Astronomy Photographer Of The Year 2010 - Results

The Astronomy Photographer of the Year exhibition is a unique showcase the most incredible images submitted to The Royal Observatory competition. This years winning entries have just been published but you can join their Flickr group and vote for your favorite image online, or if you are in London why not visit the exhibition to see all of this year’s winning entries at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, alongside London’s only planetarium.

Dates: 10 September 2010–27 February 2011
Opening times: 10.00–5.00 daily (closed 24–26 December, early closing 31 December, late opening 1 January).
Last admission: 4.30pm
FREE Admission
See highlights from this year's competition at the Astronomy Photographer of the Year showcase. Right now, you can view your astro photos in Google Sky, thanks to the amazing astrotagging robot. You can also find out about the history of astrophotography at Greenwich.

Join The Flickr group here - and vote for your favorite image.

Competition winner – Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2010 - Blazing Bristlecone

Congratulations to Tom Lowe who wins the title Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2010 with this spectacular image of ancient trees silhouetted against the bright star clouds of the Milky Way. Competition judge Marek Kukula says: ‘I think this beautiful picture perfectly captures the spirit of Astronomy Photographer of the Year, linking the awe-inspiring vista of the night sky with life here on Earth. The bristlecone pines in the foreground can live as long as five thousand years. But, they are babies compared to the starlight shining behind them, some of which began its journey towards us almost 30,000 years ago.

What the photographer says: ‘If I could change anything about this photo, it would be the artificial lighting! The light on that tree occurred accidentally because I had my headlamp and possibly a camping lantern on while I was taking a series of test shots! The artificial light is too frontal and not evenly distributed, but in the end the light did in fact show the amazing patterns in the tree’s wood. The reason these trees inspire me so much, aside from their striking beauty, is their age. Many of them were standing while Genghis Khan marauded across the plains of Asia. Being a timelapse photographer, it's natural for me to attempt to picture our world from the point of view of these ancient trees. Seasons and weather would barely register as events over a lifetime of several thousand years. The lives of humans and other animals would appear simply as momentary flashes.’

What it shows: The gnarled branches of an ancient tree align with a view of our Milky Way galaxy. The Milky Way is a flat, disc-like structure of stars, gas and dust measuring more than 100,000 light years across. Our Sun lies within the disc, about two-thirds of the way out from the centre, so we see the Milky Way as a bright band encircling the sky. This view is looking towards the centre of our galaxy, 26,000 light years away, where dark clouds of dust blot out the light of more distant stars. What appears to be an artificial satellite orbiting the Earth makes a faint streak of light across the centre of the image.

Equipment: Canon EOS 5D Mark II DSLR camera with a Canon EF 16-35mm lens set at 16mm

What the judges say: Sir Patrick Moore says: ‘I like the way the tree follows the Milky Way and the definition is very good.’

What Flickr members say: Chaos2K says: ‘even your “accidents” are awesome – great shot Tom.

Category winners – Our Solar System - Siberian Totality by Anthony Ayiomamitis (Greece)

What the photographer says: ‘On eclipse day, the clouds were present everywhere and only one hour before first contact (partial phase) did the skies clear...and they cleared beautifully and with pristine transparency. There was a slight wind, especially at the top of the roof of the Institute of Nuclear Physics, but it was a very small price to pay.’

What it shows: During a total solar eclipse, the Moon passes directly in front of the Sun. For a few minutes, with the dazzling light of the solar disc blocked from view, we gain a rare glimpse of the corona, the Sun’s outer atmosphere. Powerful magnetic fields warp and shape the super-heated gas of the corona into glowing loops and streamers.

Equipment: Takahashi FSQ-106 106mm refractor telescope on a Celestron CG3 German equatorial mount with a Canon EOS 350D XT DSLR camera.

What the judges say: Pete Lawrence says: ‘The processing used maintains an exquisite level of detail right across the corona and delivers a view similar to what would be seen with the human eye. This is something that’s not easy to do with a camera and the end result completely justifies all the hard work that’s gone into producing this beautiful image.’

What Flickr members say: n.pantazis says: ‘That’s a masterpiece by any aspect! Congratulations, Anthony'.

Deep Space – winner - Orion Deep Wide Field

What the photographer says: ‘I love this image for several reasons. One, because it includes a feature easily recognizable even from light-polluted skies (Orion’s belt), so anyone can “place” this image in the sky. Another reason is because the composition resembles a complex and beautiful stellar landscape, rather than just an object placed in the middle of the frame.’

What it shows: The three bright stars of Orion's Belt, on the left of this image, are a familiar sight in the winter sky. Here, however, a long exposure reveals an epic vista of dust and gas clouds which are too faint to be seen by the naked eye. This is an immense region of space hundreds of light years across. It contains several well-known astronomical sights, including the Horsehead Nebula (bottom centre) and the Orion Nebula (top right).

Equipment: Takahashi FSQ 106 EDX 106mm refractor with 0.7x focal reducer with a SBIG STL11000 CCD camera on a Takahashi EM-400 equatorial mount.

What the judges say: Pete Lawrence says: ‘This is a truly superb image which reveals an amazing amount of dark dust permeating the space in the direction of Orion’s belt and down to his sword. The way the faint detail between the Orion Nebula and Horsehead Nebula has been brought out is nothing short of astonishing. This alien skyscape really captivates my imagination and I could look at it for hours on end!’.

What Flickr members say: Nightfly Photography says: ‘Amazingly deep and delicate at the same time. Kudos to you and your work.'

Young Astronomy Photographer 2010 – winner - A Perfect Circle by Dhruv Arvind Paranjpye (India), aged 14

What the photographer says: ‘My father got me a telescope and a digital camera, and the annular eclipse was a perfect opportunity to test my skills. The photograph was clicked from the southernmost tip of the Indian Peninsula, Kanyakumari.’

What it shows: An annular eclipse occurs when the Moon is too far from the Earth to completely cover the Sun’s disc, as it would during a total solar eclipse. Seen here through a layer of cloud, a bright ring appears as the uncovered part of the Sun shines around the edges of the Moon.

Specialist equipment is needed to safely observe or photograph the Sun. Looking at the Sun with the naked eye or through a telescope, binoculars or camera can cause injury or permanent blindness.

Equipment: Nikon E3700 digital camera.

What the judges say: Rebekah Higgitt says: ‘I loved how the perfect geometry of the eclipsed Sun contrasts with the chaotic shapes of the clouds. By using the clouds as a filter, Paranjpye has been able to reproduce wonderful, contrasting colour.

People and Space - Photon Worshippers by Steven Christenson (USA)

What the photographer says: ‘Astronomy and astronomical phenomenon have been a hobby for my entire life. Nothing is quite so awe-inspiring to me as being in a dark night sky and watching a meteor shower or a lunar eclipse – or just seeing the majesty of the Milky Way reaching from horizon to horizon.’

What it shows: For a few days each year, the setting Sun shines directly through the archway of a large rock formation at Pfeiffer Beach in Big Sur, California. This event has become very popular with photographers. Alignments of the Sun with natural and man-made structures have been significant to people for thousands of years.

Equipment: Canon EOS 50D DSLR camera with a Canon 10-22mm lens set at 10mm on a Manfrotto tripod.

What the judges say: Sir Patrick Moore says: ‘It’s a rare event – it happens only once a year and the photographer has taken full advantage – the composition is fabulous.’

What Flickr members say: rbitonti says: ‘Awesome shot! The light is amazing.

Best Newcomer - The Whirlpool Galaxy (M51) by Ken Mackintosh (UK)

This new category is for photos by people who have taken up the hobby in the last year and have not entered the competition before. Special consideration is given to those using simple and inexpensive start-out kit. Congratulations to this year's Best Newcomer, Ken Mackintosh.

What the photographer says: ‘I have been interested in astronomy since I was very young and took it as an option at university. My interest was very much rekindled recently when I realized (just casually browsing through flickr in fact) how much more accessible the photography side of the hobby had become and what good results could be achieved at not such a great cost or effort.’

What it shows: Galaxies are vast collections of hundreds of billions of stars, gas and dust bound together by gravity. M51, or the Whirlpool, is a classic example of a spiral galaxy with swirling patterns of newly formed stars lacing gracefully through its disc. A smaller, rounder galaxy is seen towards the top of this image, slowly colliding with its larger neighbor.

Equipment: Maxvision 127mm apochromatic refractor with a modified Canon EOS 450D DSLR camera on an EQ6 mount.

What the judges say: Will Gator says: ‘This is a lovely image of the Whirlpool Galaxy and its companion galaxy (NGC 5195). I particularly like the detail that has been captured in the faint dust lanes that can be seen silhouetted against the Whirlpool’s bright spiral arms.’

What Flickr members say: Whispering Wombat ;) says: ‘Magnificent work...sigh...I can only enjoy it through your excellent handiwork. Well done.


  1. The beautiful diversity of these photos, spanning vistas from earth to Galaxies 23 million light years away, reminds us of how much beauty and mystery is right in front of us everyday. Unfortunately, these beautiful pictures stand in contrast to the daily banality of the simple minded arguments over the nature of how we came to be; isn’t it enough that we “are?” In my view, it should be...

  2. Beautiful!!! I wish I had the vision and skills of these photographers.

  3. Absolutely beautiful images! Well done photographers!!

  4. fantastic, this has been my passion from a very young age. i really want to invest into getting a dslr and telescope to see the heavens, thank you for opening our eyes!

  5. I am curious about the setting used to take the shoots : ISO, Exposure, Shutter etc...

  6. Beautiful pictures, once I get some money together I will be buying a fairly decent telescope and attachments to take my astrophotography further. Currently I am limited to basic Constellations and Lunar views.


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