The Manju Mehrotra Family Trust Prize for Best Newcomer is awarded to fledgling astrophotographers with less than two years’ experience in the field and who have not entered the competition before.

Take a look at the astonishing images they have produced despite their brief time behind the camera, that would be suitably envied by the most experienced of astrophotographers.

The winning image

Falcon 9 soars past the Moon by Paul Eckhardt

Taken in Titusville, Florida, USA

An astronomy photograph showing Falcon 9 soaring past the moon

"Could I shoot a rocket over the Moon?" wondered Paul Eckhardt, the winner of the Best Newcomer prize in 2021.

"Four hours before the launch, I downloaded the PhotoPills app, subscribed to and started a mad dash to understand both applications and pinpoint a location where the flight arc would overlap the Moon. 

"Time slipped by as I lost myself in satellite maps and new app interfaces. Arriving with five minutes to spare, I was blocked by a gate and ended up on a different dark road with trees blocking the launch pad. I made a quick calculation, parked and ran a hundred feet in the dark. The sky lit up as Falcon 9 soared straight up, tilted over, and aimed right at the Moon.

"I've never been more excited about trying to capture an image before."

Equipment used: Sony ILCE-6500 camera, 210 mm f/8 lens, ISO 400, 1/350-second exposure

The right target, the right moment, the right composition. These three aspects make this image a special one among many astrophotos and many spacecraft transit lunar images. This image couldn’t be planned – it is a result of good situational awareness of a talented photographer

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