The skies above us are filled with shining pinpoints of light that we call stars, tiny twinkling dots that seem miniscule and distant. Often accompanying these fiery spheres are shrouds of dust and gas that we call nebulae.

Some are stellar nurseries where infant stars are born, others are leftover remnants of dying stars at the end of their lives. Regardless of their origins, nebulae are truly magnificent structures to behold, and what better way to see them than in expertly captured imagery. 

This year’s entrants have produced images of stars and nebulae that are truly stunning, revealing vast structures in ways that we’ve never seen before. The shapes, colours and features exhibited remind us of how much variety is on display in the night sky, even if most of it is simply too faint for our eyes to see. 

Explore the winning image and the full shortlist below.

Visit Astronomy Photographer of the Year

Image showing vivid red nebula in rippling waves, with a bright yellow star at the centre of the image, against a starry sky filled with blue, orange and white stars

The winning image

New Class of Galactic Nebulae Around the Star YY Hya by Marcel Drechsler

Taken in Ovalle, Chile, 8 March 2021–8 April 2022

"Our team of amateur astronomers, led by Marcel Drechsler from Germany and Xavier Strottner from France, was able to make an important contribution to the study of the evolution of binary star systems: on old images of sky surveys, we discovered a previously unknown galactic nebula," say the photographers.

"In its centre, a pair of stars surrounded by a common envelope was found. For the first time, amateurs and scientists have succeeded in providing evidence for a fully developed shell of a so-called ‘common envelope system’. In over 100 nights, more than 360 hours of exposure time were collected. The result shows an ultra-deep stellar remnant that the team has baptized ‘the heart of the Hydra'."

Equipment used: ASA Newtonian 500 mm telescope, ASA DDM85 mount, FLI ProLine 16803 camera, 1,900 mm f/3.8, 890 x 1,200-second exposures, 672 x 300-second exposures and 15 x 1,800-second exposures 

This is an absolutely breathtaking image of the YY Hya star and its interstellar environment. Remarkably, the nebula was discovered during a search for previously unknown galactic emission nebulae. After more than 360 hours of exposure time the photographer revealed a gorgeous ultra -deep stellar remnant. Not only is this image truly captivating, but it also serves as a fantastic illustration of how amateurs and professional astronomers can come together and achieve great results through collaboration.

Yuri Beletsky, competition judge
Image of a brown swirling nebula which resembles a brown liquid in water, against a black starry night sky


LDN 1448 et al. by Anthony Quintile

Taken in Flagstaff, Arizona, USA, 13, 15–18 and 20–21 November 2022 

Anthony explains, "One of my main goals when selecting objects, at least nebulae, is to find something that will intriguingly fill the field of view and provide an opportunity to explore. The dust in this part of the sky really meets that objective. This is immediately proximate to the more spectacular and more often photographed NGC 1333. However, the numerous catalogued objects in this field hold their own."

Equipment used: Sky-Watcher Quattro 250P telescope, Losmandy G11 Gemini 2 mount, ZWO ASI2600MC Pro camera, Starizona Nexus 0.75 x reducer/corrector, 750 mm f/3, Gain 100, 1,022 x 120-second exposures 

Image of red nebulae clouds of gas and dust, with a black shape on the top which resembles a wolf

Highly commended

The Dark Wolf - Fenrir by James Baguley

Taken in Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia, 2–4 May 2022 

"This image shows a dark, thick molecular cloud in the form of what appears to most people as a wolf, surrounded by a thick backdrop of hydrogen gas. This object has also been referred to as Fenrir, the wolf in Norse mythology. I chose a starless image to really emphasise the beautiful shape of the wolf with the striking red background of the most abundant element in our universe," says James.

Equipment used: Sidereal Trading 10" f/4 Newtonian telescope, Optolong L-eXtreme filter, iOptron CEM60EC mount, ZWO 2600MC Pro camera, 1,000 mm f/4, 165 x 300-second exposures, 13 hours 24 minutes total exposure time 

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See the full shortlist

Explore all the photographs in the Stars and Nebulae category.

Image showing a black starry night sky which phases into fuscia at the bottom. There is one very bright blue star and there are two wispy ghost-like grey nebulae

Cometary Globules CG1 and CG2 by Marco Lorenzi

El Sauce Observatory, Río Hurtado, Chile, 3 March 2022 

Image showing nebulae in tones of blues, oranges and reds which resembles a kind of spider web

The Majestic Tarantula Nebula by Steeve Body

Bentleigh, Victoria, Australia, 3–6 October 2022  

Image of a nebula in shades of blue, orange, yellow and red, forming the shape of what looks like a mandrill with an orange eye against a black starry sky

Cosmic Mandrill by Shaun Robertson

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 28 and 31 January and 11, 15, 19 February 2023

Image showing the Horsehead Nebula which is coloured in hues of gold and browns, with bright glowing blue stars on top, against a black sky which is coloured slightly teal by the gas and dust of the nebula

B33 Horsehead Nebula by Josh Jones

Pendleton, Oregon, USA, 7–8 and 10–12 October 2022 

Image showing the Pleiades star cluster which features many bright blue glowing stars, with a reflection nebula around them reflecting the blue colour to make a blue glow

Pleiones Daughters by André Vilhena

Santa Susana, Portugal, 1 October 2022 and 18 January 2023 

Against a black starry night sky filled with stars in blues, oranges and whites is a massive star cluster with thousands of stars all clumped together into a bright white centre

M5 Globular Cluster by Leo Shatz

Mitzpe Ramon, Negev Desert, Israel, 28 April and 2 June 2022 

Image of a black starry night sky, with one very bright white and blue star in the centre with reflective lines coming off of it

Splitting Castor by Chad Leader

Fairfax, Virginia, USA, 28 February 2023 

Image showing a nebula that resembles a flame, with big swirling clouds of reds, hot oranges, and yellows against a black starry night sky

The Red Giant by Bence Toth

Sződliget, Pest, Hungary, 6–10, 12, 14 and 15 February 2023 

Image of a nebula resembling a wave in blues and reds mixed with an outline of white, against a black starry night sky

Bat in Eastern Veil - Or Is It an Owl? by Brendan Kinch

Cartagena, Spain, 20 August 2022 

Image of the Cone Nebula made up of swirling brown clouds in the shape of a cone, which is glowing pink at the end. There are lots of bright blue stars across the image

The Cone Nebula by Matt Dieterich 

El Sauce Observatory, Río Hurtado, Chile, 22–26 December 2022 

Image showing vivid nebulae in hot oranges and reds and cool blues, resembling a flame. The background is a starry sky coloured in dark reds with hundreds of stars

Gabriela's Gems NGC 3324 by Andrew Campbell 

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 13 April 2022 

Image showing the Hyades star cluster which has many prominent glowing blue stars, and one really large white star

Hyades by Maurice Toet

Étoile-Saint-Cyrice, Hautes-Alpes, France, 25–28 October 2022 

Image showing the nebula 'the pillars of creation', with clouds of gas in colours including gold and blue

Starless Pillars by Jason Guenzel

Milford, Michigan, USA, 1 August 2022 

Image of circular shaped nebula in red with a blue outline, with a very bright star at the centre

RCW58: Wolf Rayet Bubble by Mark Hanson and Mike Selby

El Sauce Observatory, Río Hurtado, Chile, 25 and 29 January 2023 

Image of a nebula which resembles a jellyfish on the left in oranges and yellows, with a green cloud on the right hand side

Jellyfish Nebula by Peter Larkin

Coppet, Vaud, Switzerland, 14–19 February 2023

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