See a selection of this year's shortlisted images from aurorae and skyscapes to galaxies and the Moon. Read the story behind the photos through the words of the astrophotographers themselves.
The brightness of the solar corona hides details of the Moon to human eyes during a total solar eclipse. But, by layering multiple digital exposures, in this case from two seconds to 1/2000th of a second, much more can be revealed. In doing so, eXtreme High Dynamic Range photography (XHDR) shows not only the brilliant solar corona, but the newest possible of new moons, seen here illuminated by sunlight reflecting off the Earth.
These spectacular reflection nebulae in Corona Australis exhibit the characteristic blue colour produced by the light of hot stars reflected by silica-based, cosmic dust. The data was acquired by Star Shadows Remote Observatory at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory's PROMPT2, using LRGB (luminance, red, green, blue) filters. The data was prepared in CCDStack and post-processed in Photoshop and PixInsight by Mark Hanson. While the whole of Corona Australis is a gorgeous region, the cores of NGC 6726 and NGC 6727 are rarely seen at this amazing resolution. We feel that this is one of the most stunning regions of the southern sky, which leaves us with mouths agape!
As a company of three, we travelled 2,000 kilometers to capture the Northern Lights. We went from the city of Yaroslavl in Russia to Teriberka, on the coast of the Barents Sea, in the Arctic Circle. For four days we were unlucky with the weather, it was snowing hard and heavy clouds were rolling above the sea. But finally the sky cleared up and in the evening we saw what we had come such a long way to see! The Northern Lights were in all their glory, twisting gently in the starry night sky.
The field of the Witch Head Nebula and Rigel was at the top of my astrophoto wish list. Two nights under the dark Namibian sky gave me the chance to take this picture under perfect conditions. This very faint molecular cloud is lit up from Rigel, which, not including the sun, is the seventh brightest star of the sky and the brightest star in the constellation of Orion.
This image presents the active region AR2665 on our Sun which was one of the biggest active regions in 2017. Also you can observe nice quiescent prominence on the Sun lim.This kind of prominence last very long and its structure is quite stable - of course time to time we have some spectaculatr "lift offs" of this kind of prominences but in most cases it is quite static.
The Full Moon is known to show little contrast but when there are no high contrast relief shadows we see an unusual sight: Moon colours! I had tried in the past to make an image like this by simply boosting saturation, which ended up in an unsightly psychedelic moon. This time, I used similar algorithms to the one I developed for the solar eclipse, but applied it to the colours instead. It turned the Full Moon into a beautiful Christmas tree bauble, with a great variety of hues and shades. I was surprised to see some craters turn blue, while others orange.
The conditions for shooting aurorae that night weren’t the best because of the bright Moon – but I made this a challenge instead of an obstacle and came home with this amazing shot. To get a great Aurora Borealis photograph today you need an interesting foreground. The small pool of water with rocks made the perfect foreground and a natural leading line into the frame. A gorgeous night below the aurora!
We had been travelling for 24 hours without sleeping to reach our destination before the one night where clear skies were forecasted ended. After reaching the hut and having a nice dinner, we climbed up to the cliff and waited for night-time to come. Unfortunately it came with a cloudy sky. We stood there being optimistic, knowing that all our efforts would be rewarded, and eventually the clouds disappeared and the magic happened: a beautiful Milky Way emerged over the mountains! It was amazing being there together enjoying the magnificent spectacle, truly a dream come true.
Carlos F. Turienzo
This image shows the Milky Way rising over some of the oldest trees on Earth in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, set within the White Mountains of California. The sky was incredibly dark and, with a thunderstorm approaching, I only had time to take one exposure of the sky. I managed to illuminate the tree to bring out the incredible detail these old pines have in their structure.
The Orion Nebula, also known as Messier 42, M42, or NGC 1976, is a diffuse nebula situated in the Milky Way, south of Orion's Belt in the constellation of Orion. It is one of the brightest nebulae and is visible to the naked eye in the night sky. M42 is located at a distance of 1,270 light years and is the closest region of massive star formation to Earth. The M42 nebula is estimated to be 24 light years across and has a mass of about 2,000 times that of the Sun. This image is the result of the efforts of two astrophotographers, Miguel Angel García Borrella and Lluis Romero Ventura, who chose a common target of the Orion Sword area (one of the most beautiful areas of our night sky) using different equipment from their observatories, which are located hundreds of kilometres from each other.
In this image, a weathered juniper tree in Montana's northern Rocky Mountains stands in early winter, while the sky above is filled with star trails. I noticed this tree a couple of years earlier and told myself that I had to go back for one of these shoots. It took several test frames of long exposures to make sure that I had Polaris in the right place, but eventually things lined up the way I had imagined.
After a long-haul drive, we finally reached the end of our journey chasing the summer Milky Way as our path terminated naturally in the rugged landscapes at Badlands National Park. This image is a panoramic view of a 6-shot composite, three for the sky and three for the earthly foreground, all of which were taken successively using the same gear and equivalent exposure settings, from the same location, within a short period.
IC342 in the constellation Camelopardalis is also known as the Hidden Galaxy. Despite being one of the largest galaxies visible from the Northern Hemisphere, it's obscured by foreground stars and dust, as it lies in the Milky Way plane. There was no hint of any spiral arms, with only the core visible in a 14-inch telescope on the night we began imaging this galaxy. The sheer size of this Galaxy was a surprise. I find the classic tight spiral arms at the core mesmerising.