On September 8th 2011 judges will announce this years best astronomy photograph. Here are the favourited shortlisted entrants from photographers across the globe. If you wish to see the photographs in real life, amongst other astronomy shots, they will be free to view in an exhibition at the Royal Observatory in Greenwhich, London which will run until February 2012.
The photographs, which are truely breathtaking depict different events occuring in our skies and are taken by proffesional photographers who have often waited days and weeks for the perfect photo opportunites. Here are the shortlisted photographs:
Photograph: Kouji Ohnishi
An incredible action shot of the Hayabusa spacecraft in June 2010. Pictured here in South Australia the spacecraft is making it's re-entry into the earth's atmosphere after being in space for 7 years collecting important samples of asteroid dust. The intense heat generated from speeding through different layers of atmosphere produces an epic glow that can be seen immensley well from the ground.
Photograph: Anton Jankovoy
Taken in Nepal, amazingly clear star trails brush across the sky above the Annapurna Mountains at over 4,000 metres above sea level. Star trails are photographed over a series of hours as the earth rotates and stars change position in the sky.
Photograph: Fredrik Broms
A spectacular shot that captures various different astronomical events. The flourescent green reflection on the right of the picture is the famous Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis to give it it's official title. The sun has set a while ago giving some clouds an orange glow whilst the clouds in the centre of the photograph shine white as they pass over the bright moon. This picture was taken of the small island of Kvaloya in Norway.
Photograph: Marcus Davies
Taken through a telescope this picture is of the Tarantula Nebula which lies approximately 170,000 light years away from earth. This particular nebula lies within the Large Magellanic Cloud which is a satellite galaxy of our own Milky Way. Stretching a total of 3,000 light years across the Tarantula is home to the birthplace of thousands of new massive stars and is dominated by enormous gas and dust clouds and illuminating hydrogen floating through space.
Photograph: Terry Hancock
If you thought the Turantula Nebula sounded far away then this galaxy, the M31 will knock your socks off. Using a high powered telescope this photograph depicts the spiral galaxy M31 which lies 2.5 Million light years away from Earth. If you happen to be around in 4.5 billion years you should be able to see this very galaxy collide with our own Milky Way.
Photograph: Juan Carlos Casado
Taken on the day of the equinox in 2010 this is a long-exposure shot taken in Ecuador. As the sun sets the stars come out leaving a trail as the earth rotates. The stars on the right of the shot revolve around one of the Earth's poles whilst the stars on the left rotate around the other.
Photograph: Tung Tezel
A view of the southern area of the Milky Way taken from Mangaia in the Cook Islands. An unusually high level of moisture in the atmosphere provide the crisp and vivid colours in the sky.
Photograph: Eddie Trimarchi
In this high definition shot a range of different colours can be soon on the moon's surface. These colours have been enhanced in order to emphasize the distribution of minerals and soil on the moon.
Photograph: Fabien Neyer
This photograph shows a large area of space around the Orion Nebula. The Orion Nebula itself is the immensely bright patch in the top right hand corner of the image and is one of the brightest spots in space and often visible to the naked eye. The smattering of bright stars on the left of the picture are part of Orion's belt. The rest of the huge area is made up of swirling pink clouds formed by hydrogen, other gases and dust.
Photograph: Ole C Salomonsen
Another breathtaking shot of the Northern Lights as seen from Ulsfjord, Norway.
Photograph: Jeffrey Sullivan
Whilst it may seem that this photo has been taken during the day, the rainbow has actually occured due to the intense brightness of the full moon in the sky. Long exposure shots capture the magnificent star trails above the Yosemite Falls in California.