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These Majestic Photos Will Give You A Spacegasm

The winners of the Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2015 competition have been announced and they'll make you want to leave planet Earth.

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Skyscapes category

"The total solar eclipse of 20 March 2015 seen from Svalbard – one of only two habitable locations that were able to witness totality – just 16 seconds after it began. The image shows totality about 100 metres above the large valley of Sassendalen situated on the only permanently inhabited island of the Norwegian archipelago. Venus can also be seen in the photograph, as a bright spot in the upper left of the image." – Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2015

"Taken on 7 July 2014 from Seaburn Beach, Sunderland, in the north of England. The photographer had seen nightly displays of noctilucent clouds for up to seven days prior to taking this shot – his first attempt at astrophotography – of the most vibrant display he witnessed. Noctilucent clouds are the highest clouds in the Earth’s atmosphere and form above 200,000 feet. Thought to be formed of ice crystals, the clouds occasionally become visible at twilight when the sun is below the horizon and illuminates them. They are usually bluish or silver in colour, but sometimes appear orangey-red or red when they are on the horizon, as seen in this photograph." – Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2015



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"Positioned 3,000 metres above sea level for a night of stargazing with a difference, the photographer captured the Milky Way, boasting star clouds and nebulae, expanding over towering peaks in the Hautes-Pyrénées." – Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2015

Aurorae category

"Taken in Abisko National Park in Lapland. The photographer had all but given up on seeing the aurora after spending many hours atop a mountain waiting to catch a glimpse of them. As he stumbled down the hill he saw the green reflection of the aurora in the snow and captured this breathtaking shot of the piercing blue light show coursing through the night sky." – Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2015

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"A little after midnight, when the nights in central Norway begin to get really bright, the photographer captured a phenomenal vision of greens and purples dancing across the sky above him, contrasting with the tangerine glow of the sunset towards the bottom of the image." – Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2015

"The vivid green aurora swirls across the night sky, countering the stillness of the Lomaas River and the snowy trees aligned on its banks. The photographer went the extra mile to achieve the beautiful shot, immersing himself in the river for over two hours in waters of a temperature of -15 degrees [celsius]. Upon exiting the river his wet waders froze almost immediately causing him to ‘waggle’ over to his car like a sumo wrestler and inspiring the name for this photograph." – Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2015

Galaxies category

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"Lying approximately 3 million light years away, M33 – often named the Triangulum Galaxy after the constellation it can be found in – is the third largest member of the Local Group of galaxies behind the Andromeda Galaxy and our very own galaxy, the Milky Way. It is one of the most distant permanent objects in the night sky that can be seen with the naked eye in optimum conditions." – Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2015

"Discovered in 1785 by William Herschel, the Antennae Galaxies are a pair of interacting or colliding galaxies (NGC4038 and NGC4039) whose gravitational fields have disturbed one another. Resembling the antennae of insects, the galaxies came to fame through the Hubble Telescope’s close-up images of them, but here they have been captured by an earthbound telescope and camera that has gathered 75 hours of exposure over the course of 38 nights from January to June 2014." – Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2015

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"NGC253, more commonly known as the Sculptor Galaxy and sometimes referred to as the Solver Coin or Silver Dollar Galaxy, is what is called a starburst galaxy, and is currently experiencing an era of intense star formation, and has created several super star clusters. The Sculptor Galaxy is one of the brightest galaxies in the sky, and can therefore be seen by just using binoculars in optimum conditions." – Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2015

Our Moon category

"An arresting shot of the Earth’s natural satellite is captured with the lunar terminator – the division between light and dark – cutting it almost exactly down the centre of the image. The dark side of the moon is subtly illuminated by the faint glow of the reflected light from Earth, contrasting starkly with the clearly defined detail photographed on the sun-drenched side." – Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2015

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"The International Space Station crosses the face of the moon and the lunar terminator, travelling at approximately 28,800 kilometres per hour. Towards the top of the image the rugged mountain range Montes Appenninus can be seen, with some peaks reaching over 5,000 metres. At the opposite end of the image, the photographer has captured Rupes Recta, a linear fault on the moon that is often a popular target for amateur astronomers." – Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2015

"An orange-hued moon as seen during the total lunar eclipse of 8 October 2014, taken from Lake Boga in Victoria, Australia. A lunar eclipse occurs when the moon passes through the Earth’s shadow and in this image our natural satellite has been completely immersed in the Earth’s shadow. Despite its name, during a total lunar eclipse, the moon doesn’t disappear entirely from view, but instead becomes a deep red. The brightness and colour of the moon will depend on the condition of the Earth’s atmosphere during the phenomenon, as it will be lit by light that has passed through our atmosphere and been bending towards the surface on the way." – Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2015

Our Sun category

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"A massive, searing hot loop of plasma radiates from the edge of our local star – the sun – in a phenomenon known as a solar prominence. Emanating from the outer of the sun shell from which light is emitted, also known as its photosphere; the photographer has captured this prominence extending to the corona, which is the aura of the plasma surrounding it, as it detaches from the gaseous body. During the process of detachment the prominence reached a length of over 700,000 kilometres – a length roughly equal to the radius of the sun itself." – Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2015

"An arresting image of the total solar eclipse of 20 March 2015, taken just after totality occurs and depicting the moments after the sun begun to emerge from behind the moon following approximately two minutes of coverage. Photographed from the Norwegian territory of Svalbard, which was one of only two habitable locations to experience totality." – Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2015

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"A photograph taken without the use of a cutting-edge camera. This image portrays six months of the sun’s movement across the sky of New Jersey in the USA, using the photographic method of solargraphy, in which a fixed pinhole camera is used to expose photographic paper for a significant amount of time." – Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2015

People and Space category

"Campers shelter from the wind next to old stone cottages looking up to Sunset Peak, the third-highest mountain in Hong Kong, standing at 869 metres tall. Above the mountain and at an even further distance from the campers, the stars appear to flash across the night sky leaving trails in their wake but are in fact portraying the movement of the Earth on its axis." – Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2015

"Our galaxy, the Milky Way, arcs over the Atacama Desert, Chile, as a lone astrophotographer basks in the glow of the stars, poised to capture the scene from below." – Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2015

"An engrossed stargazer stands in the spotlight of a brilliant display of the Aurora Borealis in Norway, seemingly about to be beamed up into space." – Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2015

Planets, Comets and Asteroids category

"A coincidental alignment shows the Comet C/2014 E2 Jacques travelling just below the famed Heart Nebula in the constellation of Cassiopeia. However, this fantastic shot is slightly misleading as the two objects are not quite as close as they appear to be, with the comet actually journeying within our solar system at a distance of several million kilometres from Earth, whilst the Heart Nebula lies much further away at a distance of 7,500 light years from our planet." – Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2015

"The instantly recognisable planet Saturn and its rings. The second largest planet in the solar system, Saturn has a surface diameter approximately 83 times more than Earth’s and its most familiar features are its planetary rings that extend from 6,630 kilometres to 120,700 kilometres above Saturn's equator and average approximately 20 metres in thickness." – Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2015

"A depiction of the conjunction of Mars and the Moon, captured on 6 July 2014 in Georgia, USA. A conjunction occurs when two astronomical objects – in this case the Moon and Mars – appear very close to each other in the plane of sight as observed from Earth. Here, our neighbouring planet Mars is dwarfed by the moon, but in actual fact Mars is about twice the size of the moon in diameter." – Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2015

Stars and Nebulae category

"The globular cluster Omega Centauri is a dense orb of approximately 10 million stars, many of which are redder, cooler, and even older than our sun. The cluster can be found 15,800 light years away from Earth and has a diameter of 150 light years." – Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2015

"A sparkling rainbow of colours as emitted by the brightest star in the night sky, Sirius. Although Sirius is often seen shining as a white star, it is also known to flash with hues of red, yellow, green, and blue as a result of turbulence in the Earth’s atmosphere. By moving the camera the photographer has revealed Sirius’ continually shifting colours by causing the star to trace a long, twisting line across the picture." – Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2015

"A phenomenal view of the huge expanse of the Orion complex, made up of 34 panes comprising over 400 hours of exposure. The red emission nebula Barnard’s Loop stretches – approximately 300 lightyears in length – across the vastness captured here, arcing around the famed Orion and Horsehead nebulae." – Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2015

Young Astronomy Photographer of the Year category

"Comet C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy made the news in late 2014 and early 2015 as it soared through the night sky and was visible to many with the naked eye, a sight that won’t be seen for another 8,000 years but was captured by 15-year-old George Martin on 18 December 2014. Comet Lovejoy has become known for its distinctive, bright green colouring, caused by excited molecules of cyanogen and diatomic carbon in its nucleus." – Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2015

"A close-up view of our ,oon detailing the many craters on its surface. The mosaic of 16 frames captures the craters of Copernicus, Kepler, Aristarchus, and Grimaldi, which were created between 3.8 to 4.1 billion years ago from continuous impacts from high-speed asteroids, in a period that is known as the Late Heavy Bombardment. Also seen in the image is the gloomy Ocean of Storms, a huge lunar mare or sea, made up of solidified basalt from volcanic activity that took place after the Late Heavy Bombardment." – Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2015

"A group of dead trees reach for the heavens, against a backdrop of whirling star trails in south Australia. Through the use of long exposures, the trails depict the rotation of the Earth on its axis centring on the south celestial pole, the sky moving clockwise around this point. However, in the northern hemisphere, the sky’s movement will be in the opposite direction – anticlockwise – and stars revolve around the north celestial pole." – Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2015

"The largest planet in the solar system, Jupiter, accompanied by three of its moons. Galileo discovered the planet’s four largest moons – Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto – in 1610, but it has since been discovered that Jupiter has 67 natural satellites. The gaseous planet is adorned with a series of bands known as zones (the lighter bands) and belts (the darker bands), formed by swirling clouds that constantly cover its surface. The 'Great Red Spot’, perhaps Jupiter’s most renowned characteristic and seen adjacent to one of its belts, is a huge storm that has persisted for at least 400 years since it was first seen, and is large enough to fit at least two Earths across." – Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2015

"The total solar eclipse of 20 March 2015 captured from a height of 37,000 feet above the clouds of the Faroe Islands. Taken through the window of a plane in the moments that the corona of the sun peers out from around the moon, the young photographer achieved this shot without the use of top-of-the-range equipment, but the camera on his iPad mini." – Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2015

Special Prize: The Sir Patrick Moore Prize for Best Newcomer

"Lying 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, due to the intense activity within the stellar nursery that sees thousands of new stars being created. The nebula is thought to measure about 24 light years across and have a mass 2,000 times that of our sun." – Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2015

Special Prize: Robotic Scope

"A close encounter between our neighbouring red planet Mars and Comet C/2013 A1, also known as Siding Spring, as it whizzes through the night sky on 22 October 2014. It was initially thought that there was a chance of collision between the comet and Mars when the comet was discovered in 2013, but this was ruled out when the comet’s orbit was determined more accurately. The comet’s closest approach to the planet was recorded on 19 October 2014 and it flew past at a relative velocity of 56 kilometres per second." – Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2015