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The best astronomy photos of the year will leave you star-struck

These breathtaking images won honors from among 4,200 submitted photos.

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Gael Fashingbauer Cooper
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1 of 31 Brad Goldpaint

Transport the Soul

American photographer Brad Goldpaint beat out thousands of other amateur and professional photographers to win the Royal Observatory Greenwich's title of Insight Investment Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2018, and the $12,830 (£10,000, AU$18,000) top prize.

Goldpaint took this image, called Transport the Soul, in Moab, Utah. It contrasts that area's immense red rock formations with the Milky Way on the right, and the Andromeda galaxy on the left. It also won the People and Space category.

"Our planet is of extraordinary beauty and so is the entire universe," Oana Sandu, community coordinator for the European Southern Observatory, wrote about the image. "Here we are, standing small, at the edge of a cliff, observing it all."

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2 of 31 Andrew Whyte

Living Space

Andrew Whyte's entry, Living Space, was named runner-up in the People and Space category. The category covers photographs of the night sky that include people or a human-interest element.

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3 of 31 Mark McNeill

Me Versus the Galaxy

Mark McNeill's image, Me Versus the Galaxy, was highly commended in the People and Space category.

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4 of 31 Tianhong Li

Curtain Call Performance

This striking photo won Tianhong Li the Sir Patrick Moore Prize for Best Newcomer.

"The dishes of the radio heliograph at Ming'Antu in Inner Mongolia are designed to do radio astronomy on the sun," wrote Chris Bramley, editor of BBC Sky at Night Magazine. "But here, with the sun below the horizon and the Milky Way rising majestically up into the night sky, they are at rest and appear to be staring up in wonder at the majestic view."

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5 of 31 Jordi Delpeix Borrell

Inverted Colors

This photo by Jordi Delpeix Borrell won first place in the Our Moon category. Its full title is Inverted Colors of the Boundary Between Mare Serenitatis and Mare Tranquilitatis.

"This is one of my favorite photographs in the competition," wrote Sarah Pickering, an artist and a teaching fellow at the Slade School of Fine Art. "Using a muted color palette we are able to appreciate qualities of the moon's soil and contouring, which is at once incredibly beautiful, abstract and highly informative."

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6 of 31 Peter Ward

Earth Shine

Peter Ward's image, dubbed Earth Shine, was named runner-up in the Our Moon category.

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7 of 31 Laszlo Francscis

From the Dark Side

Laszlo Francscis' photo, From the Dark Side, was highly commended in the Our Moon category. The category covers all lunar images including lunar eclipses and occultations of planets.

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8 of 31 Nicolas Lefaudeux

Speeding on the Aurora Lane

Nicolas Lefaudeu won the top prize in the Aurorae category for this image, Speeding on the Aurora Lane.

"This image reminds me of one of the end scenes in 2001: A Space Odyssey," remarked astrophotographer Peter Lawrence. "The Aurora creates its own 'landscape.' This is a really well composed shot, beautifully processed."

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9 of 31 Matthew James Turner

Castlerigg

Matthew James Turner's image, Castlerigg, was runner-up in the Aurorae category.  It shows Castlerigg Stone Circle near Keswick in Cumbria, northwest England.

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10 of 31 Mikkel Beiter

Aurorascape

This colorful image was highly commended in the Aurorae category, which includes photographs featuring the Northern and Southern Lights. It was taken by Mikkel Beiter.

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11 of 31 Steven Mohr

NGC 3521: Mysterious Galaxy

Steven Mohr's image, NGC 3521: Mysterious Galaxy, won first place in the Galaxies category. 

Spiral galaxy NGC 3521 is a mere 35 million light-years away, 

"Even artists' impressions of galaxies don't come close to this... the real thing," wrote Ed Robinson, photographer, creative director, visual consultant and founder of OneRedEye Visual Communications. "A truly spectacular image that has my hairs standing on end just trying to comprehend the plethora of solar systems in this galaxy and the others surrounding it. Quite simply awe-inspiring."

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12 of 31 Cesar Blanco

Fireworks Galaxy

Cesar Blanco's Fireworks Galaxy was highly commended in the Galaxies category. That category covers deep space objects beyond the Milky Way Galaxy, including galaxies, galaxy clusters and stellar associations.

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13 of 31 Raul Villaverde Fraile

From Mirach

Here's the runner-up in the Galaxies category, From Mirach, by Raul Villaverde Fraile.

Mirach is a prominent star in the northern constellation of Andromeda.

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14 of 31 Nicolas Lefaudeux

Sun King, Little King and God of War

The first-place winner in the Our Sun category is Nicolas Lefaudeux's image titled Sun King, Little King, and God of War.

"Almost unbelievably brilliant!" wrote Jon Culshaw, a regular guest on BBC's The Sky at Night. "With the detail and breathtaking starkness captured in the corona, we could be forgiven for thinking we were seeing an eclipsed pulsar."

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15 of 31 Stuart Green

Colored Eruptive Prominence

Colored Eruptive Prominence, taken by Stuart Green, was the runner-up in the Our Sun category. 

The category covers all solar images including solar eclipses and transits.

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16 of 31 Haiyang Zong

AR2673

This image, AR2673, was highly commended in the Our Sun category. AR stands for "active region."

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17 of 31 Damian Peach

Two Comets with the Pleiades

Damian Peach's Two Comets with the Pleiades won the Robotic Scope category.

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18 of 31 Ferenc Szémár

Circumpolar

This photo, taken by Ferenc Szémár and titled Circumpolar, won the Skyscapes category.

"There's a dreamlike quality to this beautiful image, and a superb capture astronomically of the movement of Almach," wrote Jon Culshaw, a regular guest on BBC's The Sky at Night.

Almach is a bright star in the constellation Andromeda.

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19 of 31 Chuanjin Su

Eclipsed Moon Trail

Chuanjin Su's Eclipsed Moon Trail was the runner-up in the Skyscapes category. That category is a big one, covering landscape and cityscape images of twilight and the night sky featuring the Milky Way, star trails, meteor showers, comets, conjunctions, constellation rises, halos and noctilucent clouds, alongside elements of earthly scenery.

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20 of 31 Ruslan Merzlyakov

Midnight Glow over Limfjord

Midnight Glow over Limfjord, taken in Denmark by Ruslan Merzlyakov, was highly commended in the Skyscapes category. 

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21 of 31 Martin Lewis

The Grace of Venus

The Grace of Venus, taken by Martin Lewis through a home-built telescope, won first place in the Planets, Comets and Asteroids category.

"This elegant and minimal composition is a confident and striking view of Venus lit from behind by the sun," wrote Sarah Pickering, an artist and a teaching fellow at the Slade School of Fine Art. "It's a beautiful and contemplative image which has been very thoughtfully framed and isolated in the night sky."

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22 of 31 Martin Lewis

Parade of the Planets

Parade of the Planets, also taken by Martin Lewis, was named runner-up in the Planets, Comets and Asteroids category.

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23 of 31 Gerald Rhemann

Panstarrs, the Blue Carbon Monoxide Comet

Gerald Rheemann was highly commended in the Planets, Comets and Asteroids category for this image, Panstarrs, the Blue Carbon Monoxide Comet.

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24 of 31 Mario Cogo

Corona Australis Dust Complex

Corona Australis Dust Complex, by Mario Cogo, took first place in the Stars and Nebulae category.

"Each year these images become more and more tangibly real and three dimensional," said Jon Culshaw, a regular guest on BBC's The Sky at Night. "The depth and texture in this shot make it difficult to take your eyes away. Your view weaves all around as if within a maze."

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25 of 31 Mario Cogo

Rigel and the Witch Head Nebula

Mario Cogo was runner-up (to himself, since he won this category with a different image) in the Stars and Nebulae category with his photo of Rigel and the Witch Head Nebula.

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26 of 31 Rolf Wahl Olsen

Thackeray’s Globules in Narrowband Color

Rolf Wahl Olsen was highly commended for this photograph, Thackeray's Globules in Narrowband Color, in the Stars and Nebulae category.

This category covers deep space objects within the Milky Way Galaxy, including stars, star clusters, supernova remnants, nebulae and other intergalactic phenomena.

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27 of 31 Fabian Dalpiaz

Great Autumn Morning

Only those under 16 years of age may enter the Young Astronomy Photographer of the Year category.  Italian Fabian Dalpiaz, age 15, won with this image titled Great Autumn Morning.

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28 of 31 Logan Nicholson

The Eta Carinae Nebula

Logan Nicholson, age 13, of Australia, was the runner-up in the youth category with his image called The Eta Carinae Nebula.

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29 of 31 Davy van der Hoeven

A Valley on the Moon

Davy van der Hoeven, age 10, of the Netherlands, was highly commended in the youth category for A Valley on the Moon.

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30 of 31 Casper Kentish

First Impressions

British photographer Casper Kentish, who is 8 years old, was highly commended in the youth category for his photo, First Impressions.

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31 of 31 Thea Hutchinson

Inverted Sun

British photographer Thea Hutchinson, age 11, was highly commended in the youth category for her image titled Inverted Sun.

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