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10th September 2009
Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2009 Winners Announced

Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2009 opens at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich on Thursday 10th September

Two months spent scanning the skies from his garden to capture the swirling clouds of dark dust and gas which form the Horsehead Nebula has yielded rewards for British photographer Martin Pugh. He was named as Astronomy Photographer of the Year last night (9 September) in a ceremony at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich.

Competition judge and BBC Sky at Night presenter, Chris Lintott said, ‘The detail is absolutely stunning, whether it’s the fine structure in the curtain behind the horse or the subtle details on the edge of the dark nebula itself’.

Martin’s Horsehead Nebula,which also won the Deep Space category,was taken with a 12.5” diameter Richey-Chrétien telescope and CCD camera mounted in his garden shed in Canberra, Australia.  Martin, originally from Dudley in the Midlands, acquired the picture over 14 nights with a total exposure time of 19 hours. Located approximately 1500 light years away in the constellation of Orion, the Horsehead Nebula is a dark cloud of gas and dust silhouetted against a bright glowing cloud of gas. The pink glow comes from a cloud of hydrogen beyond the nebula, being excited by radiation from the nearby star Sigma Orionis. Bright spots in the Horsehead Nebula’s base are young stars just in the process of forming.

The winner of the Earth and Space category is Australian photographer Ted Dobosz for his picture of star trails taken while camping in the Blue Mountains near Sydney. The picture captures a dark starry night where the glow from the galactic bulge of the Milky Way and the Magellanic Clouds stretched across the night sky. As the Earth spins during the 30-minute exposure of the photograph the stars make trails around the southern celestial pole.

Chris Lintott said:  ‘It is the ghostly images of the Milky Way’s two companion galaxies that make this image something very special. The trees give a sense of being rooted on Earth as the heavens turn above you.’

Michael O’Connell received first prize in the Our Solar System category for his photograph of the Moon appearing over the eastern horizon. The picture was taken using a simple digital SLR camera with a telescope from his back garden in Ireland.

Irish teenager Paul Smith, from Sherlock in County Cavan, took the Young Astronomer Photographer of the Year title at the awards. His photograph shows the occultation of Venus just as it begins to reappear from behind the Moon.

The competition received 540 entries from 25 countries. The best of these striking and often thought-provoking photographs – winners, runners-up or highly commended in the competition’s four categories – are showcased in an exhibition opening today (10 September) at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich.

The winning images for 2009 are:
§ Martin Pugh (UK) with Horsehead Nebula (Overall Winner and Winner, Deep Space)
§ Ted Debosz (Australia) with Star Trails Blue Mountains (Winner, Earth and Space)

  1. Michael O’Connell (Republic of Ireland) with Blue Sky Moon (Winner, Our Solar System)
  2. Paul Smith (Ireland, aged 14) with Occultation of Venus (Winner, Young Category)

Deep Space

  1. Edward Henry (USA) with Galaxies M81 and M82 (Runner-Up)
  2. Martin Pugh (UK) with Galactic Dust in Corona Australis (Highly Commended)
  3. Thomas Davis (USA) with Eta Carina Nebula (Highly Commended)
  4. Michael Sidonio (Australia) with Centaurus A Ultra Deep Field (Highly Commended)

Earth and Space

  1. Vincent Miu (Australia) with Venus, Jupiter and Moon trails over the Nepean River (Runner-Up)
  2. Nik Szymanek (UK) with Milky Way (Highly Commended)

§ Nikhil Shahi (USA) with Death Valley Star Trails (Highly Commended)
§ Karl Johnston (Northwest Territories, Canada) with Bow of Orion (Highly Commended)

Our Solar System

  1. Nick Smith (UK) with 3.1 Day-old Moon (Runner-Up)
  2. Nick Smith (UK) with Clavius Mosaic ( Highly Commended)
  3. Nick Howes (UK) with Comet Holmes ( Highly Commended)
  4. Ethan Allen (USA) with Saturn (Highly Commended)

Young Category
§ Sarah Gilligan (UK, aged 11) with No Dogs on Beach (Runner-up)
§ Jathin Premjith (Bahrain, aged 13) with Full Moon (Highly Commended)
§ Ben Fernando (UK, aged 15) with Mercury and Crescent Moon (Highly Commended)
§ Paul Smith (Ireland, aged 14) with Venus (Highly Commended)

Astronomy Photographer of the Year is run by the Royal Observatory, Greenwich and Sky at Night Magazine. This is the first year of the competition.

For more information about entering next year’s competition visit

Exhibition information for visitors:

Venue: Royal Observatory, Greenwich
Dates: 10 September 2009 – 10 January 2010
Opening times: every day, 10.00 – 17.00 (closed 25-26 December)
Visitor enquiries: 020 8312 6565
Admission: Free

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