Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2018: The Stunning Shortlisted Images

This year's shortlist includes magical images of the Milky Way, Northern Lights and the Moon, as well as sights from across our Solar System, galaxy and the wider universe. 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.

01 Holding-Due-North-©-Jake-Mosher
Holding Due North © Jake Mosher (USA).
A weathered juniper tree in Montana's northern Rocky Mountains is filled with arced star trails and in the centre sits Polaris, the brightest star in the constellation of Ursa Minor. It took several test frames of long exposures to make sure that Polaris was in the right position, but eventually things lined up and the Moon provided enough light to the foreground, yet plenty of dark skies to allow a high enough ISO to capture lots of stars.
Choteau, MT, USA, 23 November 2017. Nikon D810 camera, 20mm f/4 lens, ISO 1600, multiple 40-second exposures.
© Jake Mosher
02 Magic-©-Jingyi-Zhang
Magic © Jingyi Zhang (Australia).
The magical Aurora Borealis explodes from the clouds and looms over the mountains in Stokknes on the south coast of Iceland. Snow has melted and created pools of water between the dunes, creating a perfect foreground for this image.
Stokksnes, Iceland, 16 February 2018. Canon 5D mark III camera, 16mm f/1.6 lens, ISO 10000, 6/1 exposure.
Jingyi Zhang
03 Andromeda-galaxy-©-Péter-Feltóti
Andromeda galaxy © Péter Feltóti (Hungary).
Andromeda Galaxy has always amazed the photographer. The dust lanes and bright star clusters in its arms, the emblematic galaxy shape of it, and the magnificent look of this great star city make it one of his most desired objects to photograph. This image was taken using a 200mm mirror and creating a three panel mosaic.
Mezőfalva, Hungary, 20 October 2017. SkyWatcher 200/800 Newton astrograph telescope, SkyWatcher NEQ6 pro mount, Canon EOS 600D camera (modded), 800 mm f/4 lens, ISO 800, 3.79-second exposure.
Péter Feltóti
05 The-neglected-neighbour-©-Kfir-Simon
The neglected neighbor © Kfir Simon (Israel).
Taken from a remote guest farm in Namibia that caters for astronomers, the great Horsehead nebula is overlooking the striking and often overlooked Nebula NGC 2023. At 4 light years in diameter it is one of the largest reflection nebulae ever discovered.
Tivoli Southern Sky Guest Farm, Namibia, 4 January 2018. 16" Hypergraph F8 telescope, ASA DDM85 mount, FLI Proline PL16803, 3250mm f/4.5 (406mm aperture) lens, LRGB image Lum 120min Bin 1 RGB 20 min each Bin2.
Kfir Simon
06 Deep-Space-©-Dave-Brosha
Deep Space © Dave Brosha (Canada).
Exploring the remarkable underbelly of the Breiðamerkurjökull glacial tongue in Iceland. With this image the photographer wanted to pay tribute to the serenity and wonder he felt while he spent some time in this peaceful and magnificent place.
Vatnajökull, Iceland, 5 February 2018. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV camera, 14mm f/2.5 lens, ISO 3200, 30/1 exposure.
Dave Brosha
06 Milky-Way-shining-over-Atashkooh-©-Masoud-Ghadiri
Milky Way shining over Atashkooh © Masoud Ghadiri (Iran).
The Milky Way stretches across the night sky between four columns in the ancient Atashkooh Fire Temple near Mahllat city in Iran. The camera was placed on the ground in the centre of the four columns, and with no use of any other equipment, the photographer managed to capture our magnificent galaxy using just one image.
Mahallat, Iran, 2 May 2017. Nikon D810 camera, 15mm f/2.8 lens, ISO 3200, 29/1 exposure.
Masoud Ghadiri
07 Earth-Shine-©-Peter-Ward
Earth Shine © Peter Ward (Australia).
During a solar eclipse, the brightness of the solar corona hides the details of the moon. By layering 9 exposures ranging from 2 seconds to 1/2000th of a second and with Extreme High Dynamic Range photography or XHDR the image shows not just the radiant solar corona, but the newest possible of new moons, seen here illuminated by sunlight reflecting off the earth.
Jackson Hole, USA, 21 August 2017. Takahashi FSQ85 telescope, Losmandy Starlapse mount, Canon 5D Mark IV camera, 9 exposures ranging from ISO 100 to 900, 2 seconds through to 1/4000th exposures.
Peter Ward
07 Ice-Castle-©-Arild-Heitmann
Ice Castle © Arild Heitmann (Norway).
A remarkable display of the Northern Lights reflecting shades of green and yellow on the snow. Squeezed into a tiny cave on Lake Torneträsk, in Swedish Lapland, in minus 26 degrees with the camera lens just a few centimeters away from the icicles, it was a challenge well worth it for the photographer.
Abisko, Sweden, 18 February 2018. Sony A7S2 camera, 14mm f/2.5 lens, ISO 2500, 10-second exposure.
Arild Heitmann
08 Kynance-cove-by-night-©-Ainsley-Bennett
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
10 The-Orion-Nebula-in-6-Filter-Narrowband-©-Bernard-Miller
The Orion Nebula in 6-Filter Narrowband © Bernard Miller (USA).
One of the brightest nebulae, the M42 or the Orion Nebula, is located in the Milky Way south of Orion’s belt. It is an emission nebula about 1,500 light years away in the constellation of Orion. This image was produced by combining 36 hours of total exposure using six different filters. The central Trapezium cluster of the nebula is so bright that it is usually over exposed with the long exposures needed for the nebula. In this image a series of short 3-second exposures in each filter were blended with the long exposures to create a high dynamic range image that produces detail in the faint nebula and bright Trapezium.
Animas, NM, USA, 25 December 2017. Planewave CDK-17 telescope, Paramount ME mount, FLI PL16803 camera, 2940mm f/6.8 lens, 18x30 minutes Ha, 18x30 minutes SII, 18x30 minutes OIII, 12x15 minutes Red, 12x15 minutes Green, 12x15 minutes Blue, 16x30 seconds RGB exposures.
Bernard Miller
11 Expedition-to-Infinity-©-Jingpeng-Liu
Expedition to Infinity © Jingpeng Liu (USA).
The photographer captured the splendor of our galaxy in Badlands National Park in South Dakota. This image is a panoramic view of a 6-shot composite, three for the sky and three for the foreground, all of which were taken successively using the same gear and equivalent exposure settings, from the same location, within a short period. The raw files were processed in Lightroom and merged to panorama in Photoshop.
Badlands National Park, USA, 24 June 2017. Canon EOS 6D camera, 24mm f/2 lens, ISO 4000, 120-seconds exposure.
Jingpeng Liu