Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2014
The winners of the Royal Observatory Greenwich's annual contest capture the beauties of the night sky and the cosmos.
The Royal Observatory Greenwich's Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition highlights stunning pictures of the cosmos in five categories, with a couple of special prizes added in. Scroll through to see the winners in each category and the overall winner.
This photo by Bill Snyder of the U.S. was the winner of the contest's "Deep Space" category. The Horsehead Nebula is one of the most photographed objects in the night sky, but this image portrays it in a brand new light. Snyder draws the eye down to the creased and folded landscape of gas and dust at its base, rather than focusing solely on the silhouette of the horsehead itself. Snyder also includes the glowing cavity surrounding a bright star to the lower left of the horsehead.
Germany's Eugen Kamenew was the winner in the "People and Space" category for this photo of an eclipse in Kenya.
The sun and moon sink together behind a Kenyan savanna skyline, locked in an eclipse in which the moon is silhouetted against the sun’s bright disc. This rare example of a hybrid solar eclipse took place in November 2013, beginning at sunrise over the western Atlantic as an annular eclipse, in which the moon does not entirely block the sun, leaving a bright ring uncovered. As the moon’s shadow swept across the ocean the eclipse became total. By the time the eclipse reached Kenya the sun was once again emerging from behind the moon, creating this breathtaking crescent shape at sunset.
Mark Hanson of the U.S. was the winner in the "Robotic Scope" category for this photo of the galaxy NGC 3718. Observed from Rancho Hidalgo in Animas, New Mexico, the barred spiral galaxy is found in the constellation of Ursa Major. Gravitational interactions with its near neighbor NGC 3729 (the spiral galaxy below and to the left) are thought to cause the galaxy's warped spiral arms. A dark dust streak wraps around the center.
Chris Murphy of New Zealand won the "Sir Patrick Moore Prize for Best Newcomer" for this image of the Milky Way and a rock formation in the Wairarapa district of New Zeland. The lack of light pollution on a clear, crisp night allowed the photographer to capture amazing details.
Alexandra Hart of the U.K. was the winner in "Our Solar System" category for this photo of the sun's boiling surface.
Titled "Ripples in a Pond," the picture conveys the scale and violence of our home star. The region of solar activity on the left could engulf the Earth several times over, with room to spare. The sun's outer layers behave as a fluid and are constantly twisted and warped by intense magnetic forces.
Patrick Cullis of the U.S. was "highly commended" in the "Earth and Space" category for this photo, taken with the aid of a high-altitude balloon. Poised on the brink of space, this astonishing shot shows the curving Earth with the towering Rocky Mountains reduced to tiny wrinkles on the surface below. The moon appears as a distant point of light. Launched from Boulder, Colorado, the balloon was at the 87,000-foot level when the image was made.
Matt James of Australia was the runner-up in the "Earth and Space" category for this long-exposure image of a wind farm on the shore of Australia's Lake George. The striking monochromatic composition depicts the power of the wind along with the motion of the sky, illuminated by the shower of stars transforming into trails as Earth rotates.
Julie Fletcher of Australia was the runner-up in the "People and Space" category for this image of the night sky over Lake Eyre, which she titled "Lost Souls." The brilliant point of light is Venus. The lake is the lowest natural point in Australia.
J.P. Metsävainio of Finland was 'highly commended" in the "Deep Space" category for this detail shot of the Veil Nebula, a supernova remnant in the constellation Cygnus, about 1,470 light-years from Earth.
Shishir and Shashank Dholakia of the U.S. were the winners of the "Young Astronomy Photographer of the Year" for this image of the Horsehead Nebula. The red glow is produced by hydrogen gas that has become ionized by neighboring stars. The photograph draws particular attention to the cloud of heavily concentrated dust within the horsehead, which is silhouetted against the gas cloud's red glow.
Catalin Beldea of Romania was 'highly commended' in the "Earth and Space" category for this view of one of nature's greatest spectacles, a total solar eclipse, captured from an airplane high over Kenya. The photographer was due to shoot this rare occurrence from the eastern shore of Lake Turkana, but a huge sandstorm hit the region 40 minutes before totality. The pilot changed course to intercept the eclipse. Belda was lucky enough to capture the phenomenon, which lasted a mere 10 seconds, through the open door of the small airplane.
James Woodend of the U.K. was named the contest's "Overall Winner" for this image of a vivid green aurora and its reflection in Iceland's Vatnajokull National Park.
• See last year's winners