CNN_ A photograph of a huge plasma arc next to the Andromeda Galaxy, the closest large spiral galaxy to the Milky Way, has won the 2023 Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition for a team of amateur astronomers.
The giant arc captured by the team led by Marcel Drechsler, Xavier Strottner and Yann Sainty,in the image titled “Andromeda, Unexpected,” was a “surprising discovery” and could be the largest structure of its kind near to us in the universe, London’s Royal Observatory Greenwich, which hosts the competition, said in a statement Tuesday.
Typically, an image of a new discovery is mostly a blurry black and white image with an incomprehensible and almost invisible faint dot or spectrum, according to judge and astrophotographer László Francsics.
However, this “astrophoto is as spectacular as (it is) valuable. It not only presents Andromeda in a new way, but also raises the quality of astrophotography to a higher level,” he said in the statement.
A team of amateur astronomers, led by Marcel Drechsler from Germany and Xavier Strottner from France, discovered a previously unknown galactic nebula. They captured a pair of stars surrounded by a common envelope at its center.
Scientists are now investigating the large object, which is in the immediate vicinity of the Andromeda Galaxy, in a transnational collaboration, according to the observatory.
Another discovery was made by a team of amateur astronomers led by Marcel Drechsler and Xavier Strottner, whose image of an ultra-deep stellar remnant in a previously unknown galactic nebula—a giant cloud of dust and gas where stars form—topped the Stars & Nebula category.
An image of the Running Chicken Nebula—so called because it looks like a giant chicken running across the sky, according to NASA’s website—won the Young Astronomy Photographer of the Year award for two 14-year-old boys from China, Runwei Xu and Binyu Wang.
The nebula is located in the Centaurus constellation, about 6,000 lights year away from Earth, according to the release.
Judge and professional astronomer Yuri Beletsky described the image as “strikingly beautiful,” adding: “The photographers have managed to capture the vibrant colours of the nebula as well as the embedded star cluster.”
“This cluster contains several hot, young stars whose intense radiation causes the surrounding nebula to glow,” he continued.
Two 14-year-old boys from China won Young Astronomy Photographer of the Year for their image of The Running Chicken Nebula
Other winners included Monika Deviat in the Aurorae category for her abstract image of an aurora in the shape of a brushstroke; Ethan Chappel in the Our Moon category for capturing the moon passing in front of Mars; Eduardo Schaberger Poupeau in the Our Sun category for snapping the sun with a huge solar filament in the shape of a question mark; and Angel An in the Skyscapes category for capturing the extremely rare phenomenon of Sprites, in which atmospheric luminescence appears like fireworks.
The innovation prize was awarded to John White for uniquely capturing the sound of the black hole at the center of the Perseus Galaxy using audio source material from NASA’s Chandra Sonification Project—which he played through a speaker with a petri dish attached to it.
Katherine Gazzard, Curator of Art (post-1800) at Royal Museums Greenwich, said in the release that this was her first time judging the competition and that “the winning images are absolutely stunning. It has made me look at the night sky in a new light.”
The winning images will be on display in an exhibition opening at London’s National Maritime Museum on Saturday.
A team of amateur astronomers led by Marcel Drechsler, Xavier Strottner and Yann Sainty made a surprising discovery to win the overall prize in the 2023 Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition. "Andromeda, Unexpected" shows a huge plasma arc next to the Andromeda Galaxy, the closest large spiral galaxy to our Milky Way.
Monika Deviat's image of an abstract aurora in the shape of a brushstroke topped the Aurorae category. "We are accustomed to seeing aurora from an earthly perspective with mountains, trees and humanmade structures framing the dancing lights. This photograph offers something different, showcasing the beauty of the aurora in isolation," said judge Katherine Gazzard.
Ethan Chappel won in the Our Moon category for capturing in detail the moon passing in front of Mars on December 8, 2022. Judge Steve Marsh described the occultation as "one of the last and greatest celestial events of 2022."
Eduardo Schaberger Poupeau's photograph of the sun with a huge solar filament in the shape of a question mark won in the Our Sun category. "If you zoom into the surface of the Sun, the image has a paint-like quality—I feel like I can see the brush strokes," said judge Sheila Kanani.
Vikas Chander's photograph of star trails poking through the gray sky above a ship stranded in the treacherous, most northern part of Namibia's Atlantic-facing coast on August 25, 2008, prevailed in the People & Space category.
Tom Williams topped the Planets, Comets & Asteroids category for photographing a unique view of Venus using infrared or ultraviolet false color. "Capturing these atmospheric details from the sunlit side of the planet when it is so far from Earth is a remarkable achievement," said judge László Francsics.
Angel An won in the Skyscapes category for snapping the extremely rare phenomenon of Sprites—or red lightning—in which atmospheric luminescence appears like fireworks. "It creates an unsettling, alien image that can't help but draw your eye," said judge Ed Bloomer.
The Sh2-132 complex lies near the border of the Cepheus and Lacerta constellations and contains multiple deep sky structures. Aaron Wilhelm's winning photograph in the Best Newcomer category includes 70 hours of data and shows the rich interplay of all the gases.
John White claimed the Innovation prize for capturing the sound of a black hole at the center of the Perseus Galaxy using audio source material from NASA's Chandra Sonification Project and playing it through speakers with a petri dish attached to them. "Here, we are shown an interesting and playful visualisation of astronomical data that we could not 'see' by ourselves nor 'hear'. This is an image of a sound generated by a source that is invisible. Stark, beautiful, rather weird, and certainly innovative!" said judge Ed Bloomer.