'Grand cosmic fireworks': See the stunning winners of the 2023 astronomy photo of the year contest

A shinning star inside the red, gaseous nebula.
(Image credit: Marcel Drechsler)

The Royal Observatory Greenwich has announced the winners of the astronomy photographer of the Year 15, during an award ceremony held Sept. 14.

This was the Royal Observatory Greenwich's 15th year holding the contest, which garnered more than 4,000 submissions from 64 different countries for 2023. A shortlist of winning submissions was released in July, and many of those spectacular images have made a reappearance.

As the world's largest astrophotography competition, Royal Observatory Greenwich divides winners into 11 categories, and from those chooses an overall winner.

This year's top spot came from the galaxies category, and was awarded to Marcel Drechsler, from Germany, and French photographers Xavier Strottner and Yann Sainty, with their photo of the Andromeda galaxy.

Galaxies and overall winner

"Andromeda, unexpected," the winning photo for Royal Observatory Greenwich's astronomy photographer of the year 15. (Image credit: Marcel Drechsler, Xavier Strottner and Yann Sainty)

This winning photo of the Andromeda galaxy from the amateur astronomer team led by Drechsler, Strottner and Sainty is titled "Andromeda, unexpected," for the large, blue plasma arc pictured next to our nearest galactic neighbor.

The plasma streak was, in fact, a discovery all on its own, according to a release from the Royal Observatory Greenwich, and is now being studied by scientists as possibly the largest phenomenon of its type in our little corner of the universe.

Runner-up and highly commended entries for the galaxies category went to Weitang Liang, from China, and Paul Montague, from Australia, for their respective photos, "The Eyes Galaxies" and "Neighbors."

Runner-up and highly commended entries for galaxies, "The Eyes Galaxies" and "Neighbours." (Image credit: Weitang Liang (left image) and Paul Montague (right image))


"Brushstroke," the winning photo in the Royal Observatory Greenwich's aurorae category. (Image credit: Monika Devia)

Monika Deviat, from Canada, wins this years best aurora photograph with her image, "Brushstroke." The singularity of this one aurora, according to the competition's judges, set it aside from the usual "earthly perspective," they said, "evoking the arts of brush-painting and calligraphy."

Aurorae runner-up and highly commended recognitions were awarded to Andreas Ettl, from Germany, and Chester Hall-Fernandez, from New Zealand, with their photos "Circle of light" and "Fire on the horizon," respectively.

Aurorae runner-up and highly commended photos, "Circle of light and fire on the horizon." (Image credit: Andreas Ettl (left image) and Chester Hall-Fernandez (right image))

Our moon

"Mars-set," the winning photo in the Royal Observatory Greenwich's our moon category. (Image credit: Ethan Chappel)

Ethan Chappel shot this photo of Mars and the moon during the Dec. 8 occultation in 2022, from Cibolo, Texas. "Mars-set" shows the red planet setting behind the moon's southern hemisphere, shining bright during the rare alignment.

Tom Williams, from the UK, and Miguel Claro, from Portugal, won runner-up and highly commended marks for their submissions, "Sundown on the terminator" and "Last full moon of the year featuring a colourful corona during a close encounter with Mars," respectively.

Runner-up and highly commended entries for our moon, "Sundown on the terminator" and "Last full moon of the year featuring a colourful corona during a close encounter with Mars." (Image credit: Tom Williams (left image) and Miguel Claro (right image))

Our sun

"A sun question," the winning photo in the Royal Observatory Greenwich's our sun category. (Image credit: Eduardo Schaberger Poupeau)

"A sun question" was taken by Eduardo Schaberger Poupeau for the our sun category winner. The image features a large question mark-shaped solar filament rising from the sun's surface, and shows our star in incredible detail.

Our sun runner-up and highly commended awards went to Peter Ward for his photo, "Dark star," and Mehmet Ergün for "The great solar flare."

Runner-up and highly commended entries for our sun, "Dark star" and "The great solar flare." (Image credit: Peter Ward (left image) and Mehmet Ergün (right image))

People & space

"Zeila," the winning photo in the Royal Observatory Greenwich's people & space category. (Image credit: Vikas Chander)

This photo from Vikas Chander was taken on the Skeleten Coast, on the Atlantic Ocean. Located on one of Namibia's northernmost coastal regions, the Skeleton Coast has earned a reputation for its treacherous waters.

"Zeila," the name of this photograph, is also the name of the boat pictured. The vessel was stranded in 2008, and sits foreground to a 30-minute exposure of the rolling fog, with stars streaking in the grey night sky overhead.

Runner-up and highly commended entries for people & space were awarded to Andrew McCarthy, for his photo of the International Space Station (ISS) transiting the moon, "A visit to Tycho," and to Katie McGuniness for her out-of-this-world star-trail photograph, "Close enounters of the Haslingden kind."

Runner-up and highly commended entries for people & space, "A visit to Tycho" and "Close enounters of The Haslingden kind." (Image credit: Andrew McCarthy (left image) and Katie McGuinness (right image))

Planets, comets & asteroids

"Suspended in a sunbeam," the winning photo in the Royal Observatory Greenwich's planets, comets & asteroids category. (Image credit: Tom Williams)

"Suspended in a sunbeam" is a false color image of the planet Venus, from photographer Tom Williams, winning in the category of planets, comets & asteroids. Using infrared, Williams was able to highlight details Venus' upper atmosphere, revealing far more than can be seen with the naked eye.

Runner-up and highly commended recognitions went photos of Jupiter and Uranus and its moons, from photographers Marco Lorenzi and Martin Lewis, respectively.

Runner-up and highly commended entries for planets, comets & asteroids, "Jupiter close to opposition" and "Uranus with Umbriel, Ariel, Miranda, Oberon and Titania." (Image credit: Marco Lorenzi (left image) and Martin Lewis (right image))


"Grand cosmic fireworks," the winning photo in the Royal Observatory Greenwich's skyscapes category. (Image credit: Angel An)

The extremely rare phenomena captured in this photograph from Angel An are called sprites. Sprites occur like lightning, high in Earth's atmosphere, and are seldom witnessed from the ground. Astronauts aboard the ISS have been known to take photographs of sprites from time to time. An took this photo, "Grand cosmic fireworks," from the highest ridge of the Himalaya mountains.

Louis Leroux-Gere and Peter Hoszang were awarded runner-up and highly commended for their respective photos of star trails over the Canadian National Vimy Memorial, in France, and noctilucent clouds over Hungary.

Runner-up and highly commended entries for "Skyscapes, celestial equator above first world war trench memorial" and "Noctilucent night." (Image credit: Louis Leroux-Gere (left image) and Peter Hoszang (right image))

Stars & nebulas

New Class of "Galactic nebulae around the star YY Kya," the winning photo in the Royal Observatory Greenwich's stars & nebulas category. (Image credit: Marcel Drechsler)

The shining star inside the red, gaseous nebula was photographed by Marcel Drechsler and a team of amateur astronomers. In fact, the shining light at the gas' center is actually a pair of binary stars, enveloped in the previously undiscovered nebula.

Runner-up and highly commended awards were given to Anthony Quintile and James Baguley, for both of their stunning nebula photos.

Runner-up and highly commended entries for stars & nebulas, "LDN 1448 et al." and "The dark wolf." (Image credit: Anthony Quintile (left image) and James Baguley (right image))

The Sir Patrick Moore prize for best newcomer

"Sh2-132: Blinded by the light," the winning photo in the Royal Observatory Greenwich's Sir Patrick Moore Prize for best newcomer category. (Image credit: Aaron Wilhelm)

"Blinded by the light" is Royal Observatory Greenwich's winning photograph for best newcomer, photographed by Aaron Wilhelm. The vibrant image shows the Sh2-132 complex near the constellations Cepheus and Lacerta, and was created using 70 hours of data to merge together the magnificent and colorful gaseous layers.

Young astronomy photographer of the year

"The Running Chicken Nebula," the winning photo in the Royal Observatory Greenwich's Sir Patrick Moore prize for young astronomy photographer of the year category. (Image credit: Runwei Xu and Binyu Wang)

Runwei Xu and Binyu Want win young astronomy photographers of the year with "The Running Chicken Nebula," a hypnotic blend of swirling cosmic colors from the Running Chicken Nebula, IC2944. The young photographers captured this image using a 1,900 mm Newtonian telescope, over 5.5 hours of exposure.

Annie Maunder prize for image innovation

"Black echo," the winning photo in the Royal Observatory Greenwich's Annie Maunder Prize for image innovation category. (Image credit: John White)

Finally, John White won for the innovation category, with his photo, "Black echo." Using audio of the supermassive black hole at the center of the Perseus Galaxy, captured by NASA's Chandra Sonification Project, White shot the vibrations of water in a petri dish as they fluctuated above the speaker's soundwaves.

All the winning photographs, the runners-up, highly commended and more are currently part of an exhibit at the National Maritime Museum, in Greenwich, London.

This edited article is republished from Space.com under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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