Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2018

Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2018
It's 2018, the 10th anniversary of the Astronomy Photographer of the Year awards. The Royal Observatory Greenwich first hosted the winners in 2009. This year the event took place in the National Maritime Museum with this year's winning photos — plus some great past winners — exhibited in a brand new gallery.

Since 2015, Insight Investments has sponsored the competition, and they are certainly backing a winner. In 2018 there were well over ten times as many entries as in 2009. Some 4200 entries came from 91 countries, and all seven continents were represented.

I'll be highlighting my favorites of the 31 awards, but you can find the url for the 2018 Winners, showing all the winning photos, at the end of this article.

Overall winner and Young Competition winner
The nine judges were unanimous in choosing Brad Goldpaint (USA) as the Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2018. His photo, “Transport the Soul”, taken in Moab, Utah was also the winner of the People and Space category. That's a category for “photographs of the night sky including people or a human interest element.”

I don't always agree with the judges, but this photograph is magnificent. Will Gater, one of the judges, described it as
emblematic of everything it means to be an astrophotographer; the balance between light and dark, the contrasting textures and tones of land and sky and the photographer alone under a starry canopy of breathtaking scale and beauty.
The Young Photographer of the Year, 15-year-old Fabian Dalpiaz (Italy), produced an exquisite image of a meteor and the Milky Way over the Dolomites in Italy. His “Great Autumn Morning” could be a painting by one of the great masters of landscape painting.

Earth and Sky
In the Skyscapes category, landscape or cityscape images are combined with elements of the night (or twilight) sky. Ferenc Szemar (Hungary) won with “Circumpolar”. At a given latitude, circumpolar stars – stars near the pole – don't set. The image shows a dreamlike landscape, blended with the glow of the Hungarian city of Galyateto, beneath a golden streak in a winter sky. The streak is the circumpolar star Almach. It was photographed over a period of time, and the resulting star trail skims the horizon, but doesn't drop below it.

Although Matthew James Turner (UK) was the runner up in the Aurorae category, his photo could easily have been entered in Skyscapes. Moonlight illuminates the ancient stone circle of Castlerigg in England that has stood on a hilltop for 5000 years, surrounded by a ring of mountains. Unusually for Britain, a magical aurora fills the sky above the mountains.

Our Moon
The Moon isn't a colorful sight. Black, white and shades of gray are what we see. However Jordi Delpeix Borrell (Spain) used a muted color palette for his image "Inverted colors of the boundary between Mare Serenitatis and Mare Tranquilitatis". (This is the region in which the Apollo 11 astronauts landed in 1969.) Beside its aesthetic value, a color palette has traditionally been used to highlight structure and interesting features that are otherwise difficult to see.

For the Young Competition, an 8-year-old Casper Kentish (UK) also photographed the Moon. His “First Impressions” was Highly Commended. It's an impressive piece of work – he used a telescope and an iPad to make the photograph.

Planets, Comets and Asteroids
Martin Lewis (UK) won in this category with “The Grace of Venus”. We can't see any features on Venus through its thick clouds, but like the Moon, Venus has phases as seen from Earth. The photo shows an elegant slim crescent backlit by the Sun in a dark sky.

Lewis was also the runner up in this category with “Parade of the Planets”. From his backyard in England on planet Earth, he photographed each of the other seven planets of the Solar System. The composite image showed them lined up, each at the size it would appear through a telescope.

Stars and Nebulae
Mario Cogo (Italy) also got a double win, being both the winner and runner up in the Stars and Nebulae category, which is dedicated to deep sky objects in or near our own Galaxy. A splendid image of the “Corona Australis Dust Complex” took the main prize. Its beauty and detail are the result of a six-hour exposure under a dark sky in Namibia.

In “Rigel and the Witch Head Nebula”, Cogo showed the blue of the Witch Head reflection nebula illuminated by Rigel, a bright star in the constellation Orion.

The Milky Way has some small neighboring galaxies, but most galaxies are many millions of light years away. The winning photograph was “NGC 3521, Mysterious Galaxy”. Steven Mohr (Australia) imaged this beautiful spiral galaxy, which is 26 million light years away in the constellation Leo. The colors of the galaxy show something of its structure. The yellow-red region is composed of older stars, while the blue in the spiral arms are stellar nurseries with young hot blue stars. The attractive background of stars is actually a foreground of stars in our own Galaxy.

You can see all the winning photographs on the Royal Museums Greenwich website:

You Should Also Read:
Royal Observatory Greenwich
Aurorae – Polar Light Shows
What Is a Galaxy

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