Our pick of some of the best galactic images sent in by readers
  Every month we receive an array of incredible astro images taken by readers from across the globe, showing what it is possible to achieve today with amateur astronomical and photographic equipment.   Here, we present some of the best galactic images we have received over the past few years. It is incredible to think how relatively little we know about our own Milky Way, then to consider that each of the galaxies below is another system full of suns and planets: perhaps many like Earth.   There could be two trillion galaxies in the Universe, and while all are currently out of physical reach, that doesn't stop astrophotographers from creating incredible images for the rest of us to marvel at.   Whether you're an astrophotographer or simply like snapping pics of the Moon with your smartphone, be sure to share your astro images with us via our online Hotshots gallery.       Andromeda Galaxy     Charles Thody   Pembrokeshire, 8 September 2015   Equipment: Modified Canon EOS 40D DSLR camera, Sky-Watcher Equinox-80 ED apo refractor, Sky-Watcher NEQ6 PRO SynScan mount.       Sculptor Galaxy     Ron Brecher and Brett Soames   New South Wales, Australia, October 2015/February 2016   Equipment used: SBIG STXL-6303E CCD camera, custom-built 6-inch refractor, Paramount ME mount, PixInsight.       Whirlpool Galaxy     David Attie   Abu Dhabi, UAE, 9 April 2016    Equipment: Moravian G2-4000 CCD camera, Celestron C11-A XLT Schmidt-Cassegrain, Sky-Watcher AZ-EQ6 GT mount.       NGC 1097     Warren Keller   Star Shadows Remote Observatory South, Chile, July 2016    Equipment: Apogee Alta U9 CCD camera, RCOS 16-inch Ritchey-Chrétien, PlaneWave Ascension 200HR mount.       Andromeda Galaxy     Chris Heapy   Macclesfield, 6 October 2016   Equipment: Moravian Instruments G4-16000 CCD camera, Tele Vue NP127is refractor.       Triangulum Galaxy     Gary Opitz   Rochester NY, US, 6 October 2016   Equipment: ZWO ASI 1600MC cooled camera, Telescope Engineering Company APO140 ED refractor, Orion Atlas mount.       Pinwheel Galaxy     Mark Griffith   Wiltshire, 20 January 2017   Equipment: Atik 383L+ CCD camera, Teleskop Service 12-inch Ritchey-Chrétien telescope, Sky-Watcher EQ8 Pro equatorial mount.       Leo Triplet     Miroslav Horvat   Petrova Gora, Croatia, 21 April 2017   Equipment: QHY8 Pro CCD camera, Sky-Watcher Explorer-200P reflector, Sky-Watcher NEQ6 Pro SynScan mount.       M81 & M82     Álvaro Ibáñez Pérez   Toledo, Spain, 25 May 2015   Equipment: Atik 460EX mono CCD camera, TS115 triplet apo refractor, NEQ Pro II tuning belts and EQMOD.       Andromeda Galaxy     Mariusz Szymaszek   Crawley, 23 July 2015   Equipment: Pentax K-5 DSLR camera, Sky-Watcher Evostar 80ED DS-Pro refractor, Sky-Watcher HEQ5 Pro GoTo mount.       Sculptor Galaxy     Tom Bishton   Brisbane, Australia, 3 September 2016   Equipment: Canon EOS 600D modded DSLR camera, Sky-Watcher ED120 Pro apo refractor, Sky-Watcher AZ-EQ6 Go-To mount.    
We present the winners of the world's premier astrophoto competition
  We present the winners of this year's Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2017 competition.     Judges for the 2017 competition included, for the first time, Rebecca Roth of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, along with photographer Ed Robinson, ESO’s Oana Sandu, The Sky at Night’s Pete Lawrence and Chris Lintott, Royal Observatory Greenwich Public Astronomer Marek Kukula, comedian Jon Culshaw and BBC Sky at Night Magazine editor Chris Bramley.   The winning images are available to view in a free exhibition at the Royal Observatory Greenwich on 16 September.       Overall winner (Category: Stars & nebulae)   The Rho Ophiuchi Clouds, by Artem Mironov (Russia)   Hakos Farm, Windhoek, Namibia, 6 August 2016   Equipment: Canon EOS 5D Mark II DSLR camera, Sky-Watcher 200P reflector, Sky-Watcher HEQ5 Pro SynScan mount.       Aurorae     Ghost World, by Mikkel Beiter (Denmark)   Stokksnes, Iceland, 5 October 2016   Equipment: Canon EOS 5D Mark III DLSR camera, 24mm lens.         Galaxies     M63: Star Streams and the Sunflower Galaxy, by Oleg Bryzgalov (Ukraine)   Rozhen Observatory, Smolyan Province, Bulgaria, 6 April 2016   Equipment: QSI 583wsg CCD camera, 10-inch homemade reflector, White Swan 180 mount.       Our Moon     Blue Tycho, by László Francsics (Hungary)   Budapest, Hungary, 12 December 2016   Equipment: ZWO ASI290MM camera, Sony Alpha SLT-A99 DSLR camera,10-inch reflector, Sky-Watcher EQ6 Go-To mount.       Our Sun     Mercury Rising, by Alexandra Hart (UK)   Preston, Lancashire, UK, 9 May 2016   Equipment: Point Grey Grasshopper3 CCD camera, TEC 140 refractor, Sky-Watcher EQ6 Go-To mount.       People & Space     Wanderer in Patagonia, by Yuri Zvezdny (Russia)   El Chaltén, Santa Cruz Province, Argentina, 27 September 2016   Equipment: Sony A7S camera, iOptron Sky-Tracker mount, 18mm lens.       Planets, Comets & Asteroids     Venus Phase Evolution, by Roger Hutchinson (UK)   London, UK, 25 March 2017   Equipment: ZWO ASI174MM camera, Celestron C11 EdgeHD  Schmidt-Cassegrain, Celestron CGE Pro mount.         Skyscapes     Passage to the Milky Way   Haitong Yu (China)    Xinglong, Hebei Province, China, 9 April 2016   Equipment: Sony a7s ILCE-7s camera, 85mm lens.       Young Astronomy Photographer of the Year     Saturn   Olivia Williamson (UK – aged 13)   Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, 27 May 2016   Equipment: ZWO ASI224MC CMOS camera, Celestron C11 EdgeHD Schmidt-Cassegrain, Sky-Watcher AZ-EQ6 Go-To mount.       Sir Patrick Moore Prize for Best Newcomer     The Cone Nebula (NGC 2264)   Jason Green (Gibraltar)   Frenegal de la Sierra, Badajoz, Spain, 10 January 2017   Equipment: QSI 660wsg-8 mono CCD camera, William Optics FLT 132 triplet apo refractor, Celestron CGE Pro mount.       Robotic Scope     Encounter of Comet and Planetary Nebula   Gerald Rhemann (Austria)   Tivoli Farm, Khomas, Namibia, 5 June 2016   Equipment: FLI Microline ML 16200 CCD camera, ASA 12-inch Astrograph Newtonian reflector.     
Our pick of the best eclipse images sent in by you
The US eclipse of 21 August 2017 was one of the astronomical highlights of the decade, with eclipse chasers from across the globe making the journey to the path of totality.   Here are some of our favourite pics of the eclipse sent in by readers over the past week, including some taken from the UK!   Dave Walker Nashville, Tennessee Equipment: Canon EOS 600D DSLR camera, Skywatcher Star Adventurer, Canon 100-400 IS lens.   Bill Smith Jackson Hole, Wyoming Equipment: Nikon D40 DLSR camera, 70-300mm lens.   James West Menan Buttes, Idaho Equipment: Canon EOS 70D DSLR camera, 100-400mm Mk2 lens   Stewart Wilson Jackson, Wyoming Equipment: Canon EOS 7D Mark II DSLR camera, iOptron Skytracker Pro, 100-400mm lens.   David Trudgian Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming Equipment: Nikon Coolpix P900 camera, tripod.   John Chumack Hopkinsville, Kentucky Equipment: Canon EOS 6D DSLR camera, Explore Scientific 4-inch apo refractor.   Allan Trow Porthcawl, UK Equipment: Canon EOS 6D DSLR camera, 5-inch refractor, Herschel Wedge.   John Parratt Santee, South Carolina Equipment: Canon EOS 700D DSLR camera, 300mm lens.   Jeff Johnson Las Cruces, New Mexico Equipment: Canon EOS Rebel T3i DSLR camera, Canon 55-250mm lens   Mark Stuart Thornbury, UK Equipment: Lenova mobile phone, 5-inch reflector   Edite Brites Idaho Falls, Idaho Equipment: Canon EOS 750 DSLR camera, 250mm lens, solar filter    
Nick Spall reports back from one of the astronomical events of the decade
  The US eclipse of 21 August 2017 is one that many won't forget for a long time. Science writer and eclipse chaser Nick Spall made the journey to view and image this incredible celestial sight.       There can be few celestial events viewable on the planet to rival a total eclipse of the Sun.   When such an extraordinary occurrence affects a country as populated and accessible as the United States of America - crossing the entire continent from the Pacific in the west to the North Atlantic in the east - then that special occasion is worth travelling for.   The 21 August 'Great American Eclipse' didn’t fail to amaze both residents and visitors alike, arriving as it did on the coast of Oregon and departing from South Carolina.   The last time this cross-continent event took place was in 1918.   Good weather is obviously key when selecting the observing point from which you will glimpse an eclipse. The good news for the US in the summer is that over two-thirds of the country is likely to be clear.   Selecting eastern Oregon at a point on the 70 mile-wide, west-east totality track that led inland, well away from the cloudier Pacific coastline almost 5,000 ft. high in the northern Cascade Mountains proved to be a good choice.   Despite a slight smoke haze from seasonal forest fires, when the eclipse period started at 9.08 hours Pacific Daylight Time (PDT) all was set for a thrilling experience. No real difficulties were experienced from visitors pulling off the highways to choose their ideal spots, with limited queues and many wide spaces to select.   Many UK enthusiasts who travelled to Cornwall for the eclipse of 1999 will remember a more crowded road system!   For this observer’s third total eclipse (after the UK and Turkey), the experience shared with excited mainly US citizens proved very special, with great enthusiasm and a determination to catch this once in a lifetime event. As supplies of filters ran out, some watchers were even using full welders' masks to view the Sun (note: this is not recommended! Alway use certified safety glasses when viewing an eclipse).     Welders' masks at the ready, totality begins Credit: Nick Spall   The cooling of the air and the eerie decreasing of the daylight up to totality seemed more potent at high altitude in the mountains.   Fellow observers watched as the Moon tracked across the Sun, covering four medium sized sunspots. It is extraordinary to realise that the totality shadow is travelling across the USA at over 2,000 mph.   Traffic on the highway ceased, birds went silent, a hushed silence descended and then the sky suddenly plunged into near darkness.   It seems impossible, but stars and the planet Venus had suddenly appeared in the sky - at 10.20 am in the morning! The glorious 'diamond-ring' effect occured before full totality, then red coloured Baily’s beads strung the obscured disk of the Sun.   The glorious corona provided a beautiful backdrop to the now black disc hanging somewhat bizarrely in the sky. All too soon - after only 2 minutes for this location on the totality track - the stunning diamond ring returned followed by sunlight slowly increasing and warming the air again.       All eclipse images: Nick Spall   What an event – one not to be missed.   For those who couldn't be there this time, don’t despair! – on 8 April 2024, the next US coast to coast eclipse totality line will run from Texas to Maine: a must for future eclipse devotees' diaries!    
Our top pick of images taken by the Voyager mission
Forty years ago, the twin Voyager spacecraft launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida. What they achieved since has been extraordinary. Between them they have visited Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, and have explored the outer reaches of the Solar System, the edge of the Sun’s domain and beyond. As you read this, Voyager 2 is edging closer to interstellar space. Voyager 1 is already there, sending back data from a realm we have never explored before. The spacecraft returned thousands of images from the planets over the years. They showed us the intracies of Jupiter's Great Red Spot and the complexity of Saturn’s rings. Voyager 2 is still the only spacecraft to have visited Uranus and Neptune, giving us our first (and still, best) glimpses of these icy worlds. Here are some of the best of them. Written by Nadia Blackshaw   Learn more about the majestic tale of the Voyager spacecraft with The Story of Voyager. Discover the myriad marvels and revelations of a mission that was only officially built to last five years and has been flying for two-thirds of the Space Age. Order your copy at    
Royal Observatory Greenwich release some of the best images this year
  A selection of astrophotos shortlisted for the Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2017 competition has been released by the Royal Observatory Greenwich.     Now in its ninth year, the Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition continues to grow, this year receiving over 3,800 entries from photographers from 91 countries across the world.   The judges for the 2017 competition include, for the first time, Rebecca Roth of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, along with photographer Ed Robinson, ESO’s Oana Sandu, The Sky at Night’s Pete Lawrence and Chris Lintott, Royal Observatory Greenwich Public Astronomer Marek Kukula, comedian Jon Culshaw and BBC Sky at Night Magazine editor Chris Bramley.   The winning images will be announced on 14 September 2017, followed by a free exhibition of the top entries held at the Royal Observatory Greenwich on 16 September.   Below is a small sample of the amazing astrophotos that made judging this year's competition harder than ever before.     A Battle We Are Losing Haitong Yu (China) Location: Beijing, China, 2 March 2017 Equipment: Sony A7s camera, 55mm f/1.8 lens The Milky Way rises above a small radio telescope from a large array at Miyun Station, National Astronomical Observatory of China, in the suburbs of Beijing. The image depicts the ever-growing light pollution we now experience, which together with electromagnetic noise has turned many optical and radio observatories near cities both blind and deaf – a battle that inspired the photographer’s title of the shot. The image used a light pollution filter (iOptron L-Pro) and multiple frame stacking to get the most of the Milky Way out of the city light.      A Brief Rotation of Mount Olympus Avani Soares   Location: Canoas, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, 1 June 2016 Equipment: ZWO ASI224MC camera, Celestron C14 EdgeHD reflector, Celestron CGE Pro mount. A series photos of Mars taken between 1 June and 3 July 2016 showing Mount Olympus in three different positions. Mount Olympus also known as Olympus Mons is the tallest volcano in the Solar System. The features on the surface of Mars as seen from Earth change rapidly, as seen in the contrast between the central photo, made during the opposition (when Mars is at its closest to the Earth), and the photo on the left, taken 33 days later.    An Icy Moonscape Kris Williams (UK) Location: Capel Curig, Snowdonia National Park, Conwy, UK, 3 December 2016 Equipment: Sony ILCE-7S camera, 18mm f/2.8 lens. A lone stargazer sits atop the peak of Castell-Y-Gwynt (Castle of the Winds) on Glyder Fach Mountain in Snowdonia, North Wales, beneath a starry night sky during freezing temperatures in mid-winter.   Aurora over Svea Agurtxane Concellon (Spain) Location: Svea, Svalbard, Norway, 25 February 2017 Equipment: Nikon D810 DSLR camera, 15mm f/2.8 lens. The purples and greens of the Northern Lights radiate over the coal mining city of Svea, in the archipelago of Svalbard. The earthy landscape below the glittering sky is illuminated by the strong lights of industry at the pier of Svea.   Auroral Crown Yulia Zhulikova (Russia) Location: Murmansk, Russia, 3 January 2017 Equipment: Canon EOS 6D DSLR camera, 14 mm f/2.8 lens. During an astrophotography tour of the Murmansk region with Stas Korotkiy, an amateur astronomer and popularizer of astronomy in Russia, the turquoise of the Aurora Borealis swirls above the snow covered trees. Illuminated by street lamps, the trees glow a vivid pink forming a contrasting frame for Nature’s greatest lightshow.     Beautiful Trømso Derek Burdeny (USA) Location: Tromsø, Norway, 7 March 2016 Equipment: Nikon D810 DSLR camera, 14mm f/2.8 lens. The aurora activity forecast was low for this evening, so the photographer remained in Tromsø rather than driving to the fjord. The unwitting photographer captured Nature’s answer to a stunning firework display as the Northern Lights dance above a rainbow cast in the waters of the harbour in Trømso made for a spectacular display, but did not realize what he had shot until six months later when reviewing his images.   Crescent Moon over the Needles Ainsley Bennett (UK) Location: Alum Bay, Freshwater, Isle of Wight, UK, 3 October 2016 Equipment: Nikon D810 DSLR camera, 200mm f/5.6 lens. The 7 per cent waxing crescent Moon setting in the evening sky over the Needles Lighthouse at the western tip of the Isle of Wight. Despite the Moon being a thin crescent, the rest of its shape is defined by sunlight reflecting back from the Earth’s surface.   Eastern Prominence Paul Andrew (UK) Location: Dover, Kent, UK, 29 August 2016 Equipment: PGR FL3-U3-13S2M-CS camera, Lunt LS152THa solar telescope, Sky-Watcher EQ6 mount. A large, searing hedgerow prominence extends from the surface of the Sun on 29 August 2016. There are a number of different prominence types that have been observed emanating from the Sun, and the hedgerow prominence is so called due the grouping of small prominences resembling rough and wild shrubbery.     Fall Milk Brandon Yoshizawa (USA) Location: Eastern Sierras, California, USA, 21 October 2016 Equipment: Nikon D750 DSLR camera, 50mm f/1.8 lens. The snow-clad mountain in the Eastern Sierras towers over the rusty aspen grove aligned perfectly in front of it, whilst our galaxy the Milky Way glistens above.    Ghostly Sun Michael Wilkinson (UK) Location: Groningen, Netherlands, 4 April 2017 Equipment: ZWO ASI178MM camera, APM 80/480 triplet refractor, Vixen Great Polaris mount. The Sun photographed in Calcium-K light, depicting the star’s inner chromosphere. In the colour-rendering scheme used, the surface is shown as negative, with the sunspots as bright spots, but the area outside the limb is shown with increased contrast, highlighting a surge on the western limb, and several small prominences.   Hustle and Peaceful Prisca Law (Hong Kong) Location: The Peak, Hong Kong, 3 March 2016 Equipment: Canon EOS 5D MK IV DSLRcamera, 15mm f/5 lens. Taken from The Peak, the highest mountain on Hong Kong Island, the image shows the hustle and bustle of the city in contrast to the peaceful starry sky. The haze above the beautiful landscape reminds us that light pollution prevents us from enjoying an even more stunning sky view.   Ignite the Lights Nicolas Alexander Otto (Germany) Location: Fredvang, Nordland, Norway, 26 September 2016 Equipment: Nikon D800 DSLR camera, 14mm f/2.8 lens. After a long hike from his small cabin to Kvalvika, Lofoten Islands in Norway, the photographer arrived at the slopes above the beach around midnight. During the hike the auroral display was relatively weak, but when he made it to the beach the sky ignited in a colourful spectacle of greens and purples framed by the mossy, green landscape.   ISS Daylight Transit Dani Caxete (Spain) Location: Madrid, Spain, 2 April 2017 Equipment: Nikon D610 DSLR camera, Long Perng 80 ED apo refractor, Sky-Watcher Allview mount. The International Space Station (ISS) whizzes across the dusky face of the Earth’s natural satellite, the Moon, whilst photographed in broad daylight. Shining with a magnitude of -3.5, the ISS was illuminated by the Sun at a height of 9º on the horizon.   Moon Rise Reflections Joshua Wood (New Zealand) Location: Wellington, New Zealand, 11 February 2017 Equipment: Sony α7II camera, 138mm f/10 lens. An unexpected shot of the Moon rising over the glistening ocean off the Wairarapa coast, bearing a remarkable resemblance to the Sun. As the photographer was capturing the sunset over Castlepoint, he looked over his shoulder to see the Moon rising behind, reflecting off the wide expanse of the Pacific Ocean, and it became the new subject of his image.    Mr Big Dipper Nicholas Roemmelt (Denmark) Location: Engadin, Graubünden, Switzerland, 29 December 2016 Equipment: Canon EOS 1DX Mark II DSLR camera, 14mm. A stargazer observes the constellation of the Big Dipper perfectly aligned with the window of the entrance to a large glacier cave in Engadin, Switzerland. This is a panorama of two pictures, and each is a stack of another two pictures: one for the stars and another one for the foreground, but with no composing or time blending.    Near Earth Object 164121 (2003 YTI) Derek Robson (UK) Location: Loughborough, Leicestershire, UK, 2 November 2016 Equipment: Canon EOS 1100D DSLR camera, 300mm lens. On 31 October 2016, Near Earth Asteroid 164121 (2003 YT1) made a close encounter with Earth at 3 million miles. This Apollo asteroid with an orbital period of 427 days was discovered by the Catalina Sky Survey on 18 December 2003. The photographer’s first attempt at imaging the asteroid was done with a camera on a fixed tripod, controlled by Astrophotography Tool software.   NGC 2023 Warren Keller (USA) Location: Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory, near La Serena, Chile, 2 January 2016 Equipment: FLI Proline PL16803 mono CCD camera, RCOS 16-inch reflector telescope, PlaneWave Ascension 200HR mount. Most often photographed next to the famous Horsehead Nebula, the photographer has instead given NGC 2023 the spotlight in order to try and bring out all of the wonderful detail seen across its diameter of four lightyears. Partner Steve Mazlin is the lead processor on this one for SSRO.   NGC 7331 – The Deer Lick Group Bernard Miller (USA) Location: Animas, New Mexico, USA, 30 October 2016 Equipment: Apogee Aspen CG16M mono CCD camera, PlaneWave CDK-17 17-inch reflector, Paramount ME mount. NGC 7331 is an unbarred spiral galaxy found some 40 million light years away from Earth, in the constellation Pegasus. Of the group of galaxies known as the Deer Lick Group, NGC 7331 is the largest, and can be seen dominating the image whilst the smaller galaxies NGC 7335, NGC 7336, NGC 7337, NGC 7338 and NGC 7340 drift above it.    Orion’s Gaseous Nebula Sebastien Grech (UK) Location: London, UK, 15 February 2017 Equipment: Canon EOS 60D DSLR camera, Sky-Watcher Explorer 150P reflector, Sky-Watcher EQ3 Pro mount. Lying 1,300 light years away from Earth, the Orion Nebula is found in Orion’s Sword in the famous constellation named after the blade’s owner. The Orion Nebula is one of the most photographed and studied objects in the night sky due to the intense activity within the stellar nursery that sees thousands of new stars being created, which also makes it a relatively easy target for beginners.   Reflection Beate Behnke (Germany) Location: Skagsanden, Lofoten, Norway, 28 October 2016 Equipment: Nikon D810 DSLR camera, 14mm f/2.8 lens. The reflection in the wave ripples of Skagsanden beach mirrors the brilliant green whirls of the Aurora Borealis in the night sky overhead. To obtain the effect of the shiny surface, the photographer had to stand in the wave zone of the incoming flood, and only when the water receded very low did the opportunity to capture the beautiful scene occur.   Scintillating Sirius Steve Brown (UK) Location: Stokesley, North Yorkshire, UK, 11 January 2016 Equipment: Canon EOS 600D DSLR camera, 250mm lens, Star Adventurer tracking mount. The seemingly pop art inspired canvas of the rainbow of colours exhibited by the brightest star in our sky, Sirius. These colours are obvious to the naked eye and more so through the eyepiece of a telescope, but are difficult to capture in an image. To do this the photographer had to somehow ‘freeze’ each colour as it happened by taking a series of videos at different levels of focus and then extracted the frames from each video to make up this composite image. By capturing the star out of focus, the light from Sirius was spread out over a larger area, which resulted in the colours it displayed being more obvious.   Sh2-249 Jellyfish Nebula Chris Heapy (UK) Location: Macclesfield, Cheshire, UK, 29 November 2016 Equipment: Moravian Instruments G4-16000 Mono CCD camera, GM2000HPS-II mount. Lying in the constellation of Gemini, IC443 is a galactic supernova remnant, a star that could have exploded as many as 30,000 years ago. Its globular appearance has earned the celestial structure the moniker of the Jellyfish Nebula.   Shooting Star and Jupiter Rob Bowes (UK) Location: Portland, Dorset, UK, 25 March 2017 Equipment: Nikon D810 DSLR camera, 20mm f/5.6 lens. A shooting star flashes across the sky over the craggy landscape of Portland, Dorset, as our neighbouring planet Venus looks on. The image is of two stacked exposures: one for the sky and one for the rocks.    Solar Trails above the Telescope Maciej Zapior (Poland) Location: Astronomical Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences, Prague Equipment: Home-made Solargraph pinhole camera, 6-month exposure Taken with a solargraphy pinhole camera, the image charts the movement of the Sun over the Astronomical Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences, Prague with an exposure of half a year (21 December 2015–21 June 2016). As a photosensitive material, regular black-and-white photographic paper without developing was used, and after exposure the negative was scanned and post-processed using a graphic program (colour and contrast enhancement). Star Track in Kawakarpo Zhong Wu (China) Location: DeQin, Yunnan Province, China, 16 January 2017 Equipment: Nikon D810 DSLR camera, 35mm f/5.6 lens. The stars beam down on to the Meili Snow Mountains, also known as the Prince Snow Mountains - the highest peaks in the Yunnan Province, China. It is world-renowned for its beauty and is one of the most sacred mountains in Tibetan Buddhism. The moonlight striking the top of the mountains appears to give them an ethereal quality.   Starburst Galaxy M82 Bernard Miller (USA) Location: Animas, New Mexico, USA, 22 February 2017 Equipment: Apogee Aspen CG16M mono CCD camera, PlaneWave CDK-17 17-inch reflector telescope, Paramount ME mount. The starburst galaxy M82, also known as the Cigar Galaxy, gleams five times brighter than our galaxy lies some 12 million light years away from Earth in the constellation of Ursa Major. In a show of radiant oranges and reds, the superwind bursts out from the galaxy, believed to be the closest place to our planet in which the conditions are similar to that of the early Universe, where a plethora of stars are forming.   Super Moon Giorgia Hofer (Italy) Location: Laggio di Cadore, Province of Belluno, Italy, 15 November 2016 Equipment: Nikon D750 DSLR camera, 400mm f/8 lens. The magnificent sight of the Super Moon illuminating the night sky as it sets behind the Marmarole, in the heart of the Dolomites in Italy. On the night of 14 November 2016, the Moon was at perigee at 356.511 km away from the centre of Earth, the closest occurrence since 1948. It will not be closer again until 2034. On this night, the Moon was 30% brighter and 14% bigger than other full moons.    The Blue Hour Tommy Eliassen (Norway) Location: Saltfjellet, Nordland, Norway, 30 March 2017 Equipment: Nikon D810A DSLR camera, Nikon AF-S Nikkor lens. The setting crescent Moon and Mars gaze over Saltfjellet, Norway as the Northern Lights appear to emanate from the snowy landsape. The Aurora Borealis were an unexpected guest in the shot as the Sun was only about ten degrees under the horizon meaning the early display came as a surprise.   The Lost Hour Andrew Whyte (UK)  Location: Titchfield, Hampshire, UK, 26th March 2017 Equipment: Sony α7s camera, 17mm f/4 lens. The radiant, concentric star trails seemingly spinning over a lone stargazer against the glowing purples and pinks of the night sky during the hour when the clocks ‘spring forward’ to begin British Summer Time. With time so intrinsically linked to celestial activity, a one-hour star trail seemed the perfect metaphor.    The Road Back Home Ruslan Merzlyakov (Latvia) Location: Near Umeå, Sweden, 8 August 2016 Equipment: Canon EOS 6D DSLR camera, 14mm f/2.8 lens. Noctilucent clouds stretch across the Swedish sky illuminating a motorcyclist’s ride home in this dramatic display.    Winter Ice Giant Uranus Martin Lewis (UK) Location: St. Albans, Hertfordshire, UK, 29 December 2016 Equipment: ZWO ASI224MC camera, homemade 17-inch reflector, home-made equatorial mount. The distant ice giant Uranus, the seventh farthest planet from the Sun, some 2.6 billion kilometres (at its closest) away from our own planet is entered into the competition for the first time. Found in the constellation of Pisces, here it can be seen surrounded by its five brightest moons: Ariel, Miranda, Umbriel, Titania and Oberon.  
Images from the '60s and '80s show NASA's early manned missions
A collection of 22 photographs from past NASA missions, including images of spacewalks and the Apollo 11 lunar landing, are to be auctioned by New York’s Swann Auction Galleries on 14 February. The images have been selected from NASA’s archives and printed from original NASA positives, and are expected to sell somewhere between $15,000 and $25,000. Take a look at our gallery below to see some of the iconic images being auctioned, which give a sense of the enormity of NASA’s achievements as it began sending humans into space.
Apollo astronaut Eugene Cernan passes away aged 82
  Former Apollo astronaut Eugene ‘Gene’ Cernan, the last human to set foot on the Moon, has passed away aged 82. Cernan’s career saw him fly three times in space, including two Apollo missions, 10 and 17, the latter of which saw him set foot on the Moon. Eugene Cernan was born 14 March 1934 in Chicago in the US and eventually became a captain in the US Navy before joining NASA. His first spaceflight mission was piloting the Gemini 9 orbiting capsule with Commander Thomas P. Stafford in June 1966. During this mission, he completed a spacewalk of two hours eight minutes. At the time, this was the longest spacewalk yet. Then in May 1969, Cernan was lunar module pilot of Apollo 10, the mission before the Apollo flight that took Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the surface of the Moon for the first time. Apollo 10 ultimately confirmed that the command, service and lunar modules would be fit for humans to land on the Moon. Cernan was part of the last human mission to the Moon, Apollo 17, which launched in December 1972. During the mission, the crew took the now iconic image of Earth, at a distance of 45,000km from the planet. The mission saw Cernan and Harrison H. Schmitt make three separate trips to nearby craters and the Taurus Littrow mountains on the lunar surface. When the crew left for their return journey to Earth, Cernan was the last to leave, making him the last human being to have walked on the lunar surface. The Apollo missions were one of the defining moments of the 1960s, and Cernan would later say: “It's going to be - well it's almost fifty now, but fifty or a hundred years in the history of mankind before we look back and really understand the meaning of Apollo. Really understand what humankind had done when we left, when we truly left this planet, we're able to call another body in this Universe our home. We did it way too early considering what we're doing now in space. It's almost as if JFK reached out into the twenty-first century where we are today, grabbed hold of a decade of time, slipped it neatly into the (nineteen) sixties and seventies (and) called it Apollo." Cernan’s NASA career ended on 1 July 1976 when he retired from the Navy after 20 years of service.  He passed away on 16 January 2017 and is survived by his wife Jan Nanna Cernan, a daughter and son-in-law, step-daughters and nine grandchildren. In 2016, a documentary entitled The Last Man On The Moon was released, telling the story of Cernan's life and his thoughts on the Apollo programme. Below are some clips from the documentary, in which Cernan reflects on what he achieved and the philosophies he brought back from the lunar surface.     Gene Cernan recalls sitting on 'God's front porch', in this clip from the documentary @LastManOnMoon #RIPGeneCernan — Sky at Night Mag (@skyatnightmag) January 19, 2017 Gene Cernan recalls sitting on 'God's front porch', in this clip from the documentary @LastManOnMoon #RIPGeneCernan — Sky at Night Mag (@skyatnightmag) January 19, 2017 Gene Cernan revisits the Apollo 17 capsule that brought him to the Moon, in this clip from the documentary @LastManOnMoon #RIPGeneCernan — Sky at Night Mag (@skyatnightmag) January 19, 2017 In this amazing clip from @LastManOnMoon, Gene Cernan reveals how he and colleagues prepared to travel into space. #RIPGeneCernan — Sky at Night Mag (@skyatnightmag) January 18, 2017
Our pick of some of the spacecraft's best shots of the Saturnian system
  The NASA Cassini mission has revealed to us some of the most amazing wonders of Saturn and its moons. Having been active for nearly 13 years, the orbiter will finally call it a day in September 2017 after traversing through Saturn’s ring and fatally plunging into the planet's surface, marking the end of its voyage.  As Cassini prepares for the final stages of its mission, we look back on some of its best images captured so far. Written by Anton Agejev
US astronaut became first American to orbit Earth and oldest person in space
  John Glenn, the former US astronaut who became the first American to orbit Earth, has died at the age of 95. He had been in hospital in Columbus, Ohio, for over a week and passed away while surrounded by his children and wife of 73 years, Annie. Glenn was best known for having flown into space in the Friendship 7 orbiter on 20 February 1962 as one of NASA’s original Mercury astronauts, the first US programme to put men in space. He was one of seven astronauts on the mission, which involved six manned flights into space from 1961 to 1963 and saw the US begin to seriously contend with the Soviet Union in the space race. Glenn’s Mercury flight could have ended in disaster when his spacecraft’s automatic system failed at the end of his first orbit of Earth. However, he had previously trained for a scheduled 30-minute test during which he was to fly the spacecraft manually, and his training kicked in.  "I went to manual control and continued in that mode during the second and third orbits, and during re-entry," he would later say. "The malfunction just forced me to prove very rapidly what had been planned over a longer period of time." The Friendship 7 orbiter's warning system then signalled that its heat shield was loose, a fault that could have caused it to burn up on reentry into Earth’s atmosphere. Glenn’s life was saved by not jettisoning the retropack that was attached to the spacecraft, which was able to hold the heat shield in place. John Glenn was born on 18 July 1921 in Cambridge, Ohio, in the United States. Previous to his time flying into space as a NASA astronaut, he joined the US Marine Corps in 1943 and went on to fly 59 combat missions during World War II. He retired as an astronaut on 16 January 1964 and left the Marine Corps on 1 January 1965, later being elected to the US Senate as a Democrat in 1974 and beginning a successful career in US politics. Glenn would become the oldest person to fly into space when on 29 October 1998 at the age of 77 he launched onboard the space shuttle orbiter Discovery for a nine-day mission. During his time in space he took part in scientific tests to study how humans age. In 2011, he received the Congressional Gold Medal and a year later was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by US President Barack Obama. In a statement following the news of Glenn's passing, President Obama said: “John spent his life breaking barriers. (He) always had the right stuff, inspiring generations of scientists, engineers and astronauts who will take us to Mars and beyond - not just to visit, but to stay. The last of America's first astronauts has left us, but propelled by their example we know that our future here on Earth compels us to keep reaching for the heavens.” NASA administrator Charles Bolden said: “Glenn's extraordinary courage, intellect, patriotism and humanity were the hallmarks of a life of greatness. His missions have helped make possible everything our space program has since achieved and the human missions to an asteroid and Mars that we are striving toward now.”  
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