The inaugural Astronomy Photographer of the Year is sure to be out of this world.

Art meets science in the competition at London's Royal Observatory, where winners from more than 450 entries will be announced on Sept. 9 and showcased through Jan. 10, 2010, during a four-month exhibition. From amateurs to beginners to seasoned explorers, photographers will share their wondrous visions of the final frontier.

“We wanted to show people how beautiful the universe is, to encourage them to look up at the stars and think about their place in it,” says Dr. Marek Kukula, public astronomer at the Royal Observatory and one of the competition’s judges.

The competition has three categories, including deep space, Earth and space and the solar system, which encapsulates the Sun, the planets, moons, asteroids and comets. Deep spaces images, not surprisingly, are the most difficult to capture.

"You can’t see these without a powerful telescope," Dr. Kukula continued. "Taking images of these is not for the faint hearted. It's tricky to get all the colors of the gases; exposure times need to be right, the filters need to be right."

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