Science and Exploration

Shortlisted Astronomy Photos Released by Royal Greenwich Observatory

By James Careless
July 5, 2023
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Shortlisted Astronomy Photos Released by Royal Greenwich Observatory
Sperrgebiet by Vikas Chander. Image credit: Vikas Chander/Royal Greenwich Observatory.

The nominees are in! A sampling of the 140 photos shortlisted for the Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition have been unveiled by the UK’s Royal Observatory Greenwich.

The competition is in its 15th year, with this year’s shortlisted photos including “star trails over the First World War trench memorial in Vimy, northern France, the Milky Way over an abandoned diamond processing plant in Namibia, and Jupiter flanked by two of its moons, Io and Europa,” says a Royal Museums Greenwich (RMG) news release.

The winners of the 2023 Astronomy Photographer of the Year’s nine categories and two special prizes, plus an overall winner, will be announced on September 14, 2023. They will be chosen by “an expert panel of judges from the worlds of art and astronomy,” the RMG news release says.  “The overall winner will receive £10,000 [US$12,720]. Winners of all other categories and the photographer named winner in the Young Astronomy Photographer of the Year category will receive £1,500 [US$1907.90].”

Royal Observatory Greenwich’s Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition is supported by Liberty Specialty Markets and conducted in association with BBC Sky at Night Magazine. More than 4,000 entries from 64 countries took part in last year’s competition.

The popularity of the Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition continues to impress Dr Edward Bloomer, Public Astronomy Manager at Royal Museums Greenwich and Astronomy Photographer of the Year judge. Describing the original competition as “a little bit of a home-grown product,” Dr. Bloomer says that the staff at Royal Observatory Greenwich have been “overwhelmed by the response and continued enthusiasm for it.” This is why “we’ve kept it going,” he tells SpaceRef. “It’s continuing to grow!”

"C/2021 A1 (Leonard) In Sky of Israel" by Alex Savenok
“C/2021 A1 (Leonard) In Sky of Israel” by Alex Savenok. Image credit: Alex Savenok/Royal Greenwich Observatory.

The Astronomy Photographer of the Year’s popularity and the attention it generates for Royal Observatory Greenwich are two reasons why the competition is held year after year. But they’re not the only ones. “From an educational and science communication point of view, it is a great way to increase people’s science capital, and there is no limit to the people we can reach (we get entries from every continent on earth, including Antarctica!” says Dr. Bloomer. “Also, if we think of it purely as a visual spectacle, it is certainly that; each year it is a showcase of the year’s most amazing images taken by astrophotographers around the world.”

This being said, what many astrophotographers want to know is, ‘what does it take to win?’ Unfortunately, “that’s difficult to answer succinctly, and is a major reason why we have different judges with varied specializations, you can find out more about them on our website,” Dr. Bloomer says. “ We consider the aesthetics of the image produced (coloring, framing and other composition factors), the technical expertise required, the rarity of the object of the phenomenon being captured, innovation by the astrophotographer… the list goes on.  We discuss this during the judging process, which takes a long time (and sometimes leads to very in-depth and passionate discussions).”

Two days after the 2023 Astronomy Photographer of the Year winners have been announced, the winning images will be displayed at the nearby National Maritime Museum from Saturday 16 September, along with a selection of shortlisted images. The official book of this year’s competition is being published by Collins. It will be available onsite when the exhibition opens, and then be sold in participating bookstores from September 28th on.

“Each year we also work with the astrophotographers to sell a number of their prints to order,” Dr, Bloomer concludes. “So if anyone wants to display wonderful astrophotography in their own home, they can!”

James Careless

James Careless is an award-winning satellite communications writer. He has covered the industry since the 1990s.