I don’t usually envy people who live in places like Iceland or Northern Canada – cold, dark and desolate places. But I am insanely jealous of them for one reason: the Aurora Borealis. Aurorae light up their skies, when charged particles streaming out from the Sun slam into the Earth’s magnetic field, get accelerated along the field lines towards the poles, creating these luminescent showers of light as they interact with the atoms in the upper atmosphere.
Talking about science is tough. Luckily the Universe is a beautiful place and we astronomers can let our images do the talking. But many of the most accomplished photographers of the skies don’t do astronomy for money: they’re the thousands of people who love stargazing and spend night after night in search for the perfect picture of the Universe. This year, the Royal Greenwich Observatory, in association with the BBC Sky at Night magazine are organising an astrophotography competition, the Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2009. Anyone with a keen eye and a nifty camera can submit their pictures to the competition and its associated Flickr group, in the following categories:
- Earth and space
- Our solar system
- Deep space
There’s a separate category for the under-16s. Prizes in all categories and conditions are listed on the website. A few of my fellow astro-bloggers (Will and Chris) are on the judging panel, as is astronomer extraordinaire Sir Patrick Moore.
If you’re more an astronomerof the arm-chair or office-bound type like myself, you can still enjoy the competition by checking out the images submitted so far on the Flickr site!
APOTY logo courtesy & copyright NMM/Royal Observatory Greenwich