The winners of the Insight Investment Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2020 have been announced and they're incredible. From over 5,000 submissions, the judges had a tough job in selecting the most evocative images in each category and an overall winner.
The competition, now in its 12th year, is organized by the Royal Observatory Greenwich together with Insight Investment and BBC Sky at Night Magazine.
“The global situation made judging and shortlisting extremely challenging this year, particularly with judges spread across different countries! However, the photographs have exceeded our expectations and the innovation demonstrated by the entrants has been phenomenal,” Dr Emily Drabek-Maunder, Astronomer at Royal Museums Greenwich and judge for the competition, said in an emailed statement.
The top accolade was given to French photographer Nicolas Lefaudeux with "Andromeda Galaxy at Arm's Length?" (above). Lefaudeux had to 3D-print a special camera holder for his telescope to create the ingenious tilt-shift image of Andromeda, producing the incredible feeling that we can almost touch a galaxy 2 million light-years away.
"To most of us, our closest neighbouring galaxy Andromeda can also feel so distanced and out of reach, yet to create a photograph that gives us the impression that it is just within our physical reach is truly magical, and somewhat appropriate as we adjust after such socially distanced times," competition judge Ed Robinson said.
You can see the winning images in each category below. The Runners-up and Highly-Commended photos can be seen here. All images can be viewed at the exhibition that will open at the National Maritime Museum in London, UK, on October 23.
Annie Maunder Prize for Image Innovation
"Dark River" by Julie F. Hill (UK)
This work takes the concept of astrophotography to a literal next dimension. A gigapixel image of the Milky Way was printed by the artist on Japanese paper and then assembled in an incredible sculpture.
"The Green Lady" by Nicholas Roemmelt (Germany)
The Northern Lights are truly breathtaking and, like in many other phenomena in the sky, humans like to see figures in it. In this case, the "green lady" fills the whole sky with a burning gown of green, blue, and pink.
"Tycho Crater Region with Colours" by Alain Paillou (France)
Mixing two overlapping photographs, and accentuating the colors of the lunar soil, the different geology of our natural satellite is suddenly obvious. The blue hinting at the presence of high titanium oxides and the red pointing at iron oxides reveals the hidden colorful world behind the shades of gray of the Moon.
"Liquid Sunshine" by Alexandra Hart (UK)
On the surface of the Sun, these convection cells are the visible part of rising columns of superheated plasma, each one of them about 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) in diameter.
People and Space
"The Prison of Technology" by Rafael Schmall (Hungary)
An incredibly topical image. The star is the Albireo double star, surrounded by the trails of moving satellites. Over the last 18 months, hundreds of Elon Musk's Starlink satellites have launched, interfering with astronomical observations of both professionals and enthusiasts.
Planets, Comets and Asteroids
"Space Between US…" by Łukasz Sujka (Poland)
The close alignment of our Moon with the largest planet in the Solar System, Jupiter, which occurred on October 31, 2019.
"Painting the Sky" by Thomas Kast (Germany)
The winner of the Skyscapes category shows the majesty of polar stratospheric clouds, an uncommon atmospheric phenomenon with prismatic qualities that produce this incredible effect on the sky.
Stars & Nebulae
"Cosmic Inferno" by Peter Ward (Australia)
This image of NGC 3576 in a false-color palette shows the complex motion of gas from where new stars have just begun to shine. The photographer crafted the image in this way to mirror the images of the devastating Australian fires of last winter.
The Sir Patrick Moore Prize for Best Newcomer Special Prize
"Waves" by Bence Toth (Hungary)
This image of the central region of the California Nebula is an excellent example of the complexity of astrophotography. Specific filters provide greater details in observations, and using narrowband filters shows us what we would call the true color. In this work, the two are combined, delivering both something very close to the nebula's true color without losing too many details.
Young Astronomy Photographer
"The Four Planets and the Moon" by Alice Fock Hang (Reunion), aged 11
Capturing a planetary alignment at just 11 is certainly an incredible achievement. Taken just after sunset, this gorgeous picture has the Moon, Venus, Mercury, the star Antares, Jupiter, and Saturn floating above the Indian Ocean, and capped by the Milky Way.