For centuries, we have been fascinated by the wonders of the Universe. However, as technology progresses and humanity matures, we have become increasingly disconnected from the cosmos.

The winning and shortlisted images in the Skyscapes category invite us to consider our place on Earth and within the Universe. Evoking feelings of awe and wonder, these photographs showcase the Earth’s natural wonders – and our own engineering feats – against the backdrop of the heavens.

From star trails over mountains, to the Milky Way rising behind ancient stone formations, to majestic noctilucent clouds reflected in water, explore the full shortlist below.

Visit Astronomy Photographer of the Year

Image of the sky with a lightning sprite at the top of the image in bright pinks, resembling tree branches

The winning image

Grand Cosmic Fireworks by Angel An

Taken in Lake Puma Yumco, Tibet, China, 20 May 2022 

Angel says, "I was standing on the highest ridge of the Himalaya mountains, enjoying the dancing lightning sprites like gorgeous fireworks in the night sky. They acted as fairy-like creatures, giving a transient firework show for the audience on Earth. Seeing this extremely rare phenomenon of atmospheric luminescence with such high intensity was something that I have never witnessed before."

Equipment used: Sony ILCE-7S3 camera, 135 mm f/1.8, ISO 12800, 4-second exposure 

This is not, as it might first appear, an enormous extraterrestrial, but the lower tendrils of a sprite (red lightning)! This rarely seen electrical discharge occurs much higher in the atmosphere than normal lightning (and indeed, despite the name, is created by a different mechanism), giving the image an intriguingly misleading sense of scale. While the gradient of colours is beautiful by itself, impressively the image also captures the delicate structure of the plasma. We really loved that the photographer doesn’t capture the whole structure, which extends far beyond the top of the frame. It creates an unsettling, alien image that can’t help but draw your eye. 

Dr Ed Bloomer, competition judge
Image showing WWI trenches at bottom lit up with lights, a line of trees in the distance, and a purple, blue and yellow sky behind with star trails making curved diagonal lines


Celestial Equator Above First World War Trench Memorial by Louis Leroux-Gere

Taken in Vimy, Pas-de-Calais, Hauts de France, France, 29 April 2022 

Louis says, "This is my first star trail taken over a five-hour exposure. This photograph was captured at the   Canadian National Vimy Memorial in northern France, the site to remember all Canadians who served in the First World War. I slept in those trenches while my camera captured the rotation of the sky and was absolutely amazed by the stars."

Equipment used: Canon EOS 6D (Astro modified), Samyang XP 14 mm f/2.4 lens, 14 mm f/3.2, ISO 1000, 577 x 30-second exposures 

Circular solargraph image showing a fast food restaurant within a parking lot and in the sky is multiple pale yellow lines moving from behind the restaurant to the upper right hand corner

Highly commended

Solargraph 209 Days by Ksawery Wróbel

Taken in Bloomingdale, Illinois, USA, 11 June–16 December 2022

"Solargraphy is a technique in which a homemade pinhole camera can be used to expose photosensitive paper for a long exposure time," Ksawery says. "Depending on the length of the exposure, the resulting image shows the path of the Sun across the sky from dawn to dusk, but also from north to south (or vice versa) between the solstices.

"Each streak of light in the solargraph image represents one day. Missing light streaks indicate that the Sun was obstructed by cloud cover. This method allows the use of very long exposure times: several weeks, a few months or even years. After the exposure of the paper, the whole chemical process is skipped. The negative photo is removed from the camera, scanned and inverted to the positive in a graphics programme. To take my photo I used an aluminium jar. The photosensitive paper was cut around and rested on the lid of the jar (this is why my photo is cropped in the shape of a circle). I call this my ‘Eye of Sparrow’ pinhole camera."

Equipment used: Homemade ‘Eye of Sparrow’ pinhole camera, 23.5 mm f/130, 209 days total exposure

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See the full shortlist

Explore all the photographs in the Skyscapes category.

Image of trees emerging out of a body of water, but the trees are very unique bent and twisted shapes. The trees are silhouetted against the sky which has the Milky way going across it horizontally, rendered in purples, blues and pinks

The Dancing Trees of Sumba by Vikas Chander

Waingapu, Sumba, Indonesia, 15 June 2022 

View of rocky top of a mountain with the Milky Way diagonal in the sky behind, with the sky in tones of purples, blues and yellow, with fog at the top of the mountain

On Top of the Dream by Jeff Graphy 

Pain de Sucre, Queyras, France, 30 May 2022 

Image of a lake at twilight with snow-capped mountains behind it, while in the sky multiple images of a lunar eclipse have been compiled to make an arc showing its movement through the sky and its colour change from white to red, back to white

Passage of a Lunar Eclipse by Mike White

Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve, South Island, New Zealand, 8 and 9 November 2022 

Image of a large mountain at night, with a road snaking up it illuminated in gold. In the sky is a semicircular star trail half cut off by the edges of the image in whites and yellows

From Earth to Polaris by Emad Nematollahi

Lasem, Mazandaran Province, Iran, 20 July 2022 

Rectangular image featuring a mountainous landscape in the bottom, with the Milky Way arching from the left to right of the image, smattered with stars. In the direct middle of the arc is an Orionid meteor, shining very brightly

Autumn Milky Way Arc and an Orion Bolide by Chunlin Liu

Wangjingtai, Miyun district, Beijing, China, 22 October 2022 

Image showing a crooked tree which is almost horizontal, with a brown sky in the background with the Milky Way down the middle

Ancient Survivor by Andreas Jonees 

El Sabinar, El Hierro, Canary Islands, Spain, 24 August 2022 

Image showing a rock formation in the foreground with the Milky Way diagonal in the background in grey and white tones

St Agnes by Derek Horlock 

St Agnes, Isles of Scilly, UK, 29 June 2022 

Image of a prehistoric rock formation akin to Stonehenge in the foreground of the image, with the Milky Way rendered in blues and greens in the sky

The Enigma of The North by Josh Dury

Callanish, Isle of Lewis, Scotland, UK, 30 August 2022 

Image of a large ferris wheel from a ground angle, with the Moon just behind it, with a lunar halo which is a giant reflection ring around the Moon

Lunar Halo and the Giant Ferris Wheel by Takanobu Kurosaki

Uozu, Toyama, Japan, 14 May 2022  

Image of a snowy mountain with a sark sky in the background. Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) is visible as a green smudge on the right hand side of the sky

Comet 2022 E3 Above Snowy Mount Etna by Dario Giannobile

Mount Etna, Sicily, Italy, 24 January 2023 

Image of sand dunes stretching into the horizon, above them Venus glows bright white in the middle of the image and the Milky Way curves over the top

Dune by Burak Esenbey

White Desert National Park, Egypt, 4 March 2022 

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