, Xavier Strottner, and Yann Sainty as the overall winners. Their winning photograph, "Andromeda, Unexpected," reveals a colossal plasma arc adjacent to the Andromeda Galaxy (M31). This revelation has triggered a global scientific collaboration, as it might be the largest structure of its kind near our Milky Way. 

The Andromeda Galaxy is our closest spiral neighbor making it a frequent subject of astrophotography. What makes this find remarkable is the arc's massive size, spanning about 1.5 x 0.45 degrees, and its proximity, only 1.2 degrees away from M31's center, southeast of the galaxy's main body. But to capture it properly you will need one of the best telescopes for photography

• These are the best camera for astrophotography - perfect for capturing deep space in all its beauty

Andromeda, Unexpected - Overall Winner Taken with a Takahashi FSQ-106EDX4 telescope, Sky-Watcher EQ6 Pro mount, ZWO ASI2600MM Pro camera, 382 mm f/3.6, multiple exposures between 1 and 600 seconds, 111 hours total exposure (Image credit: Marcel Drechsler, Xavier Strottner, and Yann Sainty )

Marcel Drechsler, Xavier Strottner, and Yann Sainty expressed their gratitude, saying, "It's an enormous honor for our team to receive this important award, and we are grateful for all the support, friendship, and encouragement we have received along our journey. It encourages us to continue our passion for astrophotography and research." László Francsics, a judge and astrophotographer, praised the image for its spectacular and valuable contribution to astrophotography.

The Young Astronomy Photographer of the Year title went to Chinese teenagers Runwei Xu and Binyu Wang for their collaboration on The Running Chicken Nebula, described as "strikingly beautiful" by judge Yuri Beletsky. 

Other winners include Circle of Light by Andreas Ettl, The Dark Wolf - Fenrir by James Baguley, A Sun Question by Eduardo Schaberger Poupeau, and Grand Cosmic Fireworks by Angel An. In the Annie Maunder Prize for Image Innovation category, John White's Black Echo stood out, visually representing the sound of a black hole.

 Mars Set - Our moon winner Taken with a Celestron EdgeHD 14 telescope, iOptron CEM70 mount, Astro-Physics BARADV lens, ZWO ASI462MC camera, 7,120 mm f/20, multiple 15-millisecond exposures (Image credit: Ethan Chappel)

Dark Star - Runner up Our sun [Taken with an Astro-Physics 130GTX telescope, Coronado 90 mm lens, Paramount PMEII mount, QHY533M camera, 1,170 mm f/9, best 4% of 2,000 x 1/20-second exposures (4 seconds total exposure)] (Image credit: Peter Ward)

Grand Cosmic Fireworks - Winner skyscapes Taken with a Sony A7S III camera, 135 mm f/1.8, ISO 12800, 4-second exposure] (Image credit: Angel An)

Dr. Ed Bloomer, an astronomer at the Royal Observatory Greenwich, commented, "The highlight of this year is perhaps a number of genuine discoveries being imaged, but we've had wonderful efforts in every category and I'm particularly pleased to see the continued strength of our young entrants and those eligible for The Sir Patrick Moore Prize for Best Newcomer.  It has led to some intense debate amongst the judges as we try to choose the very best of the best, but we don’t mind!”

This year’s  Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition, organized by the Royal Observatory Greenwich, saw over 4,000 entries from 64 countries. The overall winners have been awarded a cash prize of £10,000, winners of each category will take home £1,500 while runners-up and highly commended will receive £500 and £250 respectively. 

All winning photos and a selection of shortlisted images will be on exhibition at the National Maritime Museum in London, UK, from September 16 with entry costing £10. To see the full list of winning images head to the Royal Museums Greenwich website.

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Hannah Rooke
Staff Writer

Having studied Journalism and Public Relations at the University of the West of England Hannah developed a love for photography through a module on photojournalism. She specializes in Portrait, Fashion and lifestyle photography but has more recently branched out in the world of stylized product photography. For the last 3 years Hannah has worked at Wex Photo Video as a Senior Sales Assistant using her experience and knowledge of cameras to help people buy the equipment that is right for them. With 5 years experience working with studio lighting, Hannah has run many successful workshops teaching people how to use different lighting setups.