Amazing Photos: Royal Observatory’s 2012 Space Photographer of the Year Finalists

Double Arch with a Perseid Meteor and the Milky Way by Thomas O'Brien

Thomas O'Brien

A meteor captured streaking across the sky above Arches National Park, Utah, during the annual Perseid meteor shower. The Perseids is one of the most prolific showers, often with around 80 meteors an hour during its peak. Nevertheless, meteors are hard to catch on camera. The photographer has used an artificial light source to illuminate and emphasise the dramatic rock formations.

Sky Away from the Lights by Tunç Tezel

Tunç Tezel

A view from the Uludag National Park in Turkey. The Milky Way stretches across the sky above the manmade pockets of hazy lights from the towns and villages below.

Sky Show by Tommy Eliassen

Tommy Eliassen

The dazzling Aurora Borealis over Høgtuva Mountain in Norway. The Earth’s magnetic field funnels particles from the solar wind down over the planet’s polar regions. More than 80 kilometres above the ground, these particles collide with atoms and molecules of gas in our atmosphere, causing them to glow in the characteristic colours of green and pale red for oxygen and crimson for nitrogen.

116-Megapixel Moon Mosaic by David Campbell

David Campbell

A multi-image mosaic of the Moon, which is our nearest neighbour in space and therefore appears larger in our sky than any other astronomical object apart from the Sun. Even a telescope of quite modest magnification will only show a part of the Moon’s surface at one time, meaning that multi-image mosaics such as this are needed to show large areas of its surface.

Sunny Airlines by Dunja Zupanic

Dunja Zupanic

A chance alignment superimposes a jet and its twin vapour trails against the disc of the sun. Also visible is an enormous sunspot complex, a region of the sun’s surface in which intense magnetic fields are suppressing the upwelling of heat from the solar interior. Sunspot activity has been increasing in 2012 as the sun approaches the peak of its eleven year-cycle.

Cygnus by J-P Metsävainio

J-P Metsävainio

This mosaic image reveals a huge swathe of the sky in the constellation of Cygnus. Huge clouds of colourful glowing gas and lanes of dark dust stretch across the field of view. Their light is too faint to register with the human eye, but long exposure times and special filters allow us to appreciate their grandeur and scale.

IC 1396 – Elephant-Trunk Nebula by Bill Snyder

Bill Snyder

This picture shows the column of dust known as the ‘Elephant’s Trunk’ in the constellation of Cepheus. Deep within the dense clumps of dust and gas that make up the ‘trunk’ new stars are currently forming.

Stargazers by Jessica Caterson, Young Astronomy Photographer of the Year

Jessica Caterson

This is a self-portrait of the photographer (far right) with her friends at her caravan site in the Gower Peninsular, Wales. Several short exposures were aligned and combined to capture the crisp stars and dark sky, while minimising trailing due to the Earth’s rotation; the visible progress of the aeroplane in the upper right reveals this process. Adding the final frame of the backlit friends gives context to the scene.

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