• Miles Hedley

ASTRONOMY PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE YEAR at the National Maritime Museum



One hundred images make up the final selection of the annual Astronomy Photographer Of The Year award - and all of them are currently on display at the National Maritime Museum. I think few would disagree with the judges' choice of the overall winner (top) - Austrian Gerald Rhemann's extraordinary shot, taken in Namibia, of Comet Leonard in the process of losing part of its tail.


Yet the other 99 pictures in the show are also astonishing. So how on earth - or perhaps I should say in heaven's name - do you categorise degrees of brilliance?



For example, why did Slovakian Filip Hrebenda's fabulous photo of the Northern Lights in Iceland (above) beat Alexander Stepanenko's equally fabulous and indeed fantastical shot of a dove-like aurora (below) over Arctic Russia?



You can continue to ask similar questions throughout the exhibition, so I have a simple piece of advice: Don't - just enjoy the spectacle. And enjoy, too, the contrast in scale that lets you look deep into the universe one moment and marvel the next at an image of our own comparatively tiny moon.



Nothing illustrates this difference better than The Eye Of God (above), Chinese photographer Weitang Liang's gorgeous shot of the vast Helix Nebula 700 light years away, and American Andrew McCarthy's miraculous picture (below) capturing the minuscule International Space Station with, in the background, the exact spot - Tranquillity Base - where Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the Moon in 1969.



And this is only a taster - there are another 95 images that are equally wondrous. They include a photo of the Andromeda Galaxy (below) taken by Chinese duo Yang Hanwen and Zhou Zezhen, who are only 14 years old and rightly won the youth category.



You don't need to be a space nut to enjoy this show because these images are so much more than scientific illustrations. Every one of them is a work of art.


For more information and details of how to buy tickets, go to ww.rmg.co.uk/astrophoto


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