Hundreds of spectacular images enchanted the eyes of the judges who helped elect the best Photographs of astronomy 2021, in the 13th edition of the Astronomy Photographer contest of the Royal Greenwich Observatory. The winners in 12 categories were announced this Thursday (16), and the winning photographs will be displayed at the National Maritime Museum of London from this Saturday (18th).

The exhibition, which will be open to the public, takes place at the National Maritime Museum, where more than 100 photographs will be exhibited in lightbox displays.

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In this 2021 edition, the competition attracted more than 4,5 entries from 75 countries around the world. 

Meet Astronomy Photographer 2021, winner of all contest categories

Shuchang Dong was crowned the winner in the Our Sun category, and his photography was also voted best among all in the contest. The image, dubbed “The Golden Ring”, shows a solar eclipse ring registered in the Ali region of Tibet in June of last year.

Equipment used: Fujifilm XT-4 camera; Sun: 386mm f / 10 lens, ISO 160, 1/2000 second exposure; Moving cloud: ND1000 filter, 386mm f/16 lens, ISO 160, 1 second exposure. Image: Shuchang Dong

“This place has a year-round sunny climate, but in front of the annular eclipse, I saw dark clouds all over the sky,” recalls Dong. “We were waiting with anxious minds, but we were lucky. A minute after the annular eclipse, the Sun penetrated through the clouds and then was sucked into the thick clouds. We were very lucky here.”

According to the judges, the image combines the science, art and technological ingenuity of astronomical photography.

"Our Sun can still be seen as a ring circling the Moon as it passes in front of it, and mountains on the lunar surface can be seen hiding some of that light in the lower right of the image," says Judge Emily Drabek-Maunder. 

His colleague Steve Marsh, who also made up the jury, called the image "temperamental, serene, perfectly captured and expertly processed." “You feel like you can reach for the sky and put this on your finger,” Marsh said.

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See the runner-up photo in the Nosso Sol category

Another image that deserves to be highlighted is the second placed in the Our Sun category, by Vincent Bouchama, in which our star appears sharing its crown with a comet.

Equipment used: William Optics ZenithStar 61II APO telescope, Williams Optics Flat 61 af / 5.9 lens, Vixen GPD SkySensor 2000PC mount, Canon EOS 760D camera; Sky, sun and comet: ISO 200–800, exposures 1/800–0,6 seconds; Moon: ISO 200–800, 0,6 second exposures; Baily prominences and counts: ISO 200, 1/4000 second exposures. Image: Vincent Bouchama

The photo was taken in the department of El Cuy, Río Negro, Argentina.

“This composition shows the full range of events that a total solar eclipse can offer: Earth's glow, prominences, Baily's beads, the chromosphere and the crown,” says Vincent. “One can notice the presence of a special guest in the right corner of the frame – the comet C / 2020 X3 (SOHO), which had been discovered only the day before”.

Complete list of all winners of the “Astronomy Photographer” contest

Next link, you can check out the winning images in all 12 categories: Nosso Sol; Aurora; Galaxies; Our Moon; People and Space; Planets, Comets and Asteroids; Skyscapes; Stars and Nebulae; Young Astronomy Photographer; Manju Mehrotra Family Trust Award for Best New Artist and Annie Maunder Award for Image Innovation.

According to the event's official website, the Manju Mehrotra Family Trust Award for Best New Artist is given to novice astrophotographers who have less than two years of experience in the field and who have not participated in the competition before.

The Annie Maunder Image Innovation Award is awarded to the person who produces the best image from publicly available data.

First launched in 2020, this award encourages everyone to reimagine and innovate the publicly available images from the research telescopes that astronomers around the world use to explore our solar system and beyond.

These telescopes collect data and observations of the night sky and astronomical bodies, but many of them remain invisible to non-specialists. The Annie Maunder Prize bridges the gap between science and art, encouraging participants to come up with different and creative ways to engage with these observations.

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