Huge eruptions shooting from the Sun’s surface, the dazzling green and red lights of the aurora borealis, and spectacular clouds of colourful dust in which new stars are forming thousands of light years away; these are just some of the awe-inspiring sights captured by photographers for the 2012 Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition. The competition, which is run by the Royal Observatory Greenwich in association with Sky at Night Magazine, is now in its fourth year and continues to go from strength to strength, once again receiving a record number of spectacular entries from enthusiastic amateurs and professional photographers from around the globe.
Shortlisted entries include a breath-taking view of stars over snow-covered Japanese mountains; the full Moon setting behind a historic abbey on Mount Pirchiriano in Italy; a meteor streaking through the sky above a rock formation in Utah, USA; and a group of friends stargazing at a caravan site in the Gower Peninsular, South Wales. The diversity of locations is not just limited to Earth. Photographers have also captured sights from across our Solar System, galaxy and beyond; from detailed mosaics of our Moon’s surface, to shimmering dust columns in distant nebulae, and out beyond the Milky Way to the swirling Andromeda Galaxy.
The competition’s judges include BBC The Sky at Night’s Sir Patrick Moore, acclaimed photographer Dan Holdsworth and the Royal Observatory’s Public Astronomer Dr. Marek Kukula. The winners of the competition’s four categories and three special prizes will be announced on 19 September and an exhibition of all the winning images opens the following day on 20 September at the Royal Observatory. The exhibition is free of charge and runs until February 2013. All entries to the competition were submitted via a dedicated Flickr group (www.flickr.com/groups/astrophoto). The awards ceremony can be followed live on Twitter: #astrophoto12.