5 Astronomy Photographer of the Year exhibition photos


27th Sep 2023 Inspire

3 min read

5 Astronomy Photographer of the Year exhibition photos
The annual Astronomy Photographer of the Year exhibition opened on September 16 at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London and includes some truly awe-inspiring images
If you’ve been to one of the 14 previous years of the Astronomy Photographer of the Year exhibition, you know just how mesmerising, majestic and inspiring the photographs of space are. From planets, skyscapes and the moon to the Sun, nebulae and galaxies, it’s not only one of the most skilful photography contests, it’s also the world’s biggest astrophotography competition.
Having been personally moved and wowed by the exhibition and winners from previous years, this year is definitely well worth a visit and is a bargain at just £10 for adults and £5 for children. Here are just a few of the many incredible winning photographs that you can see at the exhibition:

1. Andromeda, Unexpected by Marcel Drechsler, Xavier Strottner and Yann Sainty

Andromeda, Unexpected © Marcel Drechsler, Xavier Strottner and Yann Sainty
The overall winner of Astronomy Photographer of the Year 15 and winner of the Galaxies category is Marcel Drechsler, Xavier Strottner and Yann Sainty’s collaborative Andromeda, Unexpected. It captures a never-before-seen, huge plasma arc next to the Andromeda Galaxy (also known as M31), which has led scientists to investigate it, as it could be the largest such structure nearest us in the Universe. In the photograph by the three passionate amateur astronomers and astrophotographers appears as the slightly-curved blue cloud.
"It captures a never-before-seen, huge plasma arc next to the Andromeda Galaxy"
László Francsics judge and astrophotographer explains the importance of this photograph. "What does a discovery image look like? It is mostly a blurry black and white image that depicts an almost invisible faint dot or a spectrum that is incomprehensible to us," he says. "However, this was not the case this time. This astrophoto is as spectacular as it is valuable. It not only presents Andromeda in a new way, but also raises the quality of astrophotography to a new level."

2. The Running Chicken Nebula by Runwei Xu and Binyu Wang

The Running Chicken Nebula © Runwei Xu and Binyu Wang
Two 14-year-old boys from China, Runwei Xu and Binyu Wang, worked together to take the photograph that wins this year’s Young Astronomy of the Year award. The Running Chicken Nebula isn’t just impressive for the young age of the astrophotographers, as competition judge Yuri Beletsky details.
“This is a strikingly beautiful picture of the Running Chicken Nebula (IC2944). The photographer has managed to capture the vibrant colours of the nebula as well as the embedded star cluster.

“This cluster contains several hot, young stars whose intense radiation causes the surrounding nebula to glow. The interaction between the stellar winds from these stars and the denser pockets of material in the nebula leads to the creation of interesting features, such as Thackeray’s globules, which are potential sites of future star formation.”

3. Grand Cosmic Fireworks by Angel A

Grand Cosmic Fireworks © Angel An
The winner of the Skyscapes Award is this stunning photograph showing the extremely rare phenomenon of “sprites”—atmospheric luminescence that appear like fireworks. Angel An’s beautiful image was taken from the highest ridge of the Himalaya mountains.
"This stunning photograph shows the extremely rare phenomenon of “sprites”—atmospheric luminescence"
Judge Ed Bloomer said of the photograph: “This is not, as it might first appear, an enormous extra-terrestrial, but the lower tendrils of a sprite (red lightning)! This rarely seen electrical discharge occurs much higher in the atmosphere than normal lightning (and indeed, despite the name, is created by a different mechanism), giving the image an intriguingly misleading sense of scale. While the gradient of colours is beautiful by itself, impressively the image also reveals the delicate structure of the plasma. We really loved that the photographer didn’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.”

4. A Sun Question by Eduardo Schaberger Poupeau

A Sun Question © Eduardo Schaberger Poupeau
Expertly capturing a huge filament on the Sun in the shape of a question mark, the technical ability by Eduardo Schaberger Poupeau is staggering, as well as producing a photograph that’s both playful and artistic.
Judge Sheila Kanani said: “This is such a clever image as, while we have seen the granulation and surface of the Sun before, I've never seen a filament shaped like a question mark before. If you zoom into the surface of the Sun, the image has a paint-like quality – I feel like I can see the brush strokes. There’s a sense of movement and you can almost see the question-mark filament moving if you stare long enough.”

5. Black Echo by John White

Black Echo © John White
The winner of the Annie Maunder Prize for Image Innovation category, this photograph is an imaginative marvel. Using NASA’s Chandra Sonification Project, it visually captures the sound of the black hole at the centre of the Perseus Galaxy.
"It visually captures the sound of the black hole at the centre of the Perseus Galaxy"
The audio was played through a speaker onto which White attached a petri dish, blacked out at the bottom and then filled with about three millimetres of water. Using a macro lens and halo light in a dark room, White experimented with the audio and volumes to explore the various patterns made in the liquid. Judge Ed Bloomer comments:
“Most of the information in the Universe is imperceptible to human senses (or delivered by mechanisms that would annihilate an observer), yet most modern astronomical developments are about capturing such information. Interpreting and presenting that information is vital as well. Here, we are shown an interesting and playful visualisation of astronomical data that we could not ‘see’ by ourselves nor ‘hear’. This is an image of a sound generated by a source that is invisible. Stark, beautiful, rather weird, and certainly innovative!”

The Astronomy Photographer of the Year exhibition is on now. Book tickets here. 
Banner credit: Grand Cosmic Fireworks © Angel An

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