The Royal Observatory Greenwich's annual Astronomy Photographer of the Year contest showcases incredible images of the sky, ranging from views within our solar system to distant pictures into deep space. The transit of Venus, comets, nebulae, aurorae and more can be found, with winning entries from all around the world.
Deep Space Winner: M51 The Whirlpool Galaxy by Martin Pugh (UK/Australia). "I was always going to be excited about this image given the exceptional seeing conditions M51 was photographed under and the addition of several hours of Ha data has really boosted the HII regions."
Deep Space Runner-Up: Simeis 147 Supernova Remnant by Rogelio Bernal Andreo (USA). "Most images I've seen of this faint and large object deprive us from viewing the many other things happening around it. My goal was to produce an image that visually documents not only the main object, but also more of what's around it."
Deep Space Highly Commended: NGC 6960 The Witch's Broom by Robert Franke (USA). "This synthetic colour image was created with Ha and OIII filters. These narrowband filters greatly increase the detail while giving a reasonable representation of the nebula's colour. The Veil Nebula is located in the constellation Cygnus, at a distance of about 1400 light years."
Earth and Space Winner: Star Icefall by Masahiro Miyasaka (Japan).The stars fell from the heavens. The stars transformed themselves into an icicle.Stars sleep eternally here.
Earth and Space Runner-Up: Green World by Arild Heitmann (Norway). "This is a special shot for me since it captures the intense feeling of standing deep in the mountains, far away from light pollution, watching the finest lightshow on the planet!"
Earth and Space Highly Commended: Summer Nights in Michigan by Michael A. Rosinski (USA). "Ive been taking combined fireflies and star trail images since 2010 - its a learned technique. I noticed that, due to the hot weather, the fireflies seemed to be peaking much earlier than in either 2010 or 2011: four to five weeks sooner. With the heat-wave the fireflies were going bonkers on this particular evening, so I was motivated to capture them! I had to start imaging at 11pm, as it was too light before that."
Our Solar System Winner: Transit of Venus 2012 in Hydrogen-Alpha by Chris Warren (UK). "A single unprocessed raw frame shot between second and third contact. Our first and only glimpse of the transit before third contact, through a thin patch in the clouds at Blackheath in London."
Our Solar System Runner-Up: Mars in 2012 by Damian Peach (UK). "The entire face of Mars during its aphelic opposition of 2012 where the apparent diameter reached only 13.9 arcseconds. Many interesting details can be seen such as clouds surrounding the giant Tharsis volcanoes, and rifts and outlaying patches of ice around the north polar cap."
Our Solar System Highly Commended: Venus Transit by Paul Haese (Australia). "I wanted to record this for history and this was my last chance. Never again will I see Venus transit the Sun. I hope my six-panel mosaic is a fitting tribute."
People and Space: Venus-Jupiter Close Conjunction by Laurent Laveder (France). "In this image Venus is higher and on the right of Jupiter. I take my place in the lower right corner of the frame to complete the diagonal formed by me, the two planets, the Pleiades and Taurus. With my red flashlight on my head, I illuminate the beach. At low tide, the sand is wet and is reflecting the blockhaus."
People and Space Runner-Up: Lost in Yosemite [C 033706] by Steven Christenson (USA). "As two lost hikers stood in the distance of the Yosemite wilderness I was struck by how small they seemed against the immensity of our galaxy and how lost they might have remained had we not found them."
Young Astronomy Winner: Pleiades Cluster by Jacob von Chorus (Canada), aged 15. "This image was a test to see what would happen with such a long exposure. It was taken near dusk, with only two frames and an hour of exposure. This image has since become one of my best."
Young Astrophotographer Runner-Up: Daytime Lunar Mosaic by Laurent V. Joli-Coeur (Canada), aged 15. "I have always wondered why we never see mosaics of the Moon taken under a deep blue sky. I gave myself this challenge and was surprised by the unique result!"
Robotic Scope: The Sunflower Galaxy by Thomas Read (UK), aged 12. "I love this image as it shows fantastic detail in the spiral arms. I was curious about the Sunflower Galaxy and how to maximise photographic results for a distant galaxy."
Best Newcomer: Elephants Trunk with Ananasby Lóránd Fényes (Hungary). "I bought my first tube at the end of 2010. I didn't have any information about astronomy, so I started to learn the basic things about the sky and tried the serious astrophotography at the beginning of 2011. It is my first attempt at entering your competition. The Elephant's trunk is my 34th photo."
The winners of the 2012 Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition snapped some incredible images: astronomical objects from within our solar system and far into deep space. See more photos at the London Royal Observatory.