As astronomical sights go, few can match the awe-inspiring brilliance of the aurorae; they stand apart as stunning displays of shimmering light visible without any visual aid or device.

Charged particles from the Sun, caught by our planet’s magnetic field, crash into the atmosphere, releasing an ethereal glow that illuminates the night sky. 

While aurorae are possible to see with relative ease, it doesn’t make capturing them in their full brilliance any simpler. They are wildly unpredictable, often giving little warning of their arrival. They are often seen from only narrow strips of our planet, making access limited, and the range of brightness, colour and movement present a unique set of challenges to those looking to photograph them in all their glory.  

As always, however, the photographers in this year’s competition have made the complex look easy. Stunning displays of green and blue light cover these digital canvasses. Their vivid patterns come to life against the still, frozen foregrounds, their ghostly shapes dance across the sky, and with these images, once again, the ever-present link between our nearest star and our planet is plain to see. 

Learn more about the winning image and explore the full shortlist below.

Visit Astronomy Photographer of the Year

Image of the night sky in portrait form, with aurorae forming what looks like a green brush stroke right down the centre of the image, curving and twisting as it moves downwards

The winning image

Brushstroke by Monika Deviat

Taken in Utsjoki, Lapland, Finland, 8 January 2022 

"This photograph is an aurora abstract. I focused on this structure as it looked like a painter’s brushstroke across a canvas. It’s not the usual corona or big nightscape scene, but I thought it was a unique and beautiful shape with the feathered ends. I pointed the camera almost straight up to capture this formation," explains Monika.

Equipment used: Nikon D850 camera, 14 mm f/2.8, ISO 3200, 4-second exposure 

The judging panel loved the elegant simplicity of this abstract image. We are accustomed to seeing aurora from an earthly perspective with mountains, trees and humanmade structures framing the dancing lights. This photograph offers something different, showcasing the beauty of the aurora in isolation. The composition evokes the arts of brush-painting and calligraphy, which are practiced in many cultures around the world.

Katherine Gazzard, competition judge

Behind the lens

Discover more about Monika Deviat: dancer, educator, heavy metal fan and astrophotographer based in Canada.

Image of a snow-capped mountain next to a wide expanse of frozen water, with a vivid aurora making almost an arc in the sky from left to right, which is reflected in the ice below


Circle of Light by Andreas Ettl

Taken in Flakstad, Lofoten Islands, Norway, 20 February 2023 

"After weeks of cloudy nights, we were finally lucky enough to experience a very vivid aurora over Skagsanden beach. It was so strong that it almost felt like you could grab it with both hands. The way it formed over Hustinden mountain, coupled with the reflection on the beach, gives the impression that you are just one step away from entering the aurora circle," Andreas says.

Equipment used: Nikon Z7 camera, 15 mm f/2.8, ISO 1000, 8-second exposure 

Image of a square building with graffiti on it, but in the sky is pink aurorae covering up to 50% of the image, which becomes yellow towards the horizon

Highly commended

Fire on the Horizon by Chester Hall-Fernandez

Taken in Birdlings Flat, Canterbury, New Zealand, 27 February 2023 

"Very recently we were lucky enough to witness one of the strongest solar storms seen in at least a decade, which caused powerful aurora around the globe. New Zealand sees regular aurora, but due to its distance from the magnetic pole, many of them are faint and colourless in the sky. However, on this night the aurora was highly structured with visible colour lighting up the sky," says Chester.

"Originally, I was not prepared to go out and photograph it that night with the Moon and cloud cover imminent. Thankfully, a close friend convinced me to go, and I am very glad they did. The clouds held off long enough and the aurora was bright enough that it was clearly visible without the moonlight."

Equipment used: Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 telescope, Nikon Z6 (Astro modified) camera, 14 mm f/1.8, ISO 1600, 15-second exposure 

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See the full shortlist

Explore all the photographs in the Aurorae category.

Image showing a big rocky sea arch with a thick fog lying over the sea in the foreground. In the background is a very starry black sky, with an almost neon yellowy-green aurora close to the horizon

Aurora Over the Great Pollet Sea Arch by Brendan Alexander 

Great Pollet Sea Arch, Fanad Peninsula, County Donegal, Ireland, 27 February 2023 

Image of a suspension-type bridge over a still, dark body of water with a landscape covered by trees in the distance. In the sky is a bright and vivid green aurora which almost forms spikes at the top. The aurora is reflected in the water, making it glow green

Bridge Over Troubled Water by Jeffrey Wall

Forsmo, Västernorrland, Sweden, 3 September 2022 

Image of a star-scattered night sky, with aurorae forming the shape of a half butterfly, in shades of purple which phase into bright, almost neon greens

Butterfly by Vincent Beudez

Tromsø, Troms og Finnmark, Hålogaland, Norway, 26 March 2022 

Image of snow-capped mountains next to a wide and still body of water, with aurorae in the sky in bright green hues that hang like a curtain over a starry night sky

Curtain of Light by Andreas Ettl

Hamnøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway, 20 February 2023 

Image of a waterfall dropping into a rock formation, with the vivid aurorae in the sky behind, in many different shades of greens and different shapes which reflect onto the waterfall below

Dancing Waterfall by Lukáš Veselý

Gullfoss Waterfall, Iceland, 26 September 2022 

Astrophotograph of a unique rock formation within a pool of water, with the aurorae in the night sky, in bright shades of green which are reflected in the water

When the Sun Dances With the Moon by Filip Hrebenda

Arnarstapi, Snæfellsbær, Iceland, 17 September 2022 

Image showing mountain and rocks in foreground, with rippling emerald aurora in the sky behind the mountain, which is reflected in a pool of water

Green Snakes by Filip Hrebenda

Vikten beach, Lofoten Islands, Norway, 18 February 2023 

Image of aurorae swirling behind a stone gate in a triangular shape, with frozen water in the foreground

Arctic Gates by Daniel Viñé Garcia

Arctic Henge, Raufarhöfn, Iceland, 27 March 2022

Image of a mountain with green aurorae in the sky behind it and reflected on the sand in the foreground

Emerald Roots by Lorenzo Ranieri Tenti 

Vestrahorn, Stokksnes, Iceland, 19 October 2022 

Image of an almost-frozen stream in a cold country with the dusk sky above featuring some clouds and a long trail of light green aurorae. The setting Sun is just about visible behind a cloud, lightening up the sky

The Northern Moonlight by Yannick Legodec

Skógafoss, Skógar, Iceland, 20 August 2022 

Image of the Vestrahorn in Iceland with the aurorae in the sky above, in teals and turquoise tones. The aurorae are reflected in the water that fills the bottom of the image.

The Green Glow by Peter Hoszang

Vestrahorn, Stokksnes, Iceland, 16 January and 20 February 2023 

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