The winning images for the Special Prizes category of the 2011 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, 2011

The winner of the Best Newcomer prize in 2011 was ‘Zodiacal Light on the Farm’ by Harley Grady (USA), taken with a Canon 5D Mark II DSLR camera with a 16-35mm lens. The faint glow reaching into the sky from the horizon to the right of the barn in this scene is known as zodiacal light. Visible only in extremely dark skies, it results from sunlight reflecting off dust particles in our Solar System.

‘Growing up far away from the city lights, I was always fascinated with the night sky,’ Harley said. ‘When I began college I had the opportunity to take some astronomy classes. I soon began to combine my love of photography with astronomy and began documenting the night sky.’

People and Space overall winner, 2011

‘Stargazing’ by Jeffrey Sullivan (USA) won the People and Space category. Taken with a Canon 5D Mark II DSLR camera, and formed of 525 separate exposures, this is a self-portrait taken under the Milky Way.

Judge Graham Southorn said of the photo: ‘Jeffrey Sullivan’s image is striking in its grandeur, showing off both the Milky Way and the spectacular scenery on the ground. It puts humankind in perspective, reminding us how small a part of the Universe we are, and how much of it is inhospitable to humankind.’

People and Space runner-up, 2011

The runner-up for this category was ‘Hunting Moon’ by Jean-Baptiste Feldmann (France). Here, a playful silhouette places an Earth-bound Moon-catcher in pursuit of the waxing crescent Moon in the early evening sky. The bright crescent is the part of the Moon lit directly by the Sun, which is visible from Earth. The rest of the face of the Moon is also visible, although much fainter owing to reflected light from the Earth, known as earthshine.

Robotic Scope winner, 2011

Winner of Robotic Scope, a new category introduced in 2011, was ‘Shell Galaxies (NGC474 and NGC467)’ by Marco Lorenzi (Italy). This was taken using an RCOS 14.5 inch f/9 telescope and an APOGEE U16 CCD camera.

In the upper left of this photograph, faint billowing shapes can be seen in the outer regions of an elliptical galaxy. Elliptical galaxies, which can contain up to a trillion stars, are typically smooth and shaped like a rugby ball. The delicate wispy sheets seen in this galaxy may result from its gravitational interaction with the nearby spiral galaxy to the right.

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