Space at its most beautiful.

Between SpaceX launching its first civilian space flight and various billionaires gleefully propelling themselves into orbit, the possibility of visiting the great beyond has never felt closer.

But, let’s be honest here — the closest most of us will get is a photo.

Fortunately, there’s no shortage of awe-inspiring space shots out there, as is evidenced today by the winners of London’s Royal Observatory’s Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2021 being announced.

We already knew from the 25 finalists that things were going to be good, and the winners and runners-up — selected from 4,500 entries and broken down by category below — certainly don’t disappoint.

From the overall winning image of an annual solar eclipse to stunning shots of skyscapes and the aurorae, it’s time to buckle up and reach for those stars…

Overall winner

"The Golden Ring" by Shuchang Dong.

“The Golden Ring” by Shuchang Dong. Credit: Shuchang Dong


"Polar Lights Dance" by Dmitrii Rybalka (winner).

“Polar Lights Dance” by Dmitrii Rybalka (winner). Credit: Dmitrii Rybalka

"Proper Welcome for the Moon" by Thomas Kast (runner-up).

“Proper Welcome for the Moon” by Thomas Kast (runner-up). Credit: Thomas Kast


"The Milky Ring" by Zhong Wu (winner).

“The Milky Ring” by Zhong Wu (winner). Credit: Zhong Wu

"The Nebulae of the Triangulum Galaxy" by Russell Croman (runner-up).

“The Nebulae of the Triangulum Galaxy” by Russell Croman (runner-up). Credit: Russell Croman

Our Moon

"Beyond the Limb" by Nicolas Lefaudeux (winner).

“Beyond the Limb” by Nicolas Lefaudeux (winner). Credit: Nicolas Lefaudeux

"Lunar Halo" by Göran Strand (runner-up).

“Lunar Halo” by Göran Strand (runner-up). Credit: Göran Strand

People and Space

"Lockdown" by Deepal Ratnayaka (winner).

“Lockdown” by Deepal Ratnayaka (winner). Credit: Deepal Ratnayaka

"A Lonely Ship Under the Stars" by André van der Hoeven (runner-up).

“A Lonely Ship Under the Stars” by André van der Hoeven (runner-up). Credit: André Van Der Hoeven

Planets, Comets, and Asteroids

"A Colourful Quadrantid Meteor" by Frank Kuszaj (winner).

“A Colourful Quadrantid Meteor” by Frank Kuszaj (winner). Credit: Frank Kuszaj

"Perseverance" by Damian Peach (runner-up).

“Perseverance” by Damian Peach (runner-up). Credit: Damian Peach


"Luna Dunes" by Jeffrey Lovelace (winner).

“Luna Dunes” by Jeffrey Lovelace (winner). Credit: Jeffrey Lovelace

"Moon Over Mount Etna South-East Crater" by Dario Giannobile (runner-up).

“Moon Over Mount Etna South-East Crater” by Dario Giannobile (runner-up). Credit: Dario Giannobile

Stars and Nebulae

"California Dreamin' NGC 1499" by Terry Hancock (winner).

“California Dreamin’ NGC 1499” by Terry Hancock (winner). Credit: Terry Hancock

"Clouds in IC 2944" by Bogdan Borz (runner-up).

“Clouds in IC 2944” by Bogdan Borz (runner-up). Credit: Bogdan Borz

Young Competition

"Family Photo of the Solar System" by 至璞 王 Zhipu Wang, aged 15 (winner.)

“Family Photo of the Solar System” by 至璞 王 Zhipu Wang, aged 15 (winner.) Credit: 至璞 王 (Zhipu Wang)

"Nebula" by Hassaana Begam and Aathilah Maryam. H (runner-up).

“Nebula” by Hassaana Begam and Aathilah Maryam. H (runner-up). Credit: Hassaana Begam And Aathilah Maryam. H

Special Prize: The Manju Mehrotra Family Trust Prize for Best Newcomer

"Falcon 9 Soars Past the Moon" by Paul Eckhardt (winner).

“Falcon 9 Soars Past the Moon” by Paul Eckhardt (winner). Credit: Paul Eckhardt

Special Prize: Annie Maunder Prize for Image Innovation

"Celestial Fracture" by Leonardo Di Maggio (joint winner).

“Celestial Fracture” by Leonardo Di Maggio (joint winner). Credit: Leonardo Di Maggio

"Another Cloudy Day on Jupiter" by Sergio Díaz Ruiz (joint winner).

“Another Cloudy Day on Jupiter” by Sergio Díaz Ruiz (joint winner). Credit: Sergio Díaz Ruiz

If you want to view the images up close, the exhibition opens at London’s National Maritime Museum on Sept. 18.


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