The Royal Observatory Greenwich in the UK has shortlisted its nominees for its annual Insight Astronomer of the Year competition. From stunning aurora and shooting stars through to solar flares and distant nebulae, these images are guaranteed to astound.
This competition is now in its ninth year, and it only seems to be getting better. The shortlisted candidates (shown below) are some of the best astronomically-themed photos we’ve ever seen, and they showcase a wide array of celestial phenomenon.
This year, over 3,800 professional and amateur photographers from 91 countries submitted their photos. Winners will be announced on September 14, 2017, at a special ceremony at the Royal Observatory Greenwich. The winning images will be displayed in a free-of-charge exhibition at the Observatory’s Astronomy Centre starting September 16th.
This glorious shot shows the seven percent waxing crescent Moon setting in the evening sky over the Needles Lighthouse at the western tip of the Isle of Wight. Despite the Moon being a thin crescent, the rest of its shape is defined by sunlight reflecting back from the Earth’s surface.
The purples and greens of the Northern Lights loom over the coal mining city of Svea, in the archipelago of Svalbard. The earthy landscape below the glittering sky is lit up by the industrial lights at the pier of Svea.
A large, stellar prominence—a glowing cloud of gas extended in a magnetic field—reaches from the surface of the Sun during late August 2016. There are a number of different prominence types that have been observed emanating from the Sun, but this so-called “hedgerow” prominence resembles wild shrubbery.
This freaky shot was taken with a solargraphy pinhole camera. The image charts the movement of the Sun over the Astronomical Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences, Prague, with an exposure of half a year (December 21, 2015 to June 21, 2016). To create the photo, regular black-and-white photographic paper (a photosensitive material) was used, but not developed. After exposure, the negative was scanned and processed using a graphic editing program to adjust color and contrast. The rainbow of colors of the trails are the result of the photosensitive paper changing as it is exposed to different temperatures and humidity.
Here’s the Sun photographed in Calcium-K light, depicting our star’s inner chromosphere (a gaseous layer that, along with the corona, constitutes the star’s outer atmosphere). In the color-rendering scheme used, the surface is shown in negative, with the sunspots as bright spots, and the area outside the Sun’s outer perimeter (limb) shown with increased contrast, highlighting a surge on the western limb, and several small prominences.
A stunning aurora above the harbour in Tromsø, Norway. The photographer, Derek Burdeny, did not realize what he had shot until six months later when he was reviewing his images.
Located in the constellation of Gemini, IC443 is a galactic supernova remnant, a star that could have exploded as many as 30,000 years ago. Its globular appearance has earned the celestial structure the moniker of the Jellyfish Nebula.
This spectacular image shows the snow-clad mountain in the Eastern Sierra, while the Milky Way Galaxy hovers above.
Taken from The Peak—the highest mountain on Hong Kong Island—this vivid image shows the hustle and bustle of the city in contrast to the peaceful starry sky.
The International Space Station (ISS) whizzes across the dusky face of the Moon, while photographed in broad daylight. This is a real shot, with no compositing or clipping.
An explorer observes the constellation of the Big Dipper perfectly aligned with the entrance to a large glacier cave in Engadin, Switzerland. This is a panorama of two pictures, and each is a stack of another two pictures—one for the stars and another one for the foreground. The photographer didn’t adjust the photo in any other way—all elements are where they are supposed to be both in time and space.
On the night of Halloween 2016, the Near Earth Asteroid 164121 (2003 YT1) made a close encounter with Earth at three million miles.
Hidden in the constellation of Orion, at a distance of 1,467 light years from Earth, is nebula 2023. This object is most often photographed next to the famous Horsehead Nebula, but here the photographer has given NGC 2023 the spotlight. The detail in this shot is breathtaking.
The reflection in the wave ripples of Skagsanden beach mirrors the brilliant green whirls of the Aurora Borealis in the night sky overhead. To get the effect of the shiny surface, photographer Beate Behnke had to stand in the wave zone of the incoming flood. Only when the water receded very low did the opportunity to capture the beautiful scene occur.
This series of Mars images was taken between June 1 and July 3, 2016, showing Mount Olympus in three different positions. Mount Olympus—also known as Olympus Mons—is the tallest volcano in the Solar System.
Located 1,300 light years away from Earth, the Orion Nebula is found in Orion’s Sword in the famous constellation named after the blade’s owner. The Orion Nebula is one of the most photographed and studied objects in the night sky. The nebula is thought to measure about 24 light years across and have a mass 2,000 times that of our Sun.
A lone stargazer sits atop the peak of Castell-Y-Gwynt (Castle of the Winds) on Glyder Fach Mountain in Snowdonia, North Wales, beneath a starry night sky during freezing temperatures in mid-winter.
The Milky Way rises above a small radio telescope from a large array at Miyun Station, National Astronomical Observatory of China, near Beijing. This image depicts the ever-growing light pollution we now experience, which together with electromagnetic noise has turned many optical and radio observatories near cities both blind and deaf.
After a long hike from his small cabin to Kvalvika, Lofoten Islands in Norway, photographer Nicolas Alexander Otto arrived at the slopes above the beach around midnight. During the hike, the auroral display was relatively weak, but when he arrived at the beach the sky erupted in a colorful spectacle of greens and purples set against the mossy, green landscape.
A shooting star flashes across the sky over the craggy landscape of Portland, Dorset, as Venus looks on. The image is of two stacked exposures: one for the sky and one for the rocks.
A stunning photo showing stars “beaming” down on to the Meili Snow Mountains, also known as the Prince Snow Mountains—the highest peaks in the Yunnan Province, China.
A brilliant shot of the Super Moon illuminating the night sky as it sets behind the Marmarole, in the heart of the Dolomites in Italy. On the evening of November 14, 2016, the Moon was nearly 360 km away from the center of the Earth, the closest occurrence since 1948. It will not be closer again until 2034. On this night, the Moon was 30 percent brighter and 14 percent bigger than other full moons.
This is the first time that a photo of the distant ice giant Uranus, located 2.6 billion kilometres (at its closest) away from our own planet, has been entered into the competition.
Gorgeous noctilucent clouds stretch across the Swedish sky illuminating a motorcyclist’s ride home in this dramatic display.