The astrophotography contest, run by London's Royal Observatory Greenwich, is the largest of its kind
This shot shows Iceland's famous geyser, the Great Geysir, preparing to blow, with the aurora behind it.(Image credit: Copyright Phil Halper)
Glowing Arctic lights sweep across darkened Icelandic skies; colorful puffs of dust and gas form a spectral batlike shape in a far-off nebula; craters on the lunar surface yawn and gape, their rocky texture captured in astonishing detail.
Amateur and professional space photographers from nearly 70 countries submitted more than 5,200 entries to this year's contest, which is the largest international competition of its kind, representatives announced in a statement.
Photos that made the shortlist show active regions on the sun's surface; the aftermath of stellar explosions; star trails over a desert landscape; and tiny Saturn peeking out from behind the pitted face of our moon, to name just a few.
From the shortlisted photos, judges will select one overall winner. Prizes will also be awarded for the top photos in nine categories: Aurorae; People and Space; Our Sun; Our Moon; Planets, Comets and Asteroids; Stars and Nebulae; Galaxies; and Young Astronomy Photographer of the Year, for photographers ages 16 and younger.
One special prize, the Sir Patrick Moore Prize for Best Newcomer, honors astrophotographers who have been shooting photos of space for less than a year. Another special award, the Annie Maunder Prize for Image Innovation, recognizes outstanding image creation using telescope data that is publicly available.
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"Astronomy is one of the most accessible sciences, and everyone has looked up at the night sky at one time or another and wondered what is out there in the cosmos," contest judge and Royal Observatory Greenwich Astronomer Emily Drabek-Maunder said in the statement. "Astrophotography bridges the gap between art and science, highlighting the natural beauty of our universe."
Contest winners will be announced on Sept. 10, and those photos will be displayed in the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London, beginning in October, according to the statement.
Mindy Weisberger is a senior writer for Live Science covering general science topics, especially those relating to brains, bodies, and behaviors in humans and other animals — living and extinct. Mindy studied filmmaking at Columbia University; her videos about dinosaurs, biodiversity, human origins, evolution, and astrophysics appear in the American Museum of Natural History, on YouTube, and in museums and science centers worldwide. Follow Mindy on Twitter.