Astronomy Photographer of the Year Winners Reveal Our Stunning Universe
The beauty and mysteries of the universe unfold through the Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition run by the Royal Observatory Greenwich in the UK. Over 4,000 entries from 64 countries competed in categories dedicated to aurorae, galaxies and the interactions between people and space.
The top overall prize for Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2023 went to Marcel Drechsler, Xavier Strottner and Yann Sainty for a knockout view of the Andromeda galaxy. What's extraordinary is how the image reveals a massive plasma arc, seen as a blue blur, next to the galaxy. The arc is now under investigation by researchers. The image won not just for its beauty but also for its contribution to science.
As for the name of the arc? Meet the Strottner-Drechsler-Sainty Object 1 (SDSO-1).
The Eyes Galaxy
The winning image of the 2023 Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition beat out a lot of excellent contenders. An image of the Eyes Galaxy from Weitang Liang was the runner-up in the Galaxies category. "It is so small that it requires a large telescope to reveal all its details, not only the dust in the middle but also the tiny flares on the left and right," the photographer said.
Grand cosmic fireworks
This unreal image from Angel An took top place in the Skyscapes category of the Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2023 competition. The strange tendril-like formations are an example of an electrical discharge called a sprite, sometimes described as red lightning. "We really loved that the photographer doesn't capture the whole structure, which extends far beyond the top of the frame. It creates an unsettling, alien image that can't help but draw your eye," said judge Ed Bloomer.
Photographer Louis Leroux-Gere was the runner-up in the Skyscapes category with an image titled Celestial Equator Above First World War Trench Memorial. The streaks are star trails above the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in northern France.
A sun question
Photographer Eduardo Schaberger Poupeau named this image A Sun Question for a very good reason. A question-mark-shaped filament pops out from the orange surface of the sun. This image took top place in the Our Sun category of the Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2023 competition.
Photographer Peter Ward put a twist on the usual sun imagery with this runner-up in the Our Sun category. This "inside-out" view highlights eruptions around the sun.
That reddish planet peeking out from under the moon is Mars. Photographer Ethan Chappel captured this spectacular view of the moon and Mars in 2022. The image came out on top in the Our Moon category of the 2023 Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition.
Sundown on the terminator
The Plato Crater on the moon stars in Tom Willams' runner-up photo in the Our Moon category. The long shadows make for a dramatic landscape.
This abstract-looking swoosh of green took first place in the Aurorae category of the 2023 Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition. The green wave of light is an aurora. "We are accustomed to seeing aurora from an earthly perspective with mountains, trees and human-made structures framing the dancing lights. This photograph offers something different, showcasing the beauty of the aurora in isolation," said judge Kathern Gazzard.
Circle of light
This gorgeous stunner of a photo comes from Andres Ettl. This is the runner-up in the Aurorae category. The shot came from February 2023 in Norway.
Suspended in a sunbeam
Venus looks like an orange and white marble is this stark image from Tom Williams, winner of the Planets, Comets and Asteroids category of the 2023 Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition. "Capturing these atmospheric details from the sunlit side of the planet when it is so far from Earth is a remarkable achievement," said judge Laszlo Francsics.
Space photography can also be about the interactions between humanity and the universe. The winner of the Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2023 People and Space category is this poignant view of a stranded ship with star trails above. Photographer Vikas Chander named the image Zeila for the shipwreck that's located along the coast of Namibia.
New class of galactic nebulae around the star YY Hya
A haunting red nebula stars in this view from photographer Marcel Drechsler, an astrophotographer who was also involved in the winning image of Andromeda. The stellar remnant seen here took top place in the Stars and Nebulae category of the 2023 Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition run by the Royal Observatory Greenwich. The image comes with the straightforward title New Class of Galactic Nebulae Around the Star YY Hya.
Blinded by the light
Groovy. This colorful view of dust and stars earned Aaron Wilhelm a special nod with the Sir Patrick Moore Prize for best newcomer in the 2023 Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition. The image shows part of Sh2-132, also known as the Lion Nebula.
The Running Chicken Nebula
Runwei Xu and Binyu Wang earned recognition in the Young category of the 2023 Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition with this bright view of the Running Chicken Nebula. Also known as IC 2944, the nebula is located in the constellation Centaurus.
The Annie Maunder Prize for image innovation honors innovative astronomy photography. This image is a visualization of a sound from a black hole. John White used data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory. The audio came from pressure waves that were manipulated to make the sound audible to humans. White passed the audio into a speaker with a water-filled petri dish attached. The image is the water reacting to the sound.