Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2014

British photographer James Woodend has beaten more than 1,000 amateur and professional photographers from around the globe to win the title of Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2014 at the Royal Observatory Greenwich. As well as securing the £1,500 top prize, his image takes pride of place in the exhibition of winning photographs now being held at the observatory. 

Aurora over a Glacier Lagoon © James Woodend (UK) – Earth and space overall winner

A vivid green overhead aurora pictured in Iceland’s Vatnajökull National Park reflected almost symmetrically in Jökulsárlón Glacier lagoon. A complete lack of wind and current combine in this sheltered lagoon scene to create an arresting mirror effect, giving the image a sensation of utter stillness. Despite this, there is motion on a surprising scale, as the loops and arcs of the aurora are shaped by the shifting forces of the Earth’s magnetic field.

Wind Farm Star Trails © Matt James (Australia) Earth and space runner up

Taken in Australia near the town of Bungendore, this image captures the Capital Wind Farm on the shore of Lake George. The striking monochromatic composition depicts the power of the wind along with the apparent motion of the sky, illustrated by the stars transforming into trails as the Earth rotates.

Moon Balloon © Patrick Cullis (USA) Earth and space highly commended

Poised on the brink of space, this astonishing shot shows the curvature of the Earth with the towering Rocky Mountains reduced to tiny wrinkles on the surface below. Taken from a high altitude balloon launched from Boulder, Colorado, the photograph captures the breathtaking view of the Earth from 26,518 metres above its surface.

Venus-Lunar Occultation © O Chul Kwon (South Korea) Earth and space highly commended

In 2012, O Chul Kwon succeeded in his goal of photographing a Venus-lunar occultation with this stunning time-lapse image over Mount Hambaek in South Korea; an ambition he had held since seeing the phenomenon in 1989. The photograph shows us what happens when the Moon and Venus appear to occupy the same position in the sky. Venus becomes temporarily hidden by the Moon, only to re-emerge in less than an hour, highlighting the relatively quick apparent motion of the Moon through our skies as it makes its 27.3 day orbit around the Earth. Spectacular occultations can be viewed from locations on Earth several times throughout the year.

Totality From Above the Clouds © Catalin Beldea (Romania) Earth and space highly commended

A fantastic view of one of nature’s greatest spectacles, a total solar eclipse, taken from an aeroplane 3,200 metres above Turkana, Kenya. The photographer was due to shoot this rare occurrence from the eastern shore of Lake Turkana but a huge sand-storm hit the region 40 minutes before totality. The pilot decided to intercept the eclipse from the air, and Beldea was lucky enough to capture the phenomenon, which lasted a mere 10 seconds, through the open door.

The Horsehead Nebula (IC 434) © Shishir & Shashank Dholakia (USA) Young Astronomer of the Year winner

This image clearly depicts the well-known Horsehead Nebula, a cloud of heavily concentrated dust which in this shot is beautifully silhouetted against the red glow of its background of ionized hydrogen gas. The photograph, taken by brothers Shishir and Shashank, well captures the shape that gives the nebula its name.

New Year over Cypress Mountain © Emmett Sparling (Canada) – Young astonomer of the year runner up

Captured as the year changed from 2013 to 2014, the juxtaposition of the still land against the circular movement of the stars creates a magnificent contrast in this image. Looking closely at the light coming from each of the stars we can see different colours.

The Heart Nebula (IC 1805) © Shishir & Shashank Dholakia (USA) - Young astronomer of the year highly commended

The Heart Nebula is an emission nebula – a cloud of ionised gas emitting light of various colours. It lies 7,500 light years away in the constellation Cassiopeia and takes its name from its resemblance to a heart. The centre of the nebula is illuminated by Melotte 15, an open cluster of stars w formed from the same giant molecular cloud with similar ages.

Moon behind the Trees © Emily Jeremy (UK) Young Astronomer of the Year highly commended

Earth’s nature and its satellite appear to have merged into one another in this image. Using relatively basic equipment the photographer uses the Moon as a backdrop to frame her subject. The simple yet effective silhouette effect recalls early glass plate photography of the Moon.

Coastal Stairways © Chris Murphy (New Zealand) Sir Patrick Moore Prize for Best Newcomer winner

Rock formations in the Wairarapa district of New Zealand create a stark foreground and contrast to the dusty clouds dancing across the Milky Way. No light pollution and a clear, crisp night afforded the photographer a fantastic opportunity for this superb image.

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