The competition turned five this year and drew more than 1,200 snapshots of space. The winning shot can be seen above. It comes from Australian photographer Mark Gee and shows the Milky Way shining over a rocky shore protected by a lighthouse. He was the winner both in his category, Earth and Space, and the competition's overall winner.
The other categories included Deep Space, Our Solar System, and Young Astronomy Photographer of the Year, which is reserved for budding astrophotographers under the age of 16. A spectacular shot of the Milky Way won this last prize, submitted by 14-year-old Jacob Marchio from the U.S.
There were two special categories this year. People and Space, which asked for images of humans doing one of the things they do best: Staring in wonder at the heavens. Mark Gee won this category as well, with an image of a small crowd framed by the rising moon. And the Sir Patrick Moore prize for Best Newcomer went to Sam Cornwell of the U.K. with a shot of the transit of Venus, which occurred in 2012. There was also the Robotic Scope Image of the Year, won by László Francsics of Hungary for his picture of the Trapezium Cluster.
Guiding Light to the Stars
The skies of the Southern Hemisphere offer a rich variety of astronomical highlights. The central regions of the Milky Way Galaxy, 26,000 light years away, appear as a tangle of dust and stars in the central part of the image. Two even more distant objects are visible as smudges of light in the upper left of the picture. These are the Magellanic Clouds, two small satellite galaxies in orbit around the Milky Way. You can find a larger version of this image here.
Image: Mark Gee (Australia), winner Earth and Space and overall winner