Ahead of British European Space Agency astronaut Tim Peake’s return to Earth later this month, the Royal Observatory Greenwich and the UK Space Agency quizzed him on which of his breath-taking images taken from the International Space Station (ISS) he would enter into the Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2016 competition.

Held in association with Insight Investment and BBC Sky at Night Magazine, the Observatory’s competition is an annual global search for the most beautiful and spectacular visions of the cosmos, from striking pictures of vast galaxies millions of light years away, to dramatic images of night-time landscapes taken by spaces enthusiasts from around the world.

Since arriving at the ISS, Tim has been keen to share his unique views from space with everyone back on Earth, taking photos on a daily basis. Arguably, Tim’s privileged viewpoint on the ISS gives him a slightly unfair advantage, but as judging approaches for this year’s Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year, the Royal Observatory and UK Space Agency were curious to find out which of Tim’s snaps he thought might have a chance of taking home the grand prize.  

From the huge array of images, Tim chose a spectacular sunrise seen from the enviable position of his post on the ISS, capturing colourful layers within the Earth’s atmosphere that are invisible to us on the ground. While aboard the ISS, Tim and his fellow astronauts witness 16 sunrises every day, but claims he has never seen one as stunning as this, and chose to give it the simple title of ‘Beautiful’ to reflect just that.

Tim also picked out a photo akin to a sweeping scene from a sci-fi movie, as the stars of the Milky Way glisten over the curved horizon of our home planet as the ISS soars above it.

By documenting his mission through such remarkable images, Tim has succeeded in engaging people of all ages, from school children the world over to slightly older aspiring astronauts. Tim’s photos give these future astronauts an exciting glimpse of what they might see with their very own eyes one day, if they pursue a career in science and technology.

Dr Marek Kukula, Public Astronomer at the Royal Observatory Greenwich and judge in the competition said of Tim’s choices:

“Tim’s images give us a unique view of the cosmos, thanks to his perch on the ISS, which essentially acts as a very tall camera tripod! He’s captured inspiring shots of our planet and the wider Universe, which I’m sure, will spur on a whole new generation of astronauts and space industry workers. And who knows, as living and working in space becomes a reality for more and more people, perhaps we’ll see amazing photos like this actually being entered in the not so distant future”.

Now in its eighth year, the competition, which was open for entries from February to April, has attracted the highest number of entries since it opened. Over 4500 awe-inspiring images have been submitted this year from 80 countries across the globe, and the number of images entered into the competition has increased by over 60% on last year.

The winning images will be announced on 15 September and later showcased in the annual free exhibition at the Royal Observatory Greenwich from 17 September 2016. Meanwhile, the winners from the 2015 competition will be on display at the Observatory until 7 August 2016.

Find out more about Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year

Visit the Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2015 exhibition

Notes to Editors

  • The winners of Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2016 will be announced at an award ceremony at the Royal Observatory on 15 September 2016. The winning photographs will be exhibited in the Observatory’s Astronomy Centre from 17 September 2016. Entry to the exhibition is free.
  • The overall winner will receive £10,000. Winners of all categories including the Young Astronomy Photographer of the Year will receive £1,500. There are also prizes for runners-up (£500) and highly commended (£250) entries. The Special Prize winners will receive £750.  All of the winning entries will receive a one year subscription to BBC Sky at Night Magazine
  • The Royal Observatory Greenwich is home of Greenwich Mean Time and the Prime Meridian and one of the most important historic scientific sites in the world. Since its founding in 1675, Greenwich has been at the centre of the measurement of time and space. Today the Observatory galleries and Peter Harrison Planetarium help unravel the extraordinary phenomena of time, space and astronomy.
  • The Royal Observatory Greenwich is part of Royal Museums Greenwich which also incorporates the National Maritime Museum, the 17th-century Queen’s House and Cutty Sark. Royal Museums Greenwich works to illustrate for everyone the importance of the sea, ships, time and the stars and their relationship with people. This unique collection of attractions, which form a key part of the Maritime Greenwich UNESCO World Heritage Site, welcomes over two million British and international visitors a year and is also a major centre of education and research. For more information visit www.rmg.co.uk.
  • About Insight Investment: Insight Investment is a leading asset manager focused on designing investment solutions to meet its clients’ needs. Founded in 2002, Insight’s partnership approach has delivered both investment performance and impressive growth in assets under management. Insight manages £440bn ($632bn) across liability-driven investment, fixed income & currency, global multi-asset and absolute return, global farmland and specialist equities (Note: Assets under management are represented by the value of cash securities and other economic exposure managed for clients. The assets under management figure represents the combined assets under management of Insight Investment Management (Global) Limited, Pareto Investment Management Limited, Insight Investment Funds Management Limited, Cutwater Investor Services Corporation and Cutwater Asset Management Corporation (Cutwater Asset Management). CISC and CAMC are owned by BNY Mellon and operated by Insight. Data as of 31 March 2016). The value of investments and any income from them will fluctuate and is not guaranteed (this may be partly due to exchange rate fluctuations). Investors may not get back the full amount invested. Past performance is not a guide to future performance. www.insightinvestment.com 
  • BBC Sky at Night Magazine is Britain's best-selling astronomy title, with a circulation of 25,000 copies a month. skyatnightmagazine.com has 34,000 unique users a month and reaches more than 35,000 social media followers through Facebook and Twitter. The magazine is available on iTunes Newsstand, Google Play and Zinio as well as in print, and is media partner of the annual Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition run by the Royal Observatory Greenwich. With writing from the world’s leading astronomers and writers, BBC Sky at Night Magazine complements one of the world's longest running TV programmes, The Sky at Night, and features regular articles from its presenters Chris Lintott, Maggie Aderin-Pocock and Pete Lawrence, plus in-depth equipment reviews and stargazing advice. BBC Sky at Night Magazine is published by Immediate Media Co under licence from BBC Worldwide.
  • The Royal Observatory, in partnership with Collins, will be publishing Astronomy Photographer Of The Year, Collection 5. The official publication for the Insight Astronomy Photography of the Year competition will showcase over 120 breathtaking images of space and the night sky, including all 2016 winning and shortlisted images. Photographs will be accompanied by full details including photographer’s information, location where photographs were taken, technical specifications and judge’s comments. Last years’ prize winning images are still available to buy: Astronomy Photographer Of The Year, Collection 4/ RRP £25.00 / Hardback / Published 5 November 2015 / Royal Museums Greenwich online shop. For further information or to request review copies please contact: Caroline Maddison/caroline.maddison@harpercollins.co.uk / DL: 0208 307 4783

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Media interviews:

The Royal Observatory Greenwich’s Modern Astronomy team is dedicated to the public understanding of science and its experts are available to give radio and TV interviews on astronomy - at the historic Observatory site or in the studio.

The Observatory offers a short notice service to media stations looking for comment/ interviews on any aspect of modern astronomy - discussing new discoveries and space missions, telling people what to look for in this month's night sky, or talking about old favourites like black holes, is there life beyond Earth and the origins of the universe.

For studio quality and interviews at short notice an ISDN line is available.

Further information and images

For further information, or images from last year’s competition, please contact:

Royal Observatory Greenwich Press Office

Tel: 020 8312 6545/6790 | 07983 512 841 or email: rdavies@rmg.co.uk