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Royal Observatory Greenwich : Astronomy Photographer of the Year


The Royal Observatory Greenwich announced the winner of Astronomy Photographer of the Year 15. The winners are Marcel Drechsler, Xavier Strottner and Yann Sainty for their photograph Andromeda, Unexpected that captures a surprising discovery – a huge plasma arc next to the Andromeda Galaxy (M31). Scientists are now investigating the giant object in a transnational collaboration. It could be the largest such structure nearest to us in the Universe. The image was on display alongside the winners of the other categories in the accompanying exhibition, opening at the National Maritime Museum on Saturday 16 September 2023.

The Andromeda Galaxy is the closest spiral galaxy to the Milky Way. It is undoubtedly one of the most photographed deep sky objects ever. The discovery of such a large structure in the immediate vicinity of the galaxy was all the more surprising. The arc has an extension of about 1.5 x 0.45 degrees, is only 1.2 degrees away from the centre of M31 and is located southeast of the main body of the galaxy.

Marcel Drechsler, Xavier Strottner and Yann Sainty said, “It’s an enormous honour for our team to receive this important award and we are grateful for all the support, friendship and encouragement we have received along our journey. It encourages us to continue to pursue our passion for astrophotography and, of course, research with dedication.” László Francsics judge and astrophotographer said “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.”

The Young Astronomy Photographer of the Year award was won by two fourteen-year-old boys from China. Runwei Xu and Binyu Wang collaborated to capture The Running Chicken Nebula, Yuri Beletsky, judge and professional astronomer described it as a ‘strikingly beautiful picture’. Xu and Wang said, “Thank you to the Greenwich judges. We’re very glad to receive this achievement as winners of the Young Competition.”

The other winning images include Circle of Light by Andreas Ettl, which shows the Northern Lights reflected on Skagsanden beach, Norway; The Dark Wolf – Fenrir by James Baguley, that shows a molecular cloud in the form of a wolf; A Sun Question by Eduardo Schaberger Poupeau, which captures a huge filament in the shape of a question mark; and Grand Cosmic Fireworks by Angel An, a photograph of the extremely rare phenomenon of atmospheric luminescence. In the Annie Maunder Prize for Image Innovation category, judges were impressed by John White’s Black Echo, which used audio source material from NASA’s Chandra Sonification Project, to visually capture the sound of the black hole at the centre of the Perseus Galaxy.

Another of the judges’ favourite images was New Class of Galactic Nebulae Around the Star YY Hya by Marcel Dreschsler that won the Stars and Nebulae category. The photograph captures a previously unknown galactic nebula containing a pair of stars surrounded by a common envelope, adding another exciting discovery to the winning images.

Dr Ed Bloomer, astronomer at Royal Observatory Greenwich said, “Once again, entrants to the Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition have conspired to make things difficult for the judges, with a flood of high-quality images covering an amazing range of targets. The highlight of this year is perhaps a number of genuine discoveries being imaged, but we’ve had wonderful efforts in every category and I’m particularly pleased to see the continued strength of our young entrants and those eligible for The Sir Patrick Moore Prize for Best Newcomer. It has led to some intense debate amongst the judges as we try to choose the very best of the best, but we don’t mind!”

Katherine Gazzard, Curator of Art at Royal Museums Greenwich said, “This was my first year as a judge for Astronomy Photographer of the Year. As a newcomer to the competition, the technical sophistication of the entries blew me away. So many beautiful images made the shortlist, and the winning images are absolutely stunning. It has made me look at the night sky in a new light.”

The Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition is run by Royal Observatory Greenwich, supported by Liberty Specialty Markets and in association with BBC Sky at Night Magazine. For the 2023 competition there were over 4,000 entries from 64 countries.


Royal Observatory Greenwich : Astronomy Photographer of the Year
National Maritime Museum, London
Romney Rd, London SE10 9NF, United Kingdom
Opening 16 September 2023

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