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Guiding Light to the Stars by Mark Gee (Australia)

Guiding Light to the Stars by Mark Gee (Australia)

8 June 2013

What the photographer says:

‘I recently spent a night out at Cape Palliser on the North Island of New Zealand, photographing the night sky. I woke after a few hours’ sleep at 5 a.m. to see the Milky Way low in the sky above the Cape. The only problem was that my camera gear was at the top of the lighthouse, seen to the right of this image, so I had to climb the 250-plus steps to retrieve it before I could take this photo…

‘By the time I got back the sky was beginning to get lighter with sunrise only two hours away. It looked surreal but amazing as the twilight started to creep into the night sky. I took a wide panorama made up of 20 individual images to get this shot. Stitching the images together was a challenge but the result was worth it!’

Canon 5D Mark III camera; 24mm f/2.8 lens; ISO 3200; 30-second exposure

What it shows:

This is a spectacular view of the Milky Way arching over the coast of the North Island of New Zealand. The brightest light in the image is from the Cape Palliser Lighthouse. The central patch of light in the sky marks the bulge of stars at the heart of our Galaxy, 26,000 light years away. To the left, the two Magellanic Clouds, small satellite galaxies much further away, appear as faint smudges in the sky.

Celestial Impasto - sh2–239 by Adam Block (USA)

Celestial Impasto: sh2–239 by Adam Block (USA)

10 November 2011

What the photographer says:

‘This is “impasto” on a celestial scale! Imagine the brush that could express the delicate wisps of dust and the opaque, cold, dark heart of this molecular cloud. Like a painter whose strokes leave behind a sense of motion and depth during the creation of an artwork, the star formation here seems to proceed quickly, as revealed by the rapid evaporation in the foreground. Soon even the deepest part of this cloud will yield to unstoppable forces and, as the dust is blown away, a young cluster of stars will shine.’

Schulman 0.8m telescope; EQ mount; STX (SBIG) 16803 camera; 15-hours total exposure

What it shows:

Structures like this often seem unchanging and timeless on the scale of a human lifetime. However, they are fleeting and transient on astronomical timescales. Over just a few thousand years the fierce radiation from the stars in this nebula will erode the surrounding clouds of dust and gas, radically altering its appearance.

Corona Composite of 2012 - Australian Totality by Man-To Hui (China)

Corona Composite of 2012: Australian Totality by Man-To Hui (China)

14 November 2012

What the photographer says:

‘It took me two months to process all the images to achieve this relatively satisfactory corona-composite result. This is the longest image-processing work I have ever experienced. I did not push very hard to extract the very subtle details in the corona, but did slightly to reconstruct the view observed by the naked eye as vividly as I could. I spent a lot of time admiring the corona; it is beyond my description.’

Canon 50D camera; Canon 70–200mm f/4 lens at 200mm ; ISO 100; 81 x 1/500–4-second exposures

What it shows:

This image is a demonstration of both precision timing and rigorous post-processing. It gives the viewer a window onto the elusive outer atmosphere of the Sun – the corona. A natural dimming of the Sun’s blinding brightness, courtesy of the Moon, reveals the ghostly glow of gas that has a temperature of one million degrees Celsius. For centuries, total solar eclipses were the only way to study this hidden treasure of the Sun.

Venus Transit, Foxhunter’s Grave, Welsh Highlands by Sam Cornwell (UK)

Venus Transit, Foxhunter’s Grave, Welsh Highlands by Sam Cornwell (UK)

6 June 2012

What the photographer says:

‘I am a complete amateur with regard to astrophotography. I saw the Venus transit of 2012 as a great opportunity to attempt to photograph one of the rarer spectacles of the Solar System. I took a group of friends and my camera equipment to the highest ground I knew locally, Foxhunter’s Grave in the Brecon Beacons. We arrived at about 2 a.m. to set up. It was cold, raining, windy and cloudy. Within a couple of hours the area had filled up with ‘real astronomers’ who knew what they were doing. I felt like such a novice but got stuck right in, with my lens trained on the horizon where the Sun would be appearing. It was truly one of the most amazing sights I have ever seen.’

Canon 5D Mark II camera; 100–400mm f/4 plus 1.4x extender lens; ISO 50; 1/8000-second exposure

What it shows:

For those lucky enough to see it, the transit of Venus was one of the astronomical highlights of 2012. As the planet took just six hours to cross the face of the Sun, cloudy weather was a potential disaster for observers – the next transit will not take place until 2117. Here, the final moments of the transit are revealed by a chance gap in the clouds, allowing the photographer to capture the picture of a lifetime. Extreme care should always be taken when photographing the Sun as its heat and light can easily cause blindness and damage digital cameras. Specialist solar filters are available to allow photography and observations to be carried out safely.

Moon Silhouettes by Mark Gee (Australia)

Moon Silhouettes by Mark Gee (Australia)

28 March 2013

What the photographer says:

‘People usually gather on Mount Victoria Lookout in Wellington, New Zealand, to take in the view of the surrounding city below. But on this particular day the Moon rose right behind the lookout revealing the silhouettes of the onlookers. This photo was shot from over 2 km away on the other side of Wellington city, on the day after full Moon. It was not just being in the right place at the right time: I had been planning for this shoot for over a year.’

Canon 1DX camera; 800mm f/9 plus 1.4x extender lens; ISO 400; 1/125-second exposure

What it shows:

This is a deceptively simple shot of figures silhouetted against a rising Moon. By photographing the people on the observation deck from a great distance, the photographer has emphasized their tiny scale compared to the grandeur of our natural satellite. Close to the horizon, Earth’s turbulent atmosphere blurs and softens the Moon’s outline and filters its normal cool grey tones into a warmer, yellow glow.

The Trapezium Cluster and Surrounding Nebulae by László Francsics (Hungary)

The Trapezium Cluster and Surrounding Nebulae by László Francsics (Hungary)

4 February 2013

What the photographer says:

‘I have always dreamed of capturing a “protoplanetary disc”, but an amateur astronomer hardly [ever] has the opportunity to do so. However, in the Orion Nebula it is possible to capture darker discs located in front of the shining background using ground-based telescopes. After several attempts, I managed to catch a protoplanetary disc surrounded by numerous stars in the Trapezium cluster of the Orion Nebula. This image was taken using two different telescopes, one in Siding Spring, New South Wales, Australia, and my own telescope in Hungary.’

0.50m f/6.8 astrograph with f/4.5 focal reducer; Planewave Ascension 200HR mount; FLI-PL6303E CCD/ Canon 350D modified camera. Robotic telescope at
Siding Spring Observatory, NSW, Australia accessed via iTelescope.net online

What it shows:

The great Orion Nebula is often described as a ‘stellar nursery’ because of the huge number of stars which are being created within its clouds of dust and glowing gas. As dense clumps of gas collapse under their own gravity, any remaining debris settles into a dark disc surrounding each newly formed star. One of these ‘protoplanetary discs’ can be seen silhouetted against the bright background of glowing gas in the central star cluster of this image. Within the disc material will condense still further, as planets, moons, asteroids and comets begin to form around the star.

Hi. Hello. By Ben Canales (USA)

Hi. Hello. By Ben Canales (USA)

21 July 2012

What the photographer says:

‘I was mesmerized by the emptiness of this mountain-top scene. The snow-filled summit gave a clean slate allowing the Milky Way to seem unusually prominent. It is my favourite representation of what it feels like to stand beneath a vast starry sky.’

Canon 1DX camera; Canon 14mm f/2.8 lens; ISO 8000; 30-second exposure

What it shows:

Appearing like a column of smoke rising from the horizon, a dark lane of dust marks the plane of the Milky Way in this photograph. This dust plays a vital role in the life story of our galaxy. Formed from the ashes of dead and dying stars, the dust clouds are also the regions in which new stars will form.

http://www.rmg.co.uk/whats-on/exhibitions/astronomy-photographer-of-the-year/2013-winners/

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