The Royal Observatory Greenwich has announced the winners of the highly anticipated Astronomy Photographer of the Year 15 competition. The top prize was awarded to Marcel Drechsler, Xavier Strottner, and Yann Sainty for their captivating photograph titled “Andromeda, Unexpected.” The image showcases a surprising discovery – a massive plasma arc located next to the Andromeda Galaxy (M31). This object is currently being investigated by scientists and it could potentially be the largest structure of its kind nearest to us in the Universe.
The Andromeda Galaxy, also known as M31, is the closest spiral galaxy to our own Milky Way. It has been a popular subject for astrophotographers due to its beauty and accessibility. However, the recent discovery of the plasma arc in such close proximity to the galaxy has astounded astronomers. The arc extends approximately 1.5 x 0.45 degrees and is situated just 1.2 degrees away from the center of M31, southeast of its main body.
Marcel Drechsler, Xavier Strottner, and Yann Sainty expressed their gratitude for receiving this prestigious award, acknowledging the support, friendship, and encouragement they have received on their astrophotography journey. Their success in this competition serves as motivation to continue pursuing their passion for astrophotography and further research in the field.
The Young Astronomy Photographer of the Year award was presented to two fourteen-year-old boys from China, Runwei Xu and Binyu Wang. Their collaborative effort resulted in a striking image titled “The Running Chicken Nebula,” which was highly commended by the judges. The photograph beautifully captures the nebula and showcases the talent of these young photographers.
Other winning images from the competition include “Circle of Light” by Andreas Ettl, reflecting the Northern Lights on Skagsanden beach in Norway; “The Dark Wolf – Fenrir” by James Baguley, exhibiting a molecular cloud in the form of a wolf; “A Sun Question” by Eduardo Schaberger Poupeau, capturing a large filament shaped like a question mark; and “Grand Cosmic Fireworks” by Angel An, depicting the rare phenomenon of atmospheric luminescence.
The judges also acknowledged several other exceptional images, including John White’s “Black Echo,” which utilized audio source material from NASA’s Chandra Sonification Project to visually represent the sound of a black hole at the center of the Perseus Galaxy. Marcel Dreschsler’s image titled “New Class of Galactic Nebulae Around the Star YY Hya” won the Stars and Nebulae category, displaying a previously unknown galactic nebula housing a pair of stars surrounded by a common envelope.
Dr. Ed Bloomer, an astronomer at the Royal Observatory Greenwich, praised the high-quality submissions and expressed his excitement over the genuine discoveries captured in this year’s competition. He also noted the exceptional contributions from young participants and newcomers, highlighting the intense debate among the judges to select the very best images.
Katherine Gazzard, Curator of Art at Royal Museums Greenwich, commended the technical sophistication of the entries and emphasized the stunning beauty of the winning images. As a newcomer to the competition, she expressed how the submissions have influenced her perception of the night sky.
The Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition is organized by the Royal Observatory Greenwich in association with BBC Sky at Night Magazine, with support from Liberty Specialty Markets. The exhibition featuring the winning images, as well as other exceptional entries, opened on September 16, 2023, at the National Maritime Museum in London.
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