The constellation of the Big Dipper peers through the window of the entrance to a large glacier cave in Engadin, Switzerland. This is just one of the thousands of spectacular pictures entered into
the 2017 Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition.
Mr Big Dipper by Nicholas Roemmelt (Denmark). A stargazer observes the constellation of the Big Dipper perfectly aligned with the window of the entrance to a large glacier cave in Engadin, Switzerland. This is a panorama of two pictures, and each is a stack of another two pictures: one for the stars and another one for the foreground, but with no composing or time blending.
The competition, which is run by the Royal Observatory Greenwich in association with Insight Investment and BBC Sky at Night Magazine, is now in its ninth year, received more than 3,800 entries from enthusiastic amateurs and professional photographers, from 91 countries across the globe.
The winners of the competition's nine categories and two special prizes will be announced on Thursday 14 September and the winning images will be displayed in a free exhibition at the Observatory's Astronomy Centre from Saturday 16 September. Until then,
IBTimes UK presents a selection of the judges' shortlist.
Reflection by Beate Behnke (Germany). The reflection in the wave ripples of Skagsanden beach mirrors the brilliant green whirls of the Aurora Borealis in the night sky overhead. To obtain the effect of the shiny surface, the photographer had to stand in the wave zone of the incoming flood, and only when the water receded very low did the opportunity to capture the beautiful scene occur.
The Lost Hour by Andrew Whyte (UK). The radiant, concentric star trails seemingly spinning over a lone stargazer against the glowing purples and pinks of the night sky during the hour when the clocks ‘spring forward’ to begin British Summer Time. With time so intrinsically linked to celestial activity, a one-hour star trail seemed the perfect metaphor. Through the use of long exposures, the trails depict the rotation of the Earth on its axis centred on the north celestial pole, the sky moving anti-clockwise around this point.
The Road Back Home by Ruslan Merzlyakov (Latvia). Noctilucent clouds stretch across the sky near Umeå in Sweden, illuminating a motorcyclist’s ride home in this dramatic display. Noctilucent clouds are the highest clouds in the Earth’s atmosphere and form above 200,000 ft. Thought to be formed of ice crystals, the clouds occasionally become visible at twilight when the Sun is below the horizon and illuminates them.
NGC 2023 by Warren Keller (USA). Lying in the constellation of Orion, at a distance of 1467 lightyears from our planet is the emission and reflection nebula NGC 2023. Most often photographed next to the famous Horsehead Nebula, the photographer has instead given NGC 2023 the spotlight in order to try and bring out all of the wonderful detail seen across its diameter of 4 light years, making it one of the largest reflection nebulae ever discovered.
The Blue Hour by Tommy Eliassen (Norway). The setting crescent Moon and Mars gaze over Saltfjellet, Norway as the Northern Lights appear to emanate from the snowy landscape. The Aurora Borealis were an unexpected guest in the shot as the Sun was only about ten degrees under the horizon meaning the early display came as a surprise.
Super Moon by Giorgia Hofer (Italy). The magnificent sight of the super moon illuminating the night sky as it sets behind the Marmarole, in the heart of the Dolomites in Italy. On the night of 14 November 2016, the Moon was at perigee at 356.511 km away from the centre of Earth, the closest occurrence since 1948. It will not be closer again until 2034. On this night, the Moon was 30% brighter and 14% bigger than other full moons.
Auroral Crown by Yulia Zhulikova (Russia). During an astrophotography tour of the Murmansk region with Stas Korotkiy, an amateur astronomer and populariser of astronomy in Russia, the turquoise of the Aurora Borealis swirls above the snow covered trees. Illuminated by street lamps, the trees glow a vivid pink forming a contrasting frame for Nature’s greatest light show.
Starburst Galaxy M82 by Bernard Miller (USA). The starburst galaxy M82, also known as the Cigar Galaxy, gleams five times brighter than our galaxy lies some 12 million lightyears away from Earth in the constellation of Ursa Major. In a show of radiant oranges and reds, the super wind bursts out from the galaxy, believed to be the closest place to our planet in which the conditions are similar to that of the early Universe, where a plethora of stars are forming.
Shooting Star and Jupiter by Rob Bowes (UK). A shooting star flashes across the sky over the craggy landscape of Portland, Dorset, as our neighbouring planet Venus looks on. The image is of two stacked exposures: one for the sky and one for the rocks.
Sh2-249 Jellyfish Nebula by Chris Heapy (UK). Lying in the constellation of Gemini, IC443 is a galactic supernova remnant, a star that could have exploded as many as 30,000 years ago. Its globular appearance has earned the celestial structure the moniker of the Jellyfish Nebula. Pictured to the upper left of the Jellyfish Nebula is a much fainter background area of nebulosity, which is actually a large cloud of mostly molecular hydrogen gas and dust.. ‘The Jellyfish’ is a convoluted tangle of gaseous filaments rapidly expanding away from the initial explosion. Professional observatory data shows that what we are actually seeing are two lobes superimposed on each other, but from this angle one appears as the head of the jellyfish (to the left) and the other lobe (to the right) as the dangling tentacles. It is illuminated by a few young blue embedded stars and criss-crossed by tendrils of dark dust clouds lying between us and the bright nebula.
NGC 7331, The Deer Lick Group by Bernard Miller (USA). NGC 7331 is an unbarred spiral galaxy found some 40 million lightyears away from Earth, in the constellation Pegasus. Of the group of galaxies known as the Deer Lick Group, NGC 7331 is the largest, and can be seen dominating the image whilst the smaller galaxies NGC 7335, NGC 7336, NGC 7337, NGC 7338 and NGC 7340 drift above it.
Moon Rise Reflections by Joshua Wood (New Zealand) An unexpected shot of the Moon rising over the glistening ocean off the Wairarapa coast, bearing a remarkable resemblance to the Sun. As the photographer was capturing the sunset over Castlepoint, he looked over his shoulder to see the Moon rising behind, reflecting off the wide expanse of the Pacific Ocean, and it became the new subject of his image.
Ignite the Lights by Nicolas Alexander Otto (Germany). After a long hike from his small cabin to Kvalvika, Lofoten Islands in Norway, the photographer arrived at the slopes above the beach around midnight. During the hike the auroral display was relatively weak, but when he made it to the beach the sky ignited in a colourful spectacle of greens and purples framed by the mossy, green landscape. The image is stacked from six different exposures to combat high ISO and thermal noise in the foreground. The sky was added from one of these exposures.
Nicolas Alexander Otto
Fall Milk by Brandon Yoshizawa (USA) A snow-clad mountain in the Eastern Sierras in California towers over the rusty aspen grove aligned perfectly in front of it, while our galaxy the Milky Way glistens above.
Beautiful Tromsø by Derek Burdeny (USA). The aurora activity forecast was low for this evening, so the photographer remained in Tromsø rather than driving to the fjord. The unwitting photographer captured Nature’s answer to a stunning firework display as the Northern Lights dance above a rainbow cast in the waters of the harbour. This made for a spectacular display, but the photographer did not realise what he had shot until six months later when reviewing his images.
Eastern Prominence by Paul Andrew (UK). A large, searing hedgerow prominence extends from the surface of the Sun. There are a number of different prominence types that have been observed emanating from the Sun, and the hedgerow prominence is so called due the grouping of small prominences resembling rough and wild shrubbery.
Aurora over Svea by Agurtxane Concellon (Spain). The purples and greens of the Northern Lights radiate over the coal mining city of Svea, in the archipelago of Svalbard. The earthy landscape below the glittering sky is illuminated by the strong lights of industry at the pier of Svea.
Orion’s Gaseous Nebula by Sebastien Grech (UK). Lying 1,300 lightyears away from Earth, the Orion Nebula is found in Orion’s Sword in the famous constellation named after the blade’s owner. The Orion Nebula is one of the most photographed and studied objects in the night sky due to the intense activity within the stellar nursery that sees thousands of new stars being created, which also makes it a relatively easy target for beginners. The nebula is thought to measure about 24 lightyears across and have a mass 2000 times that of our Sun.
A Battle We Are Losing by Haitong Yu (China). The Milky Way rises above a small radio telescope from a large array at Miyun Station, National Astronomical Observatory of China, in the suburbs of Beijing. The image depicts the ever-growing light pollution we now experience, which together with electromagnetic noise has turned many optical and radio observatories near cities both blind and deaf – a battle that inspired the photographer’s title.
An Icy Moonscape by Kris Williams (UK). A lone stargazer sits atop the peak of Castell-Y-Gwynt (Castle of the Winds) on Glyder Fach Mountain in Snowdonia, North Wales, beneath a starry night sky during freezing temperatures in mid-winter. The lunar-like landscape was formed through a process called freeze-thaw weathering: water seeps into cracks in the rock, freezing and expanding as ice forms, eventually cracking the rock over hundreds and thousands of years. Despite the full cloud and fog on the night the photographer set up his one-man tent in the snow and began the long wait of 15 hours of darkness in -10°C temperatures but the sky clearing for a mere 20 minutes, was all the time needed to capture this shot.