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Winning astronomy photos of the year show our amazing universe (pictures)

Winners of the Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2015 contest captured auroras, galaxies and grand skyscapes.

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Amanda Kooser
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1 of 12 Paolo Porcellana/Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year

Prominence from the sun

The Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2015 contest shares its winners' mind-bending images of distant galaxies, glowing green auroras and faraway planets.

Italian photographer Paolo Porcellana captured a blazing prominence emitted from the sun in this winning image from the Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year contest. It took top honors in the Our Sun category. Porcellana used a homemade telescope in the process of photographing this spectacular event.

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2 of 12 Luc Jamet/Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year

Astronomy photo contest overall winner

French photographer Luc Jamet took the crown with this image of a solar eclipse taken on March 20 in Norway. The moon is a black dot inside the sun's glow and Venus makes an appearance as a pinpoint in the upper left.

This photo won both the Skyscapes category and the overall top award for the Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2015 contest.

"It is one of those heart-stoppingly beautiful shots for which you feel grateful to the photographer for sharing such an exceptional moment," writes judge Melanie Vandenbrouck.

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3 of 12 Matt Robinson/Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year

Skyscapes runner-up

Photographer Matt Robinson from the UK titled this image "Sunderland Noctilucent Cloud Display." Robinson's first ever attempt at astrophotography earned him the runner-up award in the Skyscapes category.

According to NASA, noctilucent clouds "form at the edge of space 83 km above our planet's polar regions in a layer of the atmosphere called the mesosphere. Seeded by 'meteor smoke,' NLCs are made of tiny ice crystals that glow electric blue when sunlight lances through their cloud-tops."

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4 of 12 Jamen Percy/Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year

Silk Skies with aurora

This image looks like it came from a video game, but it's from a real location in Abisko National Park in Sweden. The dark swathe toward the upper left of the photo is a track of the photographer's footprints. This image is the winner of the Aurorae category.

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5 of 12 Michael van Doorn/Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year

Triangulum galaxy glows

The Messier 33 galaxy is more popularly known as the Triangulum galaxy. Photographer Michael van Doorn's detailed image taken through a telescope won the Galaxies division.

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6 of 12 András Papp/Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year

Face of the moon

The winner of the Our Moon category is this photo by András Papp taken using a telescope in Hungary. It's a beautiful, crisp view of our lunar neighbor.

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7 of 12 Chap Him Wong/Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year

Star trails

The People & Space category garnered some interesting photos. The winner is this image taken in Hong Kong showing star trails curving across the night sky. It was taken on Sunset Peak, Hong Kong's third-highest mountain, and shows a stone cottage to the left.

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8 of 12 Lefteris Velissaratos/Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year

Comet crossing a nebula

Two spectacular space phenomena are on display in this image showing Comet/014 E2 Jacques in front of the NGC 896 Nebula. Lefteris Velissaratos took the photo through a telescope from the vantage point of Stethi Mountain in Greece. It took top place in the Planets, Comets & Asteroids category.

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9 of 12 Ignacio Diaz Bobillo/Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year

Omega Centauri shines

Photographer Ignacio Diaz Bobillo is fascinated by Omega Centauri, a globular star cluster in the Milky Way.

"I always come back to this spectacular object, especially when it is high up in the sky on a night of good seeing, as in this case," he writes about the image that took the top spot in the Stars & Nebulae category.

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10 of 12 George Martin/Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year

Top youth astronomy photographer

George Martin, a 15-year-old in the UK, could have a promising future in astrophotography after taking top place in the Young Competition category. The image shows the comet Lovejoy streaking through the heavens.

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11 of 12 Arild Heitmann/Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year

Green aurora in Norway

This photo of an aurora-lit Norwegian dreamscape received a "highly commended" in the Aurorae category of the contest. The river reflects the dramatic lighting and surrounding snow-covered trees. Photographer Arild Heitmann stood in the cold river in waders to capture the image.

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12 of 12 Chris Bakley/Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year

Pinhole view of the sun's trails

This image is a unusual entry into the Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year contest. Photographer Chris Bakley captured it over the course of six months using a homemade pinhole camera. It tracks the movement of the sun across the sky, creating an otherworldly view of the landscape in the process.

The photo was "highly commended" in the Our Sun category.

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