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See the 31 most breathtaking astronomy photos of the year

From eclipses and the Milky Way to star-spangled skies and lonely planets, here's a dazzling look at the winners of a worldwide contest.

Ever used your phone to snap a photo of an especially brilliant moon or star-studded sky? The resulting image is usually as small and sad as an accidental selfie of the inside of your pocket.

Thankfully, there are photographers out there, armed with telescopes and real cameras who know what they're doing. 

Britain's Royal Observatory Greenwich announced last week the winners of its annual Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition, and a Yank claimed first place. Brad Goldpaint beat out more than 4,000 other amateur and pro photographers with a stunning shot of the Milky Way and the Andromeda galaxy soaring above the red rocks of Utah. 

Goldpaint took home $12,830 (£10,000, AU$18,000) for winning. His photograph and those of other winners will be exhibited at the National Maritime Museum in London until May 5.