25 ethereal astronomy photos that literally light up the skies

"The Soul of Space (Close-up of the Soul Nebula)" by Kush Chandari (who is 13!). Credit: Kush Chandari

Not all of us have a billionaire brother who can let us hitch a ride into space, so we rely on talented photographers to give us a glimpse into the beyond.

London’s Royal Museums Greenwich has unveiled the finalists for the Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2021. The astrophotography competition, which has been running for 13 years, received over 4,500 entries taken from 75 countries.

Below, you’ll find a collection of the incredible finalists, with the full shortlist available on the RMG website. The winners will be announced Sept. 16 before an exhibition of the images opens at London’s National Maritime Museum from Sept. 18.

From magical views of the Milky Way over French lavender fields to a truly hardcore looking sunspot, this year’s finalists literally light up the skies and space around our planet. There are nine categories including skyscapes, aurorae, people and space, our sun, our moon, stars and nebulae, galaxies, and planets, comets, and asteroids.

If you’re keen for more otherworldly looks into the stars, here are last year’s winners.

Iceland Vortex by Larryn Rae
“Harmony” by Stefan Liebermann. A panorama of the Milky Way over lavender fields in Valensole, France.
Credit: Stefan Liebermann
“Milky Way rising over Durdle Door” by Anthony Sullivan. Taken in Dorset in England.
Credit: Anthony Sullivan
“Bicolour Veil Nebula” by Péter Feltóti.
Credit: Péter Feltóti
“The Soul of Space (Close-up of the Soul Nebula)” by Kush Chandari (who is 13!).
Credit: Kush Chandari
“Dolphin Head Nebula” by Yovin Yahathugoda
Credit: Yovin Yahathugoda
“Flame Nebula” by Steven-Mohr.
Credit: Steven Mohr
“NGC 6188 SHOrgb” by Cielaustral team — Jean-Claude Canonne, Didier Chaplain, Georges Chassaigne, Philippe Bernhard, Laurent Bourgon, and Nicolas Outters.
Credit: Cielaustral team
“Sunspot Looking Out Into Space” by Siu Fone Tang.
Credit: Siu Fone Tang
“Star Fall” by Wang Zheng.
Credit: Wang Zheng
“The Cave” by Markus van Hauten.
Credit: Markus van Hauten
“The Star Observer” by Antoni Cladera Barceló.
Credit: Antoni Cladera Barceló
“NGC 6723, NGC 6726, NGC 6727 and NGC 6729 — Dark Molecular Cloud in Corona Australis” by Steven Mohr
Credit: Steven Mohr
“The Milky Way on the Ancient Village by Zhang Xiao.
Credit: Zhang Xiao
“Star Watcher” by Yang Sutie.
Credit: Yang Sutie
“Pleiades Sisters” by Jashanpreet Singh Dingra.
Credit: Jashanpreet Singh Dingra
“The Exceptionally Active Ion Tail of Comet-2020F8-SWAN” by Gerald Rhemann.
Credit: Gerald Rhemann
“Waterfall” by Anna Dobrovolskaya-Mints. Credit: Anna Dobrovolskaya-Mints
“Glory of Damavand and Milky-Way” by Masoud Ghadiri
Credit: Masoud Ghadiri
“Château de Chambord” by Benjamin Barakat.
Credit: Benjamin Barakat
“Dugi Otok – Variant A” by Ivan Vucetic.
Credit: Ivan Vucetic
“The Tumult of the Sun” by Hassan Hatami.
Credit: Hassan Hatami
“The Rose” by Josep Drudis.
Credit: Josep Drudis
“The Magnetic Field of our Active Sun” by Andrew McCarthy.
Credit: Andrew McCarthy
“Sunrise of the Magic City” by Jiajun Hua.
Credit: Jiajun Hua
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