Dust clouds, star trails and meteor races: Astronomy Photographer of the Year award shortlist

Sarah Spickernell
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The collection includes images from our own planet and beyond (Source: David Kingham)

The Royal Observatory has revealed its shortlist of candidates for the 2014 Astronomy Photographer of the Year award.

The selected photographs are not limited to celestial sights on our planet: they also include images from across our Solar System, galaxy and even further afield.

From a rare daytime scene of Jupiter moments before its astronomical alignment behind the body of the Moon, to the searing heat of the Crescent Nebula glowing in a whirl of red and blue, the collection represents what the judges consider to be the most incredible astronomical sights to have been captured over the last year.

The competition, run in association with BBC Sky at Night Magazine, welcomed entries from photographers of any professional level around the world via a dedicated Flickr group.

The winners of the competition's four main categories: Earth and Space, Our Solar System, Deep Space and Young Astronomy Photographer of the Year, will be announced on 17 September and then exhibited at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich until February 2015.

The shortlist

A Giant's Star Trail

Photographer: © Rob Oliver (UK)

Separated from the sky by the stark line of the horizon, the atomic symmetries of crystallized rock display themselves in the hexagonal columns of the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland.

Cave With Aurora Skylight

Photographer: © Ingólfur Bjargmundsson (Iceland)

Taken while exploring a 1300m lava cave in Iceland, this photo shows the aurora at its peak, gleaming through the cave's roof.

Celestial Dance

Photographer: © Claus Possberg (Germany)

The Northern Lights are pictured unfolding over a fjord, in Skjervøy, Troms, Norway. The vibrant colours are produced at various altitudes by different atmospheric gases, with blue light emitted by nitrogen and green by oxygen.

Centre of the Heart Nebula

Photographer: © Ivan Eder (Hungary)

Situated 7500 light years away in the ‘W’-shaped constellation of Cassiopeia, the Heart Nebula is a vast region of glowing gas, energized by a cluster of young stars at its centre. The image depicts the central region, where dust clouds are being eroded and moulded into rugged shapes by the searing cosmic radiation.


Photographer: © Ole Christian Salomonsen (Norway)

On 30 October a CME (Coronal Mass Ejection) hit Earth, displaying multi-coloured auroras across the sky for most of the night in Kattfjordeidet, Tromsø, Norway.

Eclipse and Old Faithful

Photographer: © Robert Howell (USA)

Visitors witness the Old Faithful geyser in Yellowstone National Park erupt as the Moon partially eclipses the Sun.

Eta Aquarid Meteor Shower over Mount Bromo

Photographer: © Justin Ng (Singapore)

A bright meteor streaks across the sky over the smoke-spewing Mount Bromo just one day before the peak of the Eta Aquarid meteor shower, which is caused by Halley’s Comet.

Father and Son Observe Comet PanSTARRS

Photographer: © Chris Cook (USA)

A father and his young son watch the evening display of Comet PanSTARRS on First Encounter Beach, Eastham, Massachusetts, USA. The photographer had spent weeks preparing the shoot to capture the comet, which will not be seen again for over 100,000 years.

Geminid Fireball

Photographer: © Patrick Cullis (USA)

The Geminid meteor shower races over the Flatirons of Boulder, Colorado, in December 2012. Here, a larger than usual fragment burns bright enough to outshine all of the planets, producing what is commonly called a Fireball.

In-flight Entertainment

Photographer: © Paul Williams (UK)

Colourful aurora seen from the window of a transatlantic flight between London and New York in February 2014.

NGC 6888

Photographer: © Mark Hanson (USA)

Starscape taken from Rancho Hidalgo, New Mexico. It reveals the searing heat of the Crescent Nebula glowing in a whirl of red and blue. The emission nebula is a colossal shell of material ejected from a powerful but short-lived Wolf-Rayet star (WR 136), seen close to the image centre.

Occultation of Jupiter

Photographer: © Sebastián Guillermaz (Argentina)

An unusual daytime view of an astronomical alignment, captured from the photographer’s backyard in Los Polvorines, Buenos Aires, Argentina. The image shows the moments just before the planet Jupiter is blocked from view by the Moon.

Orion Nebula

Photographer: © Anna Morris (USA)

In this view of M42, more commonly known as the Orion Nebula, the photographer has emphasized the delicate veils of dust surrounding the more familiar gleaming heart of the nebula.

Oxbow Bend Reflections

Photographer: © David Kingham (USA)

The Milky Way reflected in the Snake River at the famous Oxbow Bend in Grand Teton National Park.

Star Trails on the Beach

Photographer: © Sebastián Guillermaz (Argentina)

Multiple shots have been used to produce a time-lapse effect, as the Earth’s rotation draws the light from the stars into long trails arcing over the beach in Mar de Ajo, Buenos Aires Province, Argentina.

The Great Orion Nebula

Photographer: © Gray Olson (USA)

The sprawling stellar nursery of the Orion Nebula situated 1350 light years away and home to stars at diverse stages of their lives, captured by 15 year old Gray Olson.

The Turbulent Heart of the Scorpion

Photographer: © Rolf Wahl Olsen (New Zealand)

A display of light and shade in the core of the multiple star system, Rho Ophiuchi.

Three Planets in Conjunction

Photographer: © Lóránd Fényes (Hungary)

Sunset over the African savannah, with the planetary alignment of Jupiter, Venus and Mercury in the background.

What the...!

Photographer: © Tommy Richardsen (Norway)

A flare up of the aurora over Steinsvik beach, in Nordreisa, Troms, Norway. It lasted no more than ten minutes from start to finish but it lit up the entire sky.

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