Winners of the Coveted 2020 Astronomy Photographer of the Year Announced – See The Universe In A New Light
The Royal Observatory Greenwich has revealed the winners of the coveted 2020 Astronomy Photographer of the Year awards with this year’s top prize going to an amazing image of the Andromeda galaxy shot in a “tilt-shift” method giving you the sense that you can reach out and actually touch the galaxy that is so far away!
Now in its twelfth year, the competition received over 5,000 entries from six continents. The best of these exceptional photographs – winners, runners-up, highly commended and shortlisted – are showcased in the Insight Investment Astronomy Photographer of the Year exhibition at the National Maritime Museum, opening to the public from 23 October 2020.
Images were submitted for one of 9 categories—including Galaxies, Aurorae, Our Moon, People and Space, and Young Photographer of the Year, among others—and a total of 11 images were honoured. There are 9 category winners, one overall winner selected from the categories, and two special prices for “best newcomer” and “imaging innovation.”
The overall winner will receive £10,000. Winners of all other categories and the Young Astronomy Photographer of the Year will receive £1,500. There are also prizes for runners-up (£500) and highly commended (£250) entries. The Special Prize winners will receive £750. All of the winning entries will receive a one-year subscription to BBC Sky at Night Magazine.
Full details of 2020’s winners:
- Nicolas Lefaudeux (France) with Andromeda Galaxy at Arm’s Length? (Winner and Overall Winner)
- Mark Hanson (USA) with NGC 3628 with 300,000 Light Year Long Tail (Runner-Up)
- Juan-Carlos Munoz-Mateos (Spain) with Attack on the Large Magellanic Cloud (Highly Commended)
- Nicholas Roemmelt (Germany) with The Green Lady (Winner)
- Tom Archer (UK) with Lone Tree under a Scandinavian Aurora (Runner-Up)
- Kristina Makeeva (Russia) with Iceland (Highly Commended)
- Alain Paillou (France) with Tycho Crater Region with Colours (Winner)
- Ethan Roberts (UK) with HDR Partial Lunar Eclipse with Clouds (Runner-Up)
- Daniel Koszela (Poland) with Moon Base (Highly Commended)
- Alexandra Hart (UK) with Liquid Sunshine (Winner)
- Filip Ogorzelski Poland) with 145 Seconds of Darkness (Runner-Up)
- Alan Friedman (USA) with Ultraviolet (Highly Commended)
People and Space
- Rafael Schmall (Hungary) with The Prison of Technology (Winner)
- Tian Li (China) with Observe the Heart of the Galaxy (Runner-Up)
- Yang Sutie (China) with AZURE Vapor Tracers (Highly Commended)
Planets, Comets and Asteroids
- Łukasz Sujka (Poland) with Space Between Us… (Winner)
- Martin Lewis (UK) with In the Outer Reaches (Runner-Up)
- Robert Stephens (USA) with The Ghost of Alnilam and a Near Earth Asteroid (Highly Commended)
- Thomas Kast (Germany) with Painting the Sky (Winner)
- Stefan Liebermann (Germany) with Desert Magic (Runner- Up)
- Weijian Chen (China) with Voice of the Universe (Highly Commended)
Stars and Nebulae
- Peter Ward (Australia) with Cosmic Inferno (Winner)
- Connor Matherne (USA) with The Dolphin Jumping out of an Ocean of Gas (Runner-Up)
- Min Xie (USA) with The Misty Elephant’s Trunk (Highly Commended)
- Alice Fock Hang (Réunion – aged 10) with The Four Planets and the Moon (Winner)
- Thea Hutchinson (UK – aged 13) with Detached Prominences (Runner-Up)
- Logan Nicholson (Australia – aged 15) with The Carina Region (Highly Commended)
- Xiuquan Zhang (China – aged 12) with Light Bridge in the Sky (Highly Commended)
- Winslow Barnwood (USA – aged 15) with Collision Course! (Highly Commended)
Special Prize: The Sir Patrick Moore prize for Best Newcomer
- Bence Toth (Hungary) with Waves (Winner)
Special Prize: Annie Maunder Prize for Image Innovation
- Julie F Hill (UK) with Dark River (Winner)
Let’s have a look at all the winning images below;
Andromeda Galaxy at Arm’s Length? © Nicolas Lefaudeux (France) – WINNER AND OVERALL WINNER
Have you ever dreamt of touching a galaxy? This version of the Andromeda Galaxy seems to be at arm’s length among clouds of stars. Unfortunately, this is just an illusion, as the galaxy is still 2 million light-years away. In order to obtain the tilt-shift effect, the photographer 3D-printed a part to hold the camera at an angle at the focus of the telescope. The blur created by the defocus at the edges of the sensor gives this illusion of closeness to Andromeda.
Sky-Watcher Black Diamond 100 mm apochromatic refractor telescope at f/9, iOptron iEQ30 mount, Sony ILCE-7S camera (modified), ISO 2000, 2 hours 30 minutes total exposure
The Green Lady © Nicholas Roemmelt (Germany) – WINNER
The photographer had heard a lot of stories about the ‘lady in green’. Although he has had the chance to photograph the Northern Lights many times, he had never seen the ‘green lady’ before. On a journey to Norway, she unexpectedly appeared with her magical green clothes making the whole sky burn with green, blue and pink colours.
Canon EOS R camera, 14 mm f/1.8 lens, ISO 6400, 4 x 1.6-second exposures
Tycho Crater Region with Colours © Alain Paillou (France) – WINNER
The Tycho crater is one of the most famous craters on the Moon. This huge impact has left very impressive scars on the Moon’s surface. With the colours of the soils, Tycho is even more impressive. This picture combines one session with a black-and-white camera, to capture the details and sharpness, and one session with a colour camera, to capture the colours of the soils. These colours come mainly from metallic oxides in small balls of glass and can give useful information about the Moon’s geology and history. The blue shows a high titanium oxide concentration and the red shows high iron oxide concentration. This picture reveals the incredible beauty and complexity of our natural satellite.
Ceslestron C9.25 telescope at f/10 and f/6.3, Orion Sirius EQ-G mount, ZWO ASI178MM and ASI178MC cameras, multiple 15-millisecond exposures
Liquid Sunshine © Alexandra Hart (UK) – WINNER
Solar minimum may be seen as a quiet Sun and deemed dull in white light, but if you look closely at the small-scale structure, the surface is alive with motion. This surface is about 100 kilometres thick and the ever-boiling motion of these convection cells circulate, lasting for around 15 to 20 minutes. They are around 1,000 kilometres in size and create a beautiful ‘crazy paving’ structure for us to enjoy.
Celestron C11 XLT Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope at f/50, Baader Solar Continuum Filter with ND3.8 AstroSolar Film, Sky-Watcher EQ6 Pro mount, ZWO-ASI174MM camera, 8.431-millisecond exposure
PEOPLE AND SPACE:
The Prison of Technology © Rafael Schmall (Hungary) – WINNER
The star in the centre of the image is the Albireo double star, surrounded by the trails of moving satellites. How many more might there be by the time we reach next year’s competition? There could be thousands of moving dots in the sky. In order to create astrophotos, photographers have to carefully plan where to place the telescope, and this will be more difficult in the future with more satellites in the way.
Sky-Watcher Quattro 200/800 astrograph telescope (modified) at f/4, Sky-Watcher EQ6-Pro GOTO mount, Canon EOS 6D camera, ISO 1600, 5 x 150-second exposures
PLANETS, COMETS AND ASTEROIDS:
Space Between US… © Łukasz Sujka (Poland) – WINNER
This image shows the really close alignment of the Moon and Jupiter that happened on 31 October 2019. In the full resolution picture, you’ll see that there are three of Jupiter’s moons also visible. This small project is a big challenge that involves a lot of luck and good seeing conditions. To capture this phenomenon in such a big scale was quite demanding in data acquisition as Jupiter and the Moon travelled across the sky quite fast. It happened in altitude only 9 degrees above the horizon. I wanted to show the huge emptiness and the size of space, which is why there is a lot of ‘nothing’ between the two major parts of the image.
Sky-Watcher Newtonian 10″ telescope at f/4.8, Baader MPCC Coma Corrector filter, Sky Watcher NEQ-6 mount, ZWO ASI178 MM-C camera, 300 x 10-millisecond exposures per channel
Painting the Sky © Thomas Kast (Germany) – WINNER
The photographer was searching for clear skies in Finnish Lapland to capture the beauty of a polar night and couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw what was waiting behind the clouds. Polar stratospheric clouds are something the photographer has been searching for many years and had seen only in photographs until that day. He took his camera onto a frozen river to get a good view and started to take photos. The clouds slowly changed their shape and colours. It was like watching someone painting, especially when the Sun was lower – it started to get a darker orange and the pink shades became stronger.
Nikon D850 camera, 120 mm f/16 lens, ISO 64, 1/40-second exposure
STARS AND NEBULAE:
Cosmic Inferno © Peter Ward (Australia) – WINNER
NGC 3576 is a well-known nebula in southern skies, but is shown here without any stars. Software reveals just the nebula, which has been mapped into a false colour palette. The scene takes on the look of a celestial fire-maelstrom. The image is intended to reflect media images taken in Australia during 2019 and 2020, where massive bushfires caused the destruction of native forests and have claimed over 12 million acres of land. It shows nature can act on vast scales and serves as a stark warning that our planet needs nurturing.
Alluna Optics RC-16 telescope at f/8, 5 nm Ha filter, Paramount ME II mount, SBIG STX-16803 camera, 32 x 10-minute exposures
The Four Planets and the Moon © Alice Fock Hang (Reunion), aged 11 – WINNER
Photographing a planetary alignment requires rigor and patience but also a lot of luck. That evening, despite preparing everything for a week, the photographer encountered clouds. The magic started after sunset, where the moonset, Venus, Mercury, the star Antares, Jupiter and Saturn could be seen over the Indian Ocean. By looking at the sky map, The photographer could see that Pluto was there also above Saturn but invisible in my image. Note also the presence of Alpha Centuari on the left of the image as well as our immense galaxy, the Milky Way.
Nikon D610 camera, 35 mm f/3.2 lens, ISO 3200, 18 x 13-second exposures
SIR PATRICK MOORE PRIZE FOR BEST NEWCOMER:
Waves © Bence Toth (Hungary) – WINNER
The image shows the central region of the California Nebula (NGC 1499). It tries to show the uncontrollable vast energy of nature, in a form which resembles the huge waves of a storm in the ocean. The RGB channels are used the create the colours of the stars, and all of the nebulosity are synthetized from the hydrogen-alpha and the SII channels. The colour assignment of the narrowband channels is done in a way to create an image close to true colour, but preserving the fine details and the depth provided by the narrowband filters.
Sky-Watcher Quattro 200P telescope at f/4, Sky-Watcher EQ6-R mount, ZWO ASI1600MM Pro camera, RGB-Ha-SII composite, 7 hours 50 minutes total exposure
ANNIE MAUNDER PRIZE FOR IMAGE INNOVATION:
Dark River © Julie F Hill (UK) – WINNER
Dark River is a sculptural work that maps, or mirrors, the Milky Way celestial entity using one of the largest images ever made of its central areas. Referencing Elizabeth Kesseler’s notion of the astronomical sublime, as well as Gaston Bachelard’s idea of ‘intimate immensity’, this gigapixel image of the Milky Way, showing around 84 million stars, is reworked into a sculptural ‘affective space’ that affords a bodily and imaginative engagement with the viewer. The image was obtained with the VISTA survey telescope at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile and contains nearly nine billion pixels. This was an incredibly large file to work so the artist had to cut it down into manageable pieces to then print. She made 2.2 x 1 metre sections, which she then laboriously printed and glued together by hand to create a 9 x 5 metre sheet when flat. The image was digitally printed at 300dpi using archival pigment inks, onto a Japanese paper which is lightweight yet robust. In creating this piece, the artist was emulating the mosaic process used by astronomers when processing and compositing data. The artist retained the naturalistic colours the astronomers used to colour the image, which makes the celestial more earthly and relatable. The full-sized print is sculpted to adapt to the space in which it’s displayed.
VISTA Survey Telescope, Infrared J 1.25 μm, Infrared H 1.65 μm, Infrared 2.15 μm channels, ESO/VVV Survey/D. Minniti Acknowledgement: Ignacio Toledo, Martin Kornmesser