Star trails, aurorae and the Milky Way are subjects common in astronomy photography (also known as astrophotography). Some photographers, however, go a step further to create rare images of deep space objects, comets, and eclipses.
Organized by the Royal Observatory Greenwich in the UK, the Insight Astronomy Photography of the Year award released its winning photographs Sept. 16, authored by a mix of professional and amateur astrophotographers. These extraordinary space photos reveal close-ups of the moon, a solar eclipse, an entire dwarf galaxy and even the glow of stars that are hundreds of millions of lightyears away.
Yu Jun, a photographer from China, was crowned the grand winner with a multiple exposure photo of the Baily’s Beads phenomenon, during a solar eclipse observed in Indonesia. “Baily’s Beads” are small light beats that shine through the edge of the Moon’s shadow when it nearly completely eclipses the sun, due to the uneven lunar surface.
Nicolas Outters’ photo of Messier 94—a distant spiral galaxy lying approximately 16 million lightyears away from our planet—captures the two-ringed structure of the galaxy, as well as its halo of stars.
A composite photo by Catalin Beldea and Alson Wong won “runner-up” in the Sun category. It’s made from 12 images stacked together, all shot during the solar eclipse that took place on March 9. The image is striking because it doesn’t only show the shadow of the Moon in front of the Sun, but also details of the lunar surface. This is thanks to sunlight reflected from the Earth’s surface, known as the earthshine.
A few more fascinating winning and runner-up photographs: