The night sky provides a wealth of astro-imaging targets. Image credit: WillGater.com
Each month the astro-magazines, Internet forums and websites fill with countless stunning amateur images of nebulae, galaxies, the Moon and more. Often they’ve been taken with a huge range of equipment; from a point and shoot camera held over the telescope eyepiece to many thousands of pounds worth of equipment and CCD cameras. It’s no secret that today accomplished ‘amateur’ astronomers, with quite modest equipment, are producing images whose quality is on a par with (and in some cases far excels) those from professional telescopes, taken a few decades ago. You just have to look at the monthly reader Hotshots pages of Sky At Night Magazine to see what amateur astro-imagers are capable of nowadays!
To celebrate the burgeoning nature of this exciting aspect of astronomy the Royal Observatory Greenwich, in association with BBC Sky At Night Magazine, have just launched the 2009 Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition. It’s open to everyone around the globe so, if you’ve taken an amazing astro-image that you want to show off to the world, now’s your chance to enter. There are several categories, to cover the many different celestial subjects, including; “Earth and Space” which is for landscapes with an astronomy interest, “Deep Sky” for galaxies and nebulae and “Our Solar System” for pictures of the Sun’s celestial family. The overall winner will receive £1000, with runners up etc. receiving other prizes. Getting youngsters interested in the night sky is also vitally important for astronomy, as both a hobby and a science, so there’s also the Young Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition for entrants under 16 years of age.
When the results have been decided there’s going to be a free exhibition of the winning images at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich from 10th September 2009 to 10th January 2010. You can find out more and read all the rules on the National Maritime Museum/Royal Observatory’s website here. I’m on the judging panel and I genuinely can’t wait for the images to start coming in, so I can see the fruits of your labours. So good luck to those of you who enter and let’s hope 2009 brings us all some nice clear skies to savour!