Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2018: The Stunning Shortlisted Images

This year's shortlist includes magical images of the Milky Way and Northern Lights, as well as sights from across our Solar System, galaxy and the wider universe.
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Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2018: The Stunning Shortlisted Images Newsweek

A magical scene of an Aurora Borealis exploding over the south coast of Iceland, a mesmerizing photo of star trails swirling over Montana's northern Rocky Mountains, and the International Space Station dwarfed by sun spots as it transits across the face of our star; the Astronomy Photographer of the Year contest has once again received thousands of exceptional images.

The competition is now in its tenth year and continues to go from strength to strength, receiving over 4,200 spectacular entries from enthusiastic amateurs and professional photographers, from 91 countries around the globe. This year has also seen a phenomenal increase in entries from our aspiring young astrophotographers.

The judges have gone through this year's entries and chosen their shortlist of the best images. These include a glorious photo of the Milky Way looming over a thunderstorm lighting up the sky, a striking image of the Northern Lights refracted through icicles in Lapland, and a majestic image of deep space framed by the Breiðamerkurjökull, the glacial tongue that extends from the largest glacier in Europe.

The shortlisted photographers also captured sights from across our Solar System, galaxy and the wider universe, from a pin-sharp image of Saturn and its rings, to the 'Hidden Galaxy' that sits near the galactic equator. Some of the remarkable images captured by these enthusiasts in their suburban back gardens rival those captured by the Hubble Space Telescope.

Unlike Hubble, photographers on Earth have to contend with light pollution, atmospheric distortion and the vagaries of weather. One photographer traveled 2,000 kilometers to a remote region of Russia inside the Arctic Circle, where he planned to spend five nights capturing the Northern Lights. After four days of heavy snow and thick clouds it looked like a wasted journey. But on the last night the skies cleared, the Northern Lights appeared, and he got a stunning image that made the shortlist.

Some of the shortlisted photographers have come up with novel solutions to these problems, such as eliminating the city lights of Los Angeles by photographing the night sky from inside a cave, or staying at a remote farm in Namibia that is so free from light pollution the owners opened a guest house that caters exclusively to astronomers.

The contest has nine categories: Skyscapes; Aurorae; People and Space; Our Sun; Our Moon; Planets, Comets and Asteroids; Stars and Nebulae; Galaxies; and Young Astronomy Photographer of the Year.

The winners of each category and two special prizes will be announced on Tuesday October 23 at a special award ceremony at the National Maritime Museum, London. This year's winning images and a selection of previous winners will be displayed at a commemorative exhibition celebrating 10 years of outstanding astrophotography, at the National Maritime Museum from Wednesday October 24. Winners and shortlisted entries will also be published in the competition's official book.

Newsweek presents a section of the shortlisted images from the 2018 Astronomy Photographer of the Year contest, run by the Royal Observatory Greenwich, sponsored by Insight Investment and in association with BBC Sky at Night Magazine.

Kynance cove by night © Ainsley Bennett (UK). After visiting Kynance Cove on a family trip to Cornwall, the photographer had the idea of trying to capture the stars and the Milky Way illuminating the beautiful rocky coastline of the Lizard Peninsula. This is a composition of two separate exposures, one for the sky and one for the foreground blended together post-processing to achieve the desired result, producing a more even exposure. Kynance Cove, Cornwall, UK, 3 May 2017. Nikon D810 camera, 35mm sky: f/2.2 foreground: f/3.2, ISO sky: 4000 foreground: 1600, sky: 13-seconds foreground: 310-seconds exposure. Ainsley Bennett