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Cosmic fireworks, a stunning comet and a rare image of the Moon: The shortlist for Astronomy Photographer of the Year

Published: 05th July, 2022 at 00:01
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Take a look at some awe-inspiring space images up for this year's top astrophotography prize.

An impressive batch of accomplished images are in the running for this year's Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2022. The competition is run by the Royal Observatory Greenwich, in association with BBC Sky at Night Magazine. This year the competition has received over 3,000 entries from passionate amateur and dedicated professional photographers, submitted from 67 countries across the globe. These have been whittled down by a team of expert judges, and we can now share our favourite images with you.

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Shortlisted images from this year’s competition include the Harvest Moon rising behind Glastonbury Tor in the United Kingdom, the lights of the Milky Way mirrored by the highest national highway in the world in Tibet, one of the most detailed amateur-produced maps of the lunar south pole, and a partial solar eclipse over Italy.

One of the astronomical highlights of 2021 was the discovery of Comet Leonard, a long period comet identified by GJ Leonard on 3 January 2021. It made its closest pass by Earth on 12 December 2021 and was the brightest comet of the year. Almost a quarter of submissions to the planets, comets and asteroids category focused on this single comet, including a spectacular image captured in Namibia by Lionel Majzik. “Photography was hampered by overcast weather conditions, but I was delighted to capture the incredibly spectacular Comet Leonard with its tail,” Majzik said.

Now in its fourteenth year, Astronomy Photographer of the Year has an expert panel of judges from the worlds of art and astronomy. The winners of the competition’s nine categories, two special prizes and the overall winner will be announced at a special online award ceremony on Thursday 15 September. The winning images will be displayed in an exhibition at the National Maritime Museum from Saturday 17 September, alongside a selection of exceptional shortlisted images.

We won't know who will walk away with the top prize for a while yet, but you can try to make your own predictions looking through the high quality of this year's entries.

Clouds of hydrogen gas

Clouds of hydrogen gas give way as the magnetic field lines of the Sun snap and clash together. These features around the edge of the Sun are known as prominences. Photo by Simon Tang/Astronomy Photographer of the Year

Moonrise over Los Angeles

Moonrise over LA
An alignment of the Moon, mountains and iconic skyline of Los Angeles, USA, following a winter storm on 18 December 2021. Photo by Sean Goebel/Astronomy Photographer of the Year

Comet C/2021 A1 (Leonard)

Comet Leonard was discovered by G.J. Leonard on 3 January 2021 and made its closest pass to Earth on 12 December 2021. The photographer secured some time with the robotic telescope at the Skygems Remote Observatories in Namibia on 27 December to capture this rare glimpse of a comet that will leave the Solar System and not be seen again. Photo by Lionel Majzik/Astronomy Photographer of the Year

Above the Lunar South Pole

Lunar South Pole
A composite of images of the lunar south pole created on two different dates (thus giving different views of the region). It one of the most detailed amateur-produced maps of this part of the Moon, which is very difficult to observe from Earth. Photo by Tom Glenn/Astronomy Photographer of the Year

The Crescent Nebula

A false-colour deep view of the Crescent Nebula in Cygnus, the result of shockwaves originating from the Wolf–Rayet star WR 134. Photo by Bray Falls/Astronomy Photographer of the Year

Radio telescope

The Mingantu Astronomical Observatory is in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region of China and is mainly used observe the Sun. Here, it is silhouetted against a starry night sky. Photo by Liu Xuemei/Astronomy Photographer of the Year

Solar inferno

Solar activity
The Sun looks different every time astrophotographers capture an image as new sunspots form, grow and eventually fade away. In this image, all wavelengths of light have been filtered out, except a narrow red band (known as the H-alphaline) to reveal an active region of change of the Sun. Photo by Stuart Green/Astronomy Photographer of the Year

Circles and curves

star trails
Viewed from under a quadruple arch, the stars circle around Polaris, in this stack of 33 four-minute exposures. California’s Sierra Nevada mountain range fills the horizon and Mount Whitney, the tallest peak in the continental United States, is on the far left. Photo by Sean Goebel/Astronomy Photographer of the Year

Busy star

Coronal activity Sun
This image depicts the busy surface and coronal activity of the Sun at 10:08 Universal Time on 15 February 2022. A powerful Coronal Mass Ejection (CME), shown in deep red in the upper left corner, erupted on the far side. Intriguing formations of plumes (in blue), coronal holes (in dark teal) and filaments (brown) are also represented. To capture all this activity in one image, it was necessary to combine observations in multiple wavelengths in the extreme ultraviolet. Photo by Sergio Díaz Ruiz/Astronomy Photographer of the Year

Solar wind power

Aurora turbine
A vivid auroral corona behind this wind turbine gives the illusion of an interaction between the two, as if the turbine was driven by the solar wind or dispersing the aurora. This was taken during a strong auroral storm in northern Finland. Photo by Esa Pekka Isomursu/Astronomy Photographer of the Year

Saturn and its moons

Saturn Moons
Saturn’s moons are distributed almost symmetrically around the planet in this image, balancing the composition of the photograph. Photo by Flávio Fortunato/Astronomy Photographer of the Year

More images from Science Focus:

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A little devil riding on the head of a dragon

nebula IC 1848
This image shows the nebula IC 1848 and its core, IC 1871. The Soul Nebula is an emission nebula located in Cassiopeia. In the east of the Soul star cloud there is a complex of nebulae and star clusters known as the Heart Nebula (IC 1805) of nebula and star cluster. Together they are often referred to as the ‘Heart and Soul’. Photo by Nan Wang/Binyu Wang/Astronomy Photographer of the Year

Interacting galaxies in Eridanus

Interacting galaxies
This pair of interacting galaxies are in the southern constellation of Eridanus. They are outlying members of the Fornax Cluster of galaxies. They are so close to one another that gravitational forces have distorted one of the spiral arms of the larger galaxy, NGC 1532. These forces have triggered bursts of star formation in both galaxies, but more so in NGC 1532, where a new generation of massive stars has been created. Photo by Terry Robison/Astronomy Photographer of the Year

Partial eclipse of the Sun in H-alpha

partial solar eclipse
A partial eclipse of the Sun, shot from the Veneto region of Italy, is shown as it reaches its maximum on 10 June 2021. It was a day of low solar activity, which allowed for this crisp image of the Moon passing in front of the Sun. Photo by Alessandro Ravagnin/Astronomy Photographer of the Year

The starry sky over the world's highest national highway

Mountains and stars
The illuminated National Highway 219, the highest national highway in the world, snakes through the foreground, almost mirroring the majestic image of the Milky Way above. The two are separated by Kula Kangri, a mountain located in Shannan Prefecture, Tibet. Photo by Yang Sutie/Astronomy Photographer of the Year

Suburbs of Carina nebula

The main object in this image is a nebula catalogued as RCW 53c and is seldom captured by astrophotographers. Photo by Ignacio Diaz Bobillo/Astronomy Photographer of the Year

The Jovian family

Jupiter and moons
This image shows Jupiter with three of its largest moons also visible. The famous Great Red Spot is visible on Jupiter itself, along with many other spots and storms. Similar details are also visible on all three of the Jovian moons. The bright ray crater Osiris can be seen clearly on Ganymede at the upper left. Photo by Damien Peach/Astronomy Photographer of the Year

Spectrum

The Northern Lights is pictured over the famous Icelandic mountain, Vestrahorn. A panorama of three photos has been combined into one image. Photo by Stefan Liebermann/Astronomy Photographer of the Year

Inverted minerals

Moon minerals
The lunar surface, although it appears grey and monochrome, contains hidden colours within the soil, caused by different minerals. This colour is too faint to see with the naked eye, but digital images allow astrophotographers to enhance the colours and reveal a different view of the Moon. Photo by Noah Kujawski/Astronomy Photographer of the Year

Ladder to the stars

Milky Way
A stacked shot with 15 single exposures, taken in May 2021 at Shiroka Polyana Dam, one of the darkest sports in Bulgaria. The Milky Way mirrors the direction of the ladder. Photo by Mihail Minkov/Astronomy Photographer of the Year

Equinox Moon and Glastonbury Tor

Glastonbury tor full Moon
A single exposure captures people enjoying the full Harvest Moon rising behind Glastonbury Tor in the United Kingdom in September 2021. Photo by Hannah Rochford/Astronomy Photographer of the Year

Authors

James CutmorePicture Editor, BBC Science Focus

James Cutmore is the picture editor of BBC Science Focus Magazine, researching striking images for the magazine and on the website. He is also has a passion for taking his own photographs

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