Science Space 31 Astonishing Images to Boost Your Appreciation of the Night Sky By Jacqueline Gulledge Writer Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Georgia Gulledge has more than 11 years of experience in national and local news, covering a wide range of issues for CNN, FOX 5 Atlanta, and Mother Nature Network. our editorial process Twitter Twitter Jacqueline Gulledge Updated October 23, 2018 Transport the Soul. (Photo: Brad Goldpaint/Royal Observatory Greenwich's Insight Investment Astronomy Photographer of the Year) Share Twitter Pinterest Email Science Space Natural Science Technology Agriculture Energy Just as our nights are beginning to get longer, the National Maritime Museum in London has announced the winners of its annual Royal Observatory Greenwich's Insight Investment Astronomy Photography of the Year competition. Out of thousands of submissions, photographer Brad Goldpaint is the overall winner (and winner of the People and Space category) for his image of the Milky Way galaxy shining bright above the red rock formations in Moab, Utah. To capture the image, Goldpaint patiently waited for the right moment as he described in his caption: Interested in adding a 'human element' to his photographs, once the quarter moon rose and revealed the incredible, vast landscape of the shale hills below the viewpoint, the lone photographer, to the left of the frame, stood motionless while he captured this photograph. The Andromeda Galaxy, quarter moon, Milky Way Galaxy, and position of the photographer all combined to create a captivating, harmonious portrait of a night sky photographer at work. The judges were equally captivated by the image. "For me this superb image is emblematic of everything it means to be an astrophotographer; the balance between light and dark, the contrasting textures and tones of land and sky and the photographer alone under a starry canopy of breathtaking scale and beauty," said judge Will Gater. The competition also features winners in several categories that focus on everything from planets and comets to skyscapes and nebulae. Some of the winners include the aurora borealis above a Norwegian fjord, the total solar eclipse of 2017 and the Witch Head nebulae. There are even special categories for young photographers and newcomers. "Whether it was a newcomer with an awe-inspiring nightscape of the Milky Way or an experienced astro imager with an epic photo of glowing cosmic dust, the field of images had such a high standard that the winners are truly superlative examples of the art and science of astrophotography," said judge Chris Bramley. The photographers described their images in their own words. See for yourself just how spectacular these images are. People and Space — Runner Up Living Space. (Photo: Andrew Whyte/Royal Observatory Greenwich's Insight Investment Astronomy Photographer of the Year) "This is a single-frame image and not a speculative composite. Situated on a south-coast peninsula, this street falls within a part-night street lighting zone; when the lights go out, there's nothing to interfere with the view of the stars until continental Europe — miles across the English Channel. The scene might be perceived incongruous or surreal and almost shows how accustomed we've become to the loss of night sky views due to light pollution. It was a conscious decision by the photographer to feature the unlit streetlamps, hinting how it might be possible to undo the damage and restore awe-inspiring views." — Andrew Whyte People and Space — Highly Commended Me versus the Galaxy. (Photo: Mark McNeill/Royal Observatory Greenwich's Insight Investment Astronomy Photographer of the Year) "This photograph was taken just after Christmas at the Sycamore Gap, Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland and showcases the majestic winter Milky Way and the Andromeda galaxy. The temperature was about -4°C and the photographer arrived from Lancashire at 11am but had to wait till 2.30am for the Moon to set and for all the stars to be visible." — Mark McNeill Aurorae — Winner Speeding on the Aurora lane. (Photo: Nicolas Lefaudeux/Royal Observatory Greenwich's Insight Investment Astronomy Photographer of the Year) "A hazy, subtle auroral band is leisurely drifting across the sky providing an unusual perspective with faint bands appearing to radiate from a vanishing point, like a road disappearing over the horizon. As the aurora glided overhead, it made the photographer feel like he was driving a spaceship about to reach light speed toward the Big Dipper. This view lasted less than a minute." — Nicolas Lefaudeux Aurorae — Runner Up Castlerigg Stone Circle. (Photo: Matthew James Turner/Royal Observatory Greenwich's Insight Investment Astronomy Photographer of the Year) "This was the photographer’s first ever encounter with the aurora borealis in the UK. The Moon was bright enough to illuminate the foreground arena of standing stones perfectly and the aurora surfaced from behind the majestic mountains, giving the appearance that the hills themselves were emitting the ethereal green glow." — Matthew James Turner Aurorae — Highly Commended Aurorascape. (Photo: Mikkel Beiter/Royal Observatory Greenwich's Insight Investment Astronomy Photographer of the Year) "The conditions to shoot an aurora that night were not ideal because of the bright Moon but the photographer managed to capture the breathtaking Aurora Borealis above the fjord in the gorgeous Lofoten archipelago, in Northern Norway. The small pool of water with rocks made the perfect foreground and a natural leading line into the frame." — Mikkel Belter Galaxies — Winner NGC 3521, Mysterious Galaxy. (Photo: Steven Mohr/Royal Observatory Greenwich's Insight Investment Astronomy Photographer of the Year) "The spiral galaxy NGC 3521 is located around 26 million light-years away in the constellation Leo and presents complex scene, with enormous amounts of surrounding dust and stray stars glowing far out from its disk. Emerging from the photographer’s colour data was a bright array of contrasting colour tones, generated by aging yellow-red stars, younger burning aggressively blue-white stars, and various nebulae throughout the disk. This image comprises approximately 20.5 hours of exposure time, collecting data in various filter types." — Steven Mohr Galaxies — Runner Up From Mirach. (Photo: Raul Villaverde Fraile/Royal Observatory Greenwich's Insight Investment Astronomy Photographer of the Year) "This photograph is a mosaic of 24 images and depicts how the galaxies Messier 31 and Messier 33 appear symmetrically on either side of the star Mirach. Despite being the two galaxies closest to our own, they are still significantly further away from us than Mirach, which is a star within our own Milky Way. We can also see the two smaller satellite galaxies of M31, M32 and M110." — Raul Villaverde Fraile Galaxies — Highly Commended Fireworks Galaxy NGC 6939 – SN 2017 EAW. (Photo: César Blanco/Royal Observatory Greenwich's Insight Investment Astronomy Photographer of the Year) "This image showcases the open cluster of stars NGC 6939 and the galaxy NGC 6949 with the stellar explosion of the supernova SN 2017 EAW. The data gathering for this image was carried out over a few different days and the photographer tried to obtain sharp details as well as some of the 'foggy' background light. The image depicts the great variety of objects we can observe in the Universe, a stellar explosion with an enormous diversity of the colors of the stars which depends on the temperature, a magnificent galaxy that can be seen directly face-on; the show of the supernova, a fantastic phenomenon which is produced not very often in our skies; and a dim nebula of IFN type in the background." — César Blanco Our Moon — Winner "Inverting the image is a legacy of deep sky imaging, where tenuous extensions of galaxies and nebulae can be more visible on a negative image because our eye more easily detects tenuous dark details on a white background. This is also useful in Moon imaging helping to reveal otherwise barely detectable soil features such as ray systems. Low contrast areas like the lunar seas and ray systems, look much more interesting because low contrast details are revealed and according to the photographer this is a new way for Moon exploration that should be considered." — Jordi Delpeix Borrell Our Moon — Runner Up Earth Shine. (Photo: Peter Ward/Royal Observatory Greenwich's Insight Investment Astronomy Photographer of the Year) "During a total solar eclipse the brightness of the solar corona hides details of the Moon to the human eye. But by layering multiple digital exposures in this image from 2 seconds to 1/2000th of a second, the photographer managed to reveal much more. The image showcases not just the brilliant solar corona, but the newest possible of new moons, seen here illuminated by sunlight reflecting off the Earth." — Peter Ward Our Moon — Highly Commended From the Dark Side. (Photo: László Francsics/Royal Observatory Greenwich's Insight Investment Astronomy Photographer of the Year) "The photographer had planned to capture a high resolution image of the morning crescent Moon for a long time. The waning crescent Moon only rises high above the horizon of the Carpathian basin in autumn, but in this period of the year the weather is usually cloudy and rainy. Fortunately, in October 2017, an anticyclone wiped the area clear, which allowed the photographer to take a good resolution picture capturing the special atmosphere of the thin crescent in a glitteringly bright sky." — László Francsics Our Sun — Winner Sun King, Little King, and God of War. (Photo: Nicolas Lefaudeux/Royal Observatory Greenwich's Insight Investment Astronomy Photographer of the Year) "In order to capture this mesmerising image, the photographer chose the area according to weather forecasts to make sure he would get a clear sky. The image shows the Sun corona in all its glory during the August total solar eclipse. It is flanked on left hand side by the blue star Regulus – the little King – and by the red planet Mars on the right. The many radial streamers of the solar Corona are a real crown for the Sun King and the corona can be traced almost to 30 solar radii distance. The total exposure duration of 100-seconds was recorded in more than 120 individual images and it is a setup consisting of both a fast f/1.4 lens, at full aperture to get as much signal as possible, and a large buffer camera at base ISO to avoid overexposure. The inner corona was recorded using a longer focal length setup." — Nicolas Lefaudeux Our Sun — Runner Up "In this image the photographer managed to capture an eruptive prominence just hours after this active region produced a massive X9.0 class solar flare. Close to the solar limb and presented here in an inverted format (black to white) and color enhanced to create a warm sunny glow, the photograph showcases the beautiful 3D structure within the hydrogen chromosphere. Captured in hydrogen alpha light at 656.3nm, the photographer used a 150mm solar telescope and monochrome machine vision camera to record a video sequence which was stacked to bring out the fine details and image processing techniques to produce color and a backlit effect in order to enhance the spicule features around the solar limb." — Stuart Green Our Sun — Highly Commended AR2673. (Photo: Haiyang Zong/Royal Observatory Greenwich's Insight Investment Astronomy Photographer of the Year) "AR2673 is a large sunspot group which formed in 2017. Clearly visible is the beautiful 'rice grain' structure of the paler, outer regions of the sunspots." — Haiyang Zong Planets, Comets and Asteroids — Winner The Grace of Venus. (Photo: Martin Lewis/Royal Observatory Greenwich's Insight Investment Astronomy Photographer of the Year) "Shortly before sunset, a slender and graceful Venus hangs low in the western sky, just 10 days before meeting the Sun at inferior conjunction. This is an infra-red image of that view, taken using a monochrome digital video camera mounted on a reflector telescope. The recording was processed to remove the blurring effects of our atmosphere and combine the video frames to create a single still image of the planet. The infra-red filter used on the camera helps steady the effects of atmospheric movement." — Martin Lewis Planets, Comets and Asteroids — Runner Up Parade of the Planets. (Photo: Martin Lewis/Royal Observatory Greenwich's Insight Investment Astronomy Photographer of the Year) "During the course of just one year the photographer managed to image surface details on every planet in our Solar System from his own back garden. At the start of the year, the photographer had captured distant Mars, eight months after opposition, sporting a tiny polar cap and dark features. Later on, he captured Venus, then Jupiter and Saturn. In September, the photographer had imaged details on the rocky face of Mercury for the first time and in November he recorded Uranus's distinct polar region, making the set complete. The more challenging planets, Mercury, Uranus and Neptune, required IR (infrared) imaging to bring out surface details and have been colourised to match their more normal visual appearance. All images are displayed at the same relative size that they would appear through a telescope." — Martin Lewis Planets, Comets and Asteroids — Highly Commended Comet C/2016 R2 Panstarrs the blue carbon monoxide comet. (Photo: Gerald Rhemann/Royal Observatory Greenwich's Insight Investment Astronomy Photographer of the Year) "Still relatively far from the Sun, the comet's well-developed ion tail shines bright in the night sky. Emission from unusually abundant ionized carbon monoxide (CO+) molecules fluorescing in the increasing sunlight is largely responsible for the beautiful blue tint. This is a median stack of the total event from 5p.m. until 11.12p.m and the comet’s magnitude was approx. 12.5 mag." — Gerald Rhemann Skyscapes — Winner Circumpolar. (Photo: Ferenc Szémár/Royal Observatory Greenwich's Insight Investment Astronomy Photographer of the Year) "The cold winter weather weaves a transparent blanket above the human settlements. If one rises above this coherent surface of mist, the colourful star trails can be brought together with the glowing lights of the cities. This extremely long capture sequence took half of the winter’s nights facing the clear northern sky as the circumpolar star Almach, also known as Gamma Andromedae, just touched the horizon." — Ferenc Szémár Skyscapes — Runner Up Eclipsed Moon Trail. (Photo: Chuanjin Su/Royal Observatory Greenwich's Insight Investment Astronomy Photographer of the Year) "On 31 January 2018, a spectacular total lunar eclipse occurred. The photographer set his camera for a four-hour stack exposure and after he took about one thousand images, he finally captured an image that reflects the changes of the Moon's colour and brightness before, during and after the eclipse. The picture reminded the photographer of the Compliant Golden-Hooped Rod, which is the weapon of the Monkey King, who is described in ancient Chinese literature." — Chuanjin Su Skyscapes — Highly Commended Midnight Glow over Limfjord. (Photo: Ruslan Merzlyakov/Royal Observatory Greenwich's Insight Investment Astronomy Photographer of the Year) "The dark summer sky in Denmark and the ideal weather on 22 May 2017 allowed the photographer to capture this magnificent orange glow over Limfjord, a beautiful place just five minutes away from where the photographer had lived for six years. The weather was so calm and quiet, which made the photographer think that time was standing still." — Ruslan Merzlyakov Stars and Nebulae — Winner Corona Australis Dust Complex. (Photo: Mario Cogo/Royal Observatory Greenwich's Insight Investment Astronomy Photographer of the Year) "Under the dark Namibian sky, the photographer set his camera to a six-hour exposure in order to capture the CrA Molecular Complex, a large, dark and irregular area in the northern part of Corona Australis where we can see reflection nebulas NGC 6726-27-29, dark dust cloud Bernes 157, globular cluster NGC 6723 and other objects. Interestingly, there is a huge difference in distance: under 500 light years for the dust complex and 30,000 light years for the globular cluster." — Mario Cogo Stars and Nebulae — Runner Up Rigel and the Witch Head Nebula. (Photo: Mario Cogo/Royal Observatory Greenwich's Insight Investment Astronomy Photographer of the Year) "The dark Namibian sky was the perfect location to capture the wonder of the Witch Head Nebula and Rigel. The Witch Head Nebula is a very faint molecular gas cloud which is illuminated by supergiant star Rigel, the seventh brightest star of the sky and the brightest star in the constellation of Orion." – Mario Cogo Stars and Nebulae — Highly Commended Thackeray's Globules in Narrowband Colour. (Photo: Rolf Wahl Olsen/Royal Observatory Greenwich's Insight Investment Astronomy Photographer of the Year) "Almost 5,900 light years away, toward the southern constellation Centaurus, lies a large beautiful nebula known as the Lambda Centauri Nebula. The intense light from stars in a young open cluster cause the surrounding gas to glow with a magenta hue from emission lines of ionised Hydrogen atoms. In the centre of the image, is a group of Bok globules, which are dark, dense collapsing patches of gas and dust where new stars are frequently born. These were discovered by South African astronomer, A. David Thackeray, in 1950 and are now known as Thackeray's Globules and are a favourite target for backyard astrophotographers. The largest globule is two separate clouds that overlap slightly. While they appear small in the context of the grand nebula, these overlapping globules are each 1.4 light years across and together they contain more than 15 times the mass of our Sun." — Rolf Wahl Olsen Young Astronomy Photographer of the Year — Winner Great Autumn Morning. (Photo: Fabian Dalpiaz/Royal Observatory Greenwich's Insight Investment Astronomy Photographer of the Year) "On an early Monday morning before taking an exam at school, the photographer decided to go out and take some images. Shooting on a 50mm lens the photographer got lucky and captured this incredible photograph of a meteor passing over the Dolomites. On the left side of the image the Moon is shining over the stunning landscape of the Alpe di Siusi with the autumn colors on the was illuminated only at 13.5 percent." — Fabian Dalpiaz Young Astronomy Photographer of the Year — Runner Up The Eta Carinae Nebula. (Photo: Logan Nicholson/Royal Observatory Greenwich's Insight Investment Astronomy Photographer of the Year) "The Eta Carina Nebula, or NGC 3372, is the biggest and brightest nebula in the sky and is located in the constellation Carina. It is mostly made out of hydrogen, created when the bright orange star mid-left went nova, spewing out large amounts of hydrogen gas which now emits light at the Hydrogen-alpha wavelength. The photographer took and stacked multiple shots and processed them in Pixinsight." — Logan Nicholson Young Astronomy Photographer of the Year — Highly Commended Inverted Sun. (Photo: Thea Hutchinson/Royal Observatory Greenwich's Insight Investment Astronomy Photographer of the Year) "This was the photographer’s first attempt at solar imaging and was from the observatory in her back garden in Wimbledon. She used her father’s solar scope and after following her father’s advice, the photographer beautifully captured our nearest star, the Sun. The picture is a mosaic of two stacked images that were merged in Photoshop CC, cropped and inverted. The final image was then converted to false color." – Thea Hutchinson Young Astronomy Photographer of the Year — Highly Commended First Impressions. (Photo: Casper Kentish/Royal Observatory Greenwich's Insight Investment Astronomy Photographer of the Year) "After a few days of cloudy skies the photographer finally got the chance to use his birthday present, a new telescope. The clouds were moving fast so there was not much time to capture the Moon. With the help of his grandfather who kept moving the telescope and trying to keep an iPad at the right position, he managed to capture this wonderful and artistic image of his first viewing of our Moon." — Casper Kentish Young Astronomy Photographer of the Year — Highly Commended A Valley on the Moon…. (Photo: Davy van der Hoeven/Royal Observatory Greenwich's Insight Investment Astronomy Photographer of the Year) "The photographer’s father taught him how to focus the telescope, capture and process the data. Once the telescope was set up, the photographer started taking images of the surface of the Moon and even managed to capture more details than his father did in the past." — Davy van der Hoeven Sir Patrick Moore Prize for Best Newcomer Galaxy Curtain Call Performance. (Photo: Tianhong Li/Royal Observatory Greenwich's Insight Investment Astronomy Photographer of the Year) "This was the last opportunity in 2017 to see the silver core of the Milky Way before it sunk below the horizon. It was accompanied by the gradual curtain call of Scorpio heralding the upward trend of Orion in the sky. Meanwhile the season of bright shooting stars quietly arrived. The image is stitched together from a total of twenty pictures." — Tianhong Li Robotic Scope "The image showcases a very rare conjunction of two bright comets both passing the famous Pleiades star cluster in Taurus at the same time. Comet C/2017 O1 (ASASSN) is at far left while C2015 ER61 (PanSTARRS) is in the centre. Both comets have strikingly different appearances. The whole region is embedded in the faint nebulosity of the Taurus Molecular Cloud. The photographer used a remote telescope located in Mayhill, New Mexico." — Damian Peach These images and other winning photographs from the past 10 years are on display at the Maritime National Museum in London from now until May 9, 2019.