The winning images for the Special Prizes category of the 2013 Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition.
In addition to the four main competition categories, the judges also awarded three special prizes: these were for ‘Best Newcomer’ (renamed the ‘Sir Patrick Moore Prize for Best Newcomer’) – for photos taken by people who had recently taken up the hobby; ‘People and Space’ – for photos that include people in a creative and original way; and ‘Robotic Scope’ – for images that have been taken by robotic or remote telescopes and then processed by the entrant.
Best Newcomer winner, Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2013
The winner of the Sir Patrick Moore Prize for Best Newcomer was Sam Cornwall (UK), whose ‘Venus Transit, Foxhunter’s Grave, Welsh Highlands’ was taken with a Canon 5D Mark II camera and a 100–400mm f/4 plus 1.4x extender lens.
The transit of Venus was one of the astronomical highlights of 2012. As the planet took just six hours to cross the face of the Sun, cloudy weather was a potential disaster for observers – the next transit will not take place until 2117. Here, the final moments of the transit are revealed by a chance gap in the clouds, allowing the photographer to capture the picture of a lifetime.
We visited Sam on location to understand the story behind his winning photo:
People and Space winner, Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2013
Winner of the People and Space category was Mark Gee (Australia). His ‘Moon Silhouettes’ image – taken with a Canon 1DX camera and 800mm f/9 plus 1.4x extender lens – is a deceptively simple shot of figures silhouetted against the rising Moon.
By photographing the people on the observation deck from a great distance, the photographer has emphasized their tiny scale compared to the grandeur of our natural satellite. Gee commented: ‘It was not just being in the right place at the right time: I had been planning for this shoot for over a year.’
People and Space runner-up, Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2013
The evocatively titled ‘Hi. Hello.’ was the People and Space runner-up in 2013. Taken by Ben Canales (USA) using a Canon 1DX camera and a Canon 14mm f/2.8 lens, the winning image shows the Milky Way appearing like a column of smoke rising from the horizon.
‘I was mesmerized by the emptiness of this mountain-top scene,’ said Canales. ‘The snow-filled summit gave a clean slate allowing the Milky Way to seem unusually prominent. It is my favourite representation of what it feels like to stand beneath a vast starry sky.’
Robotic Scope winner, Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2013
The Robotic Scope category winner for 2013 was László Francsics (Hungary), for ‘The Trapezium Cluster and Surrounding Nebulae’, which was taken using a FLI-PL6303E CCD/ Canon 350D modified camera, a Planewave Ascension 200HR mount and a 0.50m f/6.8 astrograph with f/4.5 focal reducer. The robotic telescope was at Siding Spring Observatory, NSW, Australia, accessed online via iTelescope.net.
The great Orion Nebula is often described as a ‘stellar nursery’ because of the huge number of stars that are being created within its clouds of dust and glowing gas. Judge Pete Lawrence said: ‘I really like the way the photographer has combined results from a remote telescope with his own colour images. The final image is really stunning.’
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.