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Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2010 – the results!

Tom Lowe’s stunning winning image ‘Blazing Bristlecone’. Credit: Tom Lowe

Last night the results of the 2010 Astronomy Photographer of the Year awards were announced at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich. You’ll have probably seen some of the amazing images in today’s press, including this great audio slideshow from BBC News and an impressive centre spread, of the overall winning image, in the Guardian.

All the prize winning images are now on show, until February 2011, in a stunning (and free!) exhibition at the observatory. They’re wonderfully displayed in a dimly lit room, on backlit plastic, which really brings out their rich colours and incredible details.

Also on show in the exhibition space are four superb mini-documentaries. They tell the story of some of the images in the exhibition and the photographers who took them. In the process they reveal the, often unseen, human element behind astroimaging. The videos are all on Vimeo and I’ve embedded two of them below.

If you’re suitably enthused by this year’s winning images, and would like to have a go at astroimaging, there are some great guides on the ROG website to get you started. Who knows, by this time next year, it might well be your images we’re admiring on the walls in the 2011 exhibition.

Video credits: Buzz Films & the Royal Observatory, Greenwich

Rocking around NGC 2264

christmastreecluster1NGC 2264 containing The Christmas Tree cluster. Credit: ESO

Sometimes it’s nice just to sit back and revel in the countless images that are produced by the world’s observatories, be they in space or on the ground. It might be a friend’s ‘amateur’ astroimage one day and a celestial scene from Spitzer the next. Despite the title of my previous talks, we all love a good pretty picture.

With this thought in mind then, here’s a newly released image from the European Southern Observatory of NGC 2264 — an object that contains the festively named Christmas Tree cluster. The cluster, made of young blue stars, is surrounded by an enormous star forming nebula. The startling rich ruby colour of the nebula is coming from the glowing hydrogen gas that is being excited by ultraviolet radiation, from the young (bluer) stars within the cluster. Sitting atop the ‘Christmas tree’ is the object astronomers call the Cone Nebula — a huge tower of cool gas that protrudes into the main nebula. The Cone Nebula has been observed many times before, perhaps most notably by the Hubble Space Telescope.

Scientifically, there are loads of interesting facets to this region from stellar families to signs of jets from infant stars (called Herbig-Haro objects) and even dust being gently corralled by starlight. Mainly however, this image has been released just for us to enjoy. You can read more about the NGC 2264 region (and download some very large versions of the image) from the ESO website here. For now though, let me take this opportunity to wish everyone a very safe and enjoyable holiday and a successful International Year of Astronomy in 2009!

Brilliant Noise and Magnetic Movie

I blogged a few months ago about an art exhibit, which I saw here in Bristol, about the Sun and magnetic fields. You can see what I thought of them here. Well (via Phil Plait) it seems they have now uploaded those films onto the web. The two films are both innovative, interesting and most of all educating. They’re called Brilliant Noise and Magnetic Movie and they are really worth watching.

Brilliant Noise @ Bristol’s Arnolfini gallery

Yesterday a few of us from the magazine went to see the Brilliant Noise exhibit at the Arnolfini gallery here in Bristol. The exhibit is based around a 5 month placement of two artists at NASA’s Space Sciences Laboratory at the UC Berkeley.

I won’t give away all the detail but the exhibit uses raw videos of the Sun (from various solar spacecraft) followed by some interviews, on the big scientific quandaries, with scientists from NASA.

I haven’t seen science portrayed so well, in art, for a long time — the exhibit is well worth a visit. The power of the Sun, its magnetic field and the turbulent nature of its surface and atmosphere was conveyed with incredible power and real feeling. If you are Bristol way then I definitely recommend you pop in.