Now in its eighth year, the 2016 instalment of Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year has received a record number of more than 4,500 entries. coming from enthusiastic amateurs and professional photographers alike and from over 80 countries across the globe.
Shortlisted images from this year's entrants include the Perseid Meteor Shower appearing to cascade from Mount Shasta in California, the natural light show of the Aurora Australis welcoming in the New Year over New Zealand, and the moment that our central star, the Sun, appeared to be cloaked in darkness by the Moon during a total solar eclipse in Indonesia.
The range of locations is not just limited to our planet. Photographers have also captured sights from across our Solar System, galaxy and the wider universe; from the storms visible across the face of Jupiter, to the luminous tangle of filaments in a supernova remnant and the starburst galaxy of M82 - thought to be found some 12 million light years away from our planet.
IBTimes UK presents a selection of shortlisted images taken from across the competition's nine categories: Skyscapes, Aurorae, People and Space, Our Sun, Our Moon, Planets, Stars and Nebulae, Galaxies and Young Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2016 award.
Seven Magic Points by Rune Engebø (Norway). The rusty red swirls of the circular, iron sculpture Seven Magic Points in Brattebergan, Norway mirror the rippling aurora above.
Rune Engebø/Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2016
Flash Point by Brad Goldpaint (USA). The Perseid Meteor Shower shoots across the sky in the early hours of 13 August 2015, appearing to cascade from Mount Shasta in California. The composite image features roughly 65 meteors captured by the photographer between 12:30am and 4:30am.
Brad Goldpaint/Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2016
Wall of Plasma © Eric Toops (USA). A searing solar prominence extends outwards from the surface of the Sun. The ‘wall of plasma’ is the height of three times the Earth’s diameter.
Eric Toops/Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2016
M8: Lagoon Nebula by Ivan Eder (Hungary). New stars are formed in the undulating clouds of M8, also commonly referred to as the Lagoon Nebula, situated some 5,000 light years from our planet.
Ivan Eder/Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2016
Painted Hills by Nicholas Roemmelt (Germany). With very little light pollution, the glimmering stars of the Milky Way bathe the colourful layers of the Painted Hills of Oregon in a natural glow.
Nicholas Roemmelt/Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2016
The Disconnection Event by Michael Jäeger (Austria). Comet Lovejoy soars through the night sky in a green haze with an ion tail in its wake. The image shows Lovejoy appearing to lose its tail on 21 January 2015
Michael Jäeger/Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2016
Frozen Giant by Nicholas Roemmelt (Germany). The celestial curve of the Milky Way joins with the light of a stargazer’s headlamp to form a monumental arch over the Cimon della Pella in the heart of the Dolomites mountain range in northeastern Italy.
Nicholas Roemmelt/Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2016
King of the Planets by Damian Peach (UK). Looming in the night sky, tempestuous storms are visible across the face of the largest planet in our Solar System, Jupiter. The Great Red Spot – a raging storm akin to a hurricane on Earth – stands out in a deep orange from the hues of browns surrounding it.
Damian Peach/Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2016
Venus Rising by Ivan Slade (Australia). During the seldom-seen alignment of the five planets in February 2016, Venus, Mercury and the Milky Way rose an hour before sunrise, and appear to be fleeing its early glow, overlooking Turrimeta Beach, Australia.
Ivan Slade/Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2016
The Joy of Seven Sisters by José Francisco Hernández Cabrera (Spain). Comet Lovejoy flashes through the darkness of the Solar System, passing near the open star cluster of the Pleiades or Seven Sisters. The Pleiades glow blue due to their extremely hot nature, and are the most obvious star cluster to the naked eye in the night sky.
José Francisco Hernández Cabrera/Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2016
Aurora Bird by Jan R Olsen (Norway). The vivid green Northern Lights resemble a bird soaring over open water in Olderdalen, Norway.
Jan R Olsen/Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2016
Parallel Mountains by Sean Goebel (USA). The shadow of Manua Kea, the highest peak in the state of Hawaii, is projected by the rising sun over the volcano, Hualalai, whilst the Full Moon soars above them, higher again.
Sean Goebel/Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2016
The Diamond Ring by Melanie Thorne (UK). The dramatic moment that our star, the Sun, appears to be cloaked in darkness by the Moon during the Total Solar Eclipse of 9 March 2016 in Indonesia. The Sun peers out from behind the Moon and resembles the shape of a diamond ring, caused by the rugged edge of the Moon allowing some beads of sunlight to shine through in certain places.
Melanie Thorne/Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2016
Moon Reflection by Rafael Defavari (Brazil). The brilliance of the Moon illuminates the night sky, and is reflected in the expansive water of the Bay of Paraty, Brazil.
Rafael Defavari/Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2016
Stars and Stripes by Brandon Yoshizawa (USA). Ancient petroglyphs are lit up by the glittering stars of the night sky in the Eastern Sierras in California, USA.
Brandon Yoshizawa/Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2016
Alone by Lee Cook (UK). With temperatures close to –15 degrees, it’s not surprising that the photographer was the only soul in the vicinity of Plateau Hut in Mount Cook National Park, New Zealand. The lonely hut, dwarfed by the snowy mountains of the park, contrasts with the abundance of star trails seemingly encircling the peaks of the Anzac.
Lee Cook/Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2016
South by Phil Hart (Australia). The Southern Cross constellation of the Milky Way, visible in the southern sky creates a guiding light along Bucklands Lane in Central Goldfields Shire, Victoria.
Phil Hart/Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2016
ISS under Venus and the Moon by Philippe Jacquot (France). Taken from atop the Semnoz Mountain, the International Space Station arcs over the city of Annecy, France, as Venus and the Moon loom overhead.
Philippe Jacquot/Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2016
Rise Lunation by Katherine Young (Sweden). The often unnoticed ripples and shimmers of the Moon captured on film as it appears to rise through the sky. Here, the Moon is photographed at 98% illumination and is beginning to wane.
Katherine Young/Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2016
Huge Filaprom by Gabriel Octavian Corban (Romania). A tremendous filaprom extends from the surface of our star, the Sun. Filaproms are large, gaseous features that can be partially seem over the Sun’s disk as a filament, and they are known to reach lengths equal to 150 Earths aligned.
Gabriel Octavian Corban/Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2016
Pickering’s Triangle by Bob Franke (USA). The luminous tangle of filaments of Pickering’s Triangle intertwines through the night sky. Located in the Veil Nebula, it is one of the main visual elements of a supernova remnant, whose source exploded around 8,000 years ago.
Bob Franke/Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2016
Five Plus Two by Der Mits (Greece). The rare opportunity of seeing five planets – Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn and Jupiter – gleaming in the night sky over the Alps. On the left hand side is the Dufour peak of the MonteRosa range and on the right hand side of the frame is the instantly recognisable peak of the Matterhorn.
Der Mits/Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2016
M82: Starburst Galaxy with a Superwind by Leonardo Orazi (Italy). About 12 million light years away from our planet, lies the starburst galaxy M82, also known as the Cigar Galaxy. In a show of radiant red, the superwind 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.
Leonardo Orazi/Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2016
Just Missed the Bullseye by Scott Carnie-Bronca (Australia). The International Space Station (ISS) appears to pierce a path across the radiant, concentric star trails seemingly spinning over the silhouettes of the trees in Harrogate, South Australia.
Scott Carnie-Bronca/Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2016
Crystal Brilliance by Tommy Richardsen (Norway). A mesmerising lunar halo forms around our natural satellite, the Moon, in the night sky above Norway. The halo, also known as a moon ring or winter halo, is an optical phenomenon created when moonlight is refracted in numerous ice crystals suspended in the atmosphere.
Tommy Richardsen/Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2016
Celestial Veil by Yuyun Wang (Singapore). The natural light of the Milky Way battles with the light pollution over the fishing village, or kelong, in Batu Pahat, Malaysia. In the lower right hand corner, there is also bioluminescence in the waters at the bottom of the kelong.
Yuyun Wang/Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2016
Between the Rocks by Rick Whitacre (USA). Our galaxy, the Milky Way, stretches across the night sky between two of the imposing rocks at Pfeiffer State Beach, near Big Sur, California.
Rick Whitacre/Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2016
Auroral Nuggets by Stephen Voss (New Zealand). The Universe puts on its very own light show to see in the New Year on 1 January 2016, as the Aurora Australis or Southern Lights, arcs over Nugget Point on the South Otago coast of New Zealand.
Stephen Voss/Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2016
Antarctic Space Station by Richard Inman (UK). A view of the Halley 6 Research Station situated on the Brunt Ice Shelf, Antarctica, which is believed to be the closest thing you can get to living in space without leaving Earth, making it perfect to be used for research by the European Space Agency. As the Sun’s light dissipates into the horizon, the Aurora Borealis can be seen swirling overhead.
Richard Inman/Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2016
Above the World by Lee Cook (UK). Taken from Sefton Bivouac, the oldest hut in Mount Cook National Park, New Zealand, star trails spiral over the majestic mountains of the park and the seemingly peaceful village below.
Lee Cook/Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2016
A Fork, a Spoon and a Moon, by Andrew Caldwell (New Zealand). A royal spoonbill sits atop of a branch basking in the glow of the nearly full moon in Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand.
Andrew Caldwell/Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2016
Northern Lights over Jokulsarlon, Iceland © Giles Rocholl (UK) A couple (on top of the snowy mound towards the right of the picture) takes in the awe-inspiring sight of the Northern Lights shimmering across the night sky over the lagoon at Jokulsarlon, Iceland on Valentine’s night of 2016.
Giles Rocholl/Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2016
Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2016 is run by the Royal Observatory Greenwich in association with Insight Investment and BBC Sky at Night Magazine. The winners of the competition's nine categories and two special prizes will be announced on Thursday 15 September at an award ceremony at the Royal Observatory Greenwich. The winning images will be displayed in a free of charge exhibition at the Observatory's Astronomy Centre from Saturday 17 September. Winners and shortlisted entries will also be published in the competition's official book, available on 3 November from bookstores and online.