The winner of the Astronomy Photographer of the Year has been announced ahead of the opening of the exhibition of all the winning photographs at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, this week 

British photographer James Woodend has beaten over a thousand amateur and professional photographers around the world to win the title of Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2014.

The judges were mesmerized by Woodend’s shot portraying a vivid green aurora dancing across the Icelandic night sky and reflected symmetrically in the glacial Jökulsarlon lagoon of Vatnajökull National Park.

Astronomy Photographer of the Year announced

The winning photograph, Aurora over a glacier lagoon © James Woodend

Competition judge and Royal Observatory Public Astronomer, Dr Marek Kukula said: “I love the combination of whites and blue in the glacier with the chilly green of the aurora in this wonderfully icy picture. We’ve had some amazing aurora pictures in the competition over the last six years, but this is the first time a photo of the Northern Lights has actually won the Astronomy Photographer of the Year prize. We were all completely in awe of the colours and symmetry of James’ shot.”

Other commended photographs include a breath-taking view of the Earth taken from the brink of space (87,000 feet above the ground), with the help of a high altitude balloon launched from Boulder, Colorado by Patrick Cullis (USA); the snaking swirls of superheated gas on the boiling surface of the Sun captured by Alexandra Hart (UK); a figure silhouetted against the backdrop of a Kenyan savannah skyline and a rarely seen hybrid solar eclipse, taken by Eugen Kamenew (Germany). 

Astronomy Photographer of the Year announced

Hybrid Solar Eclipse 2 © Eugen Kamenew

A photograph portraying the rock formations of the Wairarapa district in New Zealand, with the dusty clouds dancing across the Milky Way photographed by Chris Murphy (New Zealand) won the Sir Patrick Moore prize for Best Newcomer. And The Young Astronomy Photographer of the Year was won by 15 year old twins Shishir and Shashank Dholakia from the USA for their depiction of the Horsehead Nebula standing out against the red glow of the background emission nebula, 1500 light-years from Earth.

Astronomy Photographer of the Year announced

The Horsehead Nebula (IC 434) © Shishir & Shashank Dholakia, winners of The Young Astronomy Photographer of the Year

BBC Sky at Night Magazine’s Editor Chris Bramley, who is a judge for the competition, said of this year’s contest: “This year two things stood out for me while judging: the record-breaking number of 2,500 entries from a truly global community of astrophotographers, and the staggering quality of the images – it was regularly hard to believe that many were taken from the surface of the Earth and not a space telescope orbiting our planet.”

All of the winners photographs will be on show at the Royal Observatory Greenwich from 18th September 2014 to 22nd February 2015

Astronomy Photographer of the Year announced

New Year Over Cypress Mountain © Emmett Sparling


Exhibition information

Venue: Astronomy Centre, Royal Observatory Greenwich

Dates: 18 September 2014 – 22 February 2015

Opening times: every day, 10.00 – 17.00 (closed 24-26 December)

Visitor enquiries: 020 8858 4422

Admission: Entry to the Astronomy Centre and to the exhibition is free