When you gaze up at the night sky, you’re not just looking at celestial objects far away in space. You’re looking at objects far away in time, too.
The light from a distant star can take thousands of years to reach Earth. That means astrophotography — images of the night sky — is the closest thing we may have to a time machine. The best astrophotography is breathtakingly beautiful to boot.
Below are several images shortlisted for the Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2017 awards, meaning they represent the most stunning astrophotography work in the world. They include images of the Northern Lights, a crescent Moon, and the Milky Way.
The final winners of the contest will be announced Sept. 14 at London’s Royal Observatory Greenwich.
During an astrophotography tour of the Murmansk region with Stas Korotkiy, an amateur astronomer and popularizer of astronomy in Russia, the turquoise of the Aurora Borealis swirls above the snow covered trees. Illuminated by street lamps, the trees glow a vivid pink forming a contrasting frame for Nature’s greatest lightshow.
Murmansk, Russia, Jan. 3, 2017
Canon EOS 6D camera, 14 mm f/2.8 lens, ISO 3200, four 2-second exposures combined
The seemingly pop art inspired canvas of the rainbow of colours exhibited by the brightest star in our sky, Sirius. These colours are obvious to the naked eye and more so through the eyepiece of a telescope, but are difficult to capture in an image. To do this the photographer had to somehow ‘freeze’ each colour as it happened by taking a series of videos at different levels of focus and then extracted the frames from each video to make up this composite image. By capturing the star out of focus, the light from Sirius was spread out over a larger area, which resulted in the colours it displayed being more obvious. The image is made up of 782 different frames at different levels of focus. There is a single frame of a focused Sirius…