The winning images for the Special Prizes category of the 2014 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’ (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 2014
The winner of the Sir Patrick Moore Prize for Best Newcomer in 2014 was Chris Murphy (New Zealand), for his moody ‘Coastal Stairways’ image, taken with a Nikon D600 camera and 14–24mm f/2.8 lens in New Zealand’s Wairarapa district.
‘Deep time’ seems to be the subliminal message of this scene, with each layer of the foreground rocks recording thousands of years of geological history. Meanwhile, in the sky, time and distance are inextricably entwined, as the light from the stars takes decades, centuries or even millennia to reach us across the immense gulf of space.
People and Space winner, Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2014
Winner of the People and Space category was Eugen Kamenew (Germany) for ‘Hybrid Solar Eclipse’, taken using a Canon 5D Mk II camera and 700mm f/22 lens.
This rare example of a hybrid solar eclipse began at sunrise over the western Atlantic as an annular eclipse, in which the Moon does not entirely block the Sun, leaving a bright ring or annulus uncovered. As the Moon’s shadow swept eastwards across the ocean, the eclipse became total, with the whole of the Sun concealed from view. By the time the eclipse reached Kenya the Sun was once again emerging from behind the Moon, producing this spectacular crescent shape at sunset.
People and Space runner-up, Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2014
The People and Space runner up in 2014 was ‘Lost Souls’ by Julie Fletcher (Australia). This image, taken at Lake Eyre in remote South Australia, was achieved with a Nikon D800 camera and 14mm f/2.8 lens.
The zodiacal light seems to rise from the horizon like a pyramid, with the brilliant point of Venus at its apex. Made up of sunlight scattered and diffused by the tiny grains of dust that drift between the planets, this pale feature marks out the plane of the Solar System, the flat disc in which all of the planets orbit the Sun.
Robotic Scope winner, Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2014
The Robotic Scope category winner for 2014 was ‘NGC 3718’ by Mark Hanson (USA), taken using a RCOS 14.5-inch f/8 Ritchey-Chretién telescope, a Paramount ME2 mount, off-axis guided, and an Apogee U16M CCD camera, from the Doc Greiner Research Observatory (DGRO), one of several remote observatories at Rancho Hidalgo, New Mexico.
Found in the constellation Ursa Major, NGC 3718 is known as a peculiar barred spiral galaxy. Gravitational interactions with its near neighbour NGC 3729 (the spiral galaxy below and to the left) are the likely reason for the galaxy’s significantly warped spiral arms, while a dark dust lane wraps around the centre.
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.