Astronomy Photographer Of The Year Contest Yields Breath-Taking Space Shots

hero andromeda unexpected image
The 2023 Astronomy Photographer of the Year contest produced some of the most alluring and breathtaking images of deep space by amateur astronomers and photographers worldwide. The winning image even revealed a never-before-seen phenomena in an area of the night sky that is often observed.

When one ponders new discoveries in deep space, NASA's Webb telescope or one of the many large ground-based telescopes probably comes to mind. Yet in 2022, amateur astronomers and photographers Marcel Dreschsler, Xavier Strottner, and Yann Sainty uncovered an oxygen arc next to the Andromeda Galaxy that had never been seen before. The winning image, called Andromeda, Unexpected, is simply one of many that have been taken of the well-known galaxy since it was first photographed in 1888 by Isaac Roberts.

The new object, a 'huge plasma arc' near the Andromeda Galaxy, is the slightly-curved blue cloud that appears at the top of the spiral galaxy. According to the Royal Museums of Greenwich, plasma makes up 99% of the visible universe. It is also associated with forming stars, nebulae, solar wind, comet tails, and the aurora.

The team deciding the winning image remarked, "As a result (of the discovery), it could be the largest and closest such structure to us in the Universe."

the eyes galaxy
Image Credit: Weitang Liang

The image selected as runner-up (seen above) in the contest was an image of The Eyes Galaxy (NGC4438). Weitang Liang remarked about the image, "In 2022, I used the largest amateur telescope, the one-meter RC telescope at Chilescope, and an exposure of 30 hours to get enough deep space data."

Third place, referred to as Highly Recommended, went to Paul Montague. His image, Neighbours (seen below), was taken in Bendleby Ranges, in South Australia, in May of 2022. Montague used an 8-inch telescope and a monochrome camera to capture the image. He explained, "The juxtaposition of the dusty side on galaxy NGC 5078, interacting with its small neighbour IC 879 against the smooth face-on galaxy NGC 5101 is intriguing."

Image Credit: Paul Montague

All the images that made the Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition's shortlist can be found on the Royal Museums of Greenwich website.

Top Image Credit: Marcel Dreschsler, Xavier Strottner, and Yann Sainty