The zodiacal light seems to rise from the horizon like a pyramid with the brilliant point of Venus at its apex. Comprised of sunlight scattered and diffused by tiny grains of dust that drift between the planets, this pale feature marks out the plane of the Solar System. The stilness of the skies contrasts with the transience of the scence below, with its shifting human figures reflected in the temporary waters of Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre.

Space

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.

 / Updated 12 PHOTOS

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.

Bill Snyder
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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.

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Taken from Ranch Hidalgo in Animas New Mexico, NGC 3718 is found in the constellation of Uras Major and know as a peculiar barred spiral galaxy. Gravitational interactions with its near neighbour NGC 3729 (the spiral galaxy below and to the left) are likely reason for the galaxy's warped spiral arms, whilst a dark dust streak wraps around the centre.

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.

Mark Hanson
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Rock formation in the Wairarapa district of New Zeland create a stark foreground and  contrast to the dusty clouds dancing acorss the Milky Way. No light pollution and a clear, crisp night afford the photographer a fantastic opportunity for this superb image

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.

Chris Murphy
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The Sun's boiling surface curves away beneath us in this evocative shot that conveys the scale and violence of our 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, as alluded to in the image's title, and are constantly twisted and warped by intense magnetic forces.

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.

Alexandra Hart
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Poised on the brink of space, this astonishing shot shows the curvature of the Earth with the towering Rocky Mountains reduced to tiny wrinkles on the surface below. Taken with the aid of a high altitude balloon, lanuched from Boulder, Colorado, the photographer captures the breath-taking view of the Earth from 87,000 feet about its surface. The tiny dot of the Moon pictured in the distance emphasizes the vast expanase between our plante and its nearest cosmic neighbour.

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.

Patrick Cullis
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Taken in Australia near the town of Bungendore, this image captures the Capital Wind Farm on the shore of Lake George. The striking monochromatic compostion depicts the power of the wind along with the motion of the sky, illuminated by the shower of stars transforming into trails as the Earth rotates.

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.

Matt James
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The zodiacal light seems to rise from the horizon like a pyramid with the brilliant point of Venus at its apex. Comprised of sunlight scattered and diffused by tiny grains of dust that drift between the planets, this pale feature marks out the plane of the Solar System. The stilness of the skies contrasts with the transience of the scence below, with its shifting human figures reflected in the temporary waters of Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre.

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.

Julie Fletcher
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IC 1340 is part of the Veil Nebula, a supernova remnant in constellation Cygnus at distance of about 1470 light years. This is one of the more luminous areas in this SNR. Image is in colors emitted by ionized Hydrogen and Oxygen. The shock front formed by the material ejected from giant explosion, the super nova, can be seen in this image. 

Technical details:

Processing work flow:
Image acquisition, MaxiDL v5.07.
Stacked and calibrated in CCDStack2.
Levels, curves and color combine in PS CS3.

Optics, Meade LX200 GPS 12" @ f5
Camera, QHY9
Guiding, SXV-AO, an active optics unit, and Lodestar guide camera
Image Scale, ~0,8 arc-seconds/pixel
16 x 1200s exposures for H-alpha emission = 5h 20min.
12 x 1200s exposures for O-III, emission of ionized oxygen = 4h

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.

J-p Metsã¤vainio
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This image clearly depicts the well-known red glow that appears to come from being the horsehead, produced by hydrogen gas that has become ionized by neighbouring stars. The photograph draws particular attention to the cloud of heavily concentrated dust within the horsehead, which is silhouetted against the red glow as it blocks so much of the light that is trying to get through.

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.

Shishir Shashank Dholakia
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A fantastic view of one of nature's greatist spectacles, a total solar eclipse, taken from an airplane, 3200m above Turkana Kenya. The photographer was due to shoot this rare occurrence from the eastern shore of Lake Turkan but a huge sand-storm hit the region forty minites befor totality. However, the pilot of the place decided to fly the place to intercept the eclipse, and Belda was lucky enough to capture the phenomenon, which laster a mere ten seconds ,through the open dorr of the small airplane.

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.

Catalin_beldea
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A vivid green overheaded aurrora pictured in Iceland's Vatnajokull National Park reflected almost symetrically in Jokulsrlon Glacier lagoon. A complete lack of wind and currrent combin in this sheltred lagoon scene to crete an arresting mirror effect giving the image a sensation of utter stillness. Despite theis there is motion on a suprising scale, as the loops and arcs of the aurora are shaped by the shifting forces of the Earth's magnetic field.

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

James Woodend
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