The majestic, bird-shaped aurora spreads its wings over a destroyed military hydroelectric station, located two hours away from Murmansk, Russia. Credit: Copyright Alexander Stepanenko
Against the star-spattered backdrop of the night sky in Russia, glowing green lights of a spectacular aurora rise in the shape of a giant firebird, its wings spread over an abandoned military power station.
Farther away from Earth, illuminated clouds of gas around a collapsed stellar core in the distant Helix nebula form the shape of a giant orb, reminiscent of the Eye of Sauron in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.
These astounding images are on the shortlist of entries to the Insight Investment Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition, organized by the Royal Observatory, Greenwich in the United Kingdom. The contest received over 4,600 entries submitted by photographers from around the world; from those, just over three dozen photos were selected for final consideration, representatives said in a statement. [Spaced Out! 101 Astronomy Images That Will Blow Your Mind]
Photographers from 90 countries trained their lenses on cosmic objects near and far: from radiant auroras to faraway stellar nurseries. Judges will select the winners in nine categories: Skyscapes; Aurorae; People and Space; Our Sun; Our Moon; Planets, Comets and Asteroids; Stars and Nebulae; Galaxies; and Young Astronomy Photographer of the Year, for participants ages 16 and under.