DISTANT GLOW

The year’s best astronomy photos prove you don’t need the Hubble to capture gorgeous scenes from space

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.

Baily’s Beads. (Yu Jun)

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.

Messier 94, or M94, a distant spiral galaxy. (Nicolas Outters)

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.

Sun Flower Corona (Catalin Beldea and Alson Wong)

A few more fascinating winning and runner-up photographs:

An incredibly close-up view of the roughhewn lunar landscape littered with craters and crater lets. (Jordi Delpeix Borrell)
A tremendous filaprom extends from the surface of the Sun. Filaproms are large, gaseous features. (Gabriel Octavian Corban)
Serene Saturn (Damian Peach)
Serene Saturn (Damian Peach)
Twilight Aurora: Aurora Borealis taken on the coast of Greenland. (György Soponyai)
The Perseus Molecular Cloud lies 600 lightyears from our planet in the constellation of Perseus. (Pavel Pech)
Moonrise at Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier in Texas, US. (Sergio Garcia)
Comet Catalina (Gerald Rhemann)
King of the Planets – Jupiter. (Damian Peach)
City and star lights in Hong Kong. (Wing Ka Ho)
A photo of the Antlia Galaxy Cluster, located on the Southern Celestial hemisphere. (Rolf Wahl Olsen)
A Kenyan Maasai warrior bestowing his knowledge of the stars on his son. (Robin Stuart)
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