The winning images for the Special Prizes category of the 2010 Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition.

In addition to the four main competition categories, the judges also awarded two special prizes: these were for ‘Best Newcomer’, for photos taken by people who had recently taken up the hobby and not entered an image into the competition before, and ‘People and Space’, for photos that include people in a creative and original way.

Best Newcomer winner, Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2010

The winner of the Best Newcomer prize in 2010 was ‘The Whirlpool Galaxy (M51)’ by Ken Mackintosh (UK), taken with a Maxvision 127mm apochromatic refractor with a modified Canon EOS 450D DSLR camera an EQ6 mount.

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 neighbour.

Judge Will Gater said of this image: ‘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.’

People and Space winner, Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2010

‘Photon Worshippers’ by Steven Christenson (USA) won the 2010 People and Space category. This beautiful image, which shows the setting sun shining directly through the archway of a large rock formation at Pfeiffer Beach in Big Sur, California. This happens for a few days each year, and the event has become very popular with photographers.

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

Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition

The Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition is an annual global search for the most beautiful and spectacular visions of the cosmos by amateur and professional astrophotographers. The winning images are showcased in a stunning exhibition at the Royal Observatory Greenwich. 

Visit the IAPY 2015 exhibition