Winners: Special prizes

In addition to the four main competition categories, this year the judges have also awarded three special prizes:

Sir Patrick Moore Prize for Best Newcomer – Photos by people who have taken up the hobby in the last year.

People and Space – Photos that include people in a creative and original way.

Robotic Telescope – Photographs taken remotely using a robotic telescope.

Earth and Space | Our Solar System | Deep Space | Young astronomy photographer | Special prizes

The Sir Patrick Moore Prize for Best Newcomer: winner

Venus Transit, Foxhunter’s Grave, Welsh Highlands by Sam Cornwell (UK)

Venus Transit, Foxhunter’s Grave, Welsh Highlands by Sam Cornwell (UK)

6 June 2012

What the photographer says:

‘I am a complete amateur with regard to astrophotography. I saw the Venus transit of 2012 as a great opportunity to attempt to photograph one of the rarer spectacles of the Solar System. I took a group of friends and my camera equipment to the highest ground I knew locally, Foxhunter’s Grave in the Brecon Beacons. We arrived at about 2 a.m. to set up. It was cold, raining, windy and cloudy. Within a couple of hours the area had filled up with ‘real astronomers’ who knew what they were doing. I felt like such a novice but got stuck right in, with my lens trained on the horizon where the Sun would be appearing. It was truly one of the most amazing sights I have ever seen.’

Canon 5D Mark II camera; 100–400mm f/4 plus 1.4x extender lens; ISO 50; 1/8000-second exposure

What it shows:

For those lucky enough to see it, 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. Extreme care should always be taken when photographing the Sun as its heat and light can easily cause blindness and damage digital cameras. Specialist solar filters are available to allow photography and observations to be carried out safely.

What the judges say:

Melanie Vandenbrouck says: ‘Anticipation is palpable in this picture. I like the sense of mystery. It is very atmospheric in the way the Sun appears behind the clouds and Venus gracefully appears on the edge of the solar disc.’

What Flickr members say:

beccafromportland says: ‘Beautiful image. My ancestors lived west of the place you took this.’

People and Space: winner

Moon Silhouettes by Mark Gee (Australia)

Moon Silhouettes by Mark Gee (Australia)

28 March 2013

What the photographer says:

‘People usually gather on Mount Victoria Lookout in Wellington, New Zealand, to take in the view of the surrounding city below. But on this particular day the Moon rose right behind the lookout revealing the silhouettes of the onlookers. This photo was shot from over 2 km away on the other side of Wellington city, on the day after full Moon. It was not just being in the right place at the right time: I had been planning for this shoot for over a year.’

Canon 1DX camera; 800mm f/9 plus 1.4x extender lens; ISO 400; 1/125-second exposure

What it shows:

This is a deceptively simple shot of figures silhouetted against a 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. Close to the horizon, Earth’s turbulent atmosphere blurs and softens the Moon’s outline and filters its normal cool grey tones into a warmer, yellow glow.

What the judges say:

Chris Bramley says: ‘The sharp silhouettes of the people in the foreground of this dramatic image are in wonderful contrast to the rising Moon behind them, whose light is distorted by the Earth’s atmosphere.’

What Flickr members say:

hipydeus says: ‘Wow, this is really difficult to get it right. Very well done!’

People and Space: runner-up

Hi. Hello. By Ben Canales (USA) 

Hi. Hello. By Ben Canales (USA)

21 July 2012

What the photographer says:

‘I was mesmerized by the emptiness of this mountain-top scene. 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.’

Canon 1DX camera; Canon 14mm f/2.8 lens; ISO 8000; 30-second exposure

What it shows:

Appearing like a column of smoke rising from the horizon, a dark lane of dust marks the plane of the Milky Way in this photograph. This dust plays a vital role in the life story of our galaxy. Formed from the ashes of dead and dying stars, the dust clouds are also the regions in which new stars will form.

Capturing the transit of Venus

We visited Sam Cornwell on location to understand the story behind his photo Venus Transit, Foxhunter's Grave, Welsh Highlands, winner of the Sir Patrick Moore prize for Best Newcomer. 

Robotic Scope: winner

The Trapezium Cluster and Surrounding Nebulae by László Francsics (Hungary)

The Trapezium Cluster and Surrounding Nebulae by László Francsics (Hungary)

4 February 2013

What the photographer says:

‘I have always dreamed of capturing a “protoplanetary disc”, but an amateur astronomer hardly [ever] has the opportunity to do so. However, in the Orion Nebula it is possible to capture darker discs located in front of the shining background using ground-based telescopes. After several attempts, I managed to catch a protoplanetary disc surrounded by numerous stars in the Trapezium cluster of the Orion Nebula. This image was taken using two different telescopes, one in Siding Spring, New South Wales, Australia, and my own telescope in Hungary.’

0.50m f/6.8 astrograph with f/4.5 focal reducer; Planewave Ascension 200HR mount; FLI-PL6303E CCD/ Canon 350D modified camera. Robotic telescope at
Siding Spring Observatory, NSW, Australia accessed via iTelescope.net online

What it shows:

The great Orion Nebula is often described as a ‘stellar nursery’ because of the huge number of stars which are being created within its clouds of dust and glowing gas. As dense clumps of gas collapse under their own gravity, any remaining debris settles into a dark disc surrounding each newly formed star. One of these ‘protoplanetary discs’ can be seen silhouetted against the bright background of glowing gas in the central star cluster of this image. Within the disc material will condense still further, as planets, moons, asteroids and comets begin to form around the star.

What the judges say:

Pete Lawrence says: ‘What an incredible image. 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 and a testament to not just the quality of the remote instrument but also the skill of the imager. This really is a delight to look at.’