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The Royal Observatory Greenwich has placed exceptional images of the stars on full display after the shortlist for the thirteenth Astronomy Photographer of the Year contest has been announced. The finalist's breathtaking images vary from the Northern Lights reflecting in the waters of remote Sweden to incredible views of spiral galaxies.

The overall winner will be announced in mid-September and will stand a chance to win a £10,000 cash prize. However, the finalist's also stand a chance to win one of the other categories too. These include Aurorae, People and Space, Our Sun, and Galaxies. There is also the Young Astronomy Photographer of the Year, awarded to a talented photographer under 16-years-old.

These terrific photos show how much there is to explore in this magical universe and how wonderful the creation is. 

We all have looked up at the night sky and fell in love with the incredible sight of the starry skies above, yet we haven't seen the magnificent detail and colour the sky holds. Some images are clearly rooted on Earth, while others, like Damian Peach's portrait of Saturn, bring us far into the solar system. 

The finalists hail from around the globe and include familiar names like Andrew McCarthy, known for his impressive backyard astrophotography.

The finalists now wait for the expert panel of judges to make their final decision on which photo blew them away the most. Fans can look at some of our favourite images from the Astronomy Photographer of the Year contest. Here are some of their amazing photos. 

The "Château de Chambord", taken by photographer Benjamin Barakat from the UK, captures the magical sky above. 

"This magnificent château in Chambord, Centre-Val de Loire, France was an amazing location chosen by the photographer's best friend and mentor Ralf Rohner. But it proved to be a challenging one as the castle had intervals of illumination with a minute's pause every 15 minutes. During the pauses, the photographer shot away trying to get as many images as possible. While processing it he had to try to mimic the reflection due to the time delay caused by the castle lights."

Another finalist photo, "The Soul of Space (Close-up of the Soul Nebula)", was taken by 13-year-old Kush Chandaria, also from the UK.

"The Soul Nebula is one of those incredible targets that, no matter where you point your telescope, there are always some incredible structures and details to be uncovered. This was the case with this image. With 14 hours of exposure, faint details and structures deep within the nebula began to emerge. The photographer chose to use narrowband filters to image this target and created a Hubble Palette composite."

From how close have you seen the Sun? The photo named "The Magnetic Field of our Active Sun", taken by Andrew McCarthy (USA), gives you a more detailed glimpse of our incredible boiling sun. 

"This image shows how the magnetic field of the Sun pulls up portions of the chromosphere following a large solar flare. The magnetic field lines are on crystal clear display along the limb in hydrogen-alpha light. This also happened while a particularly large active region was along the face of the solar disc. This was captured in black and white and processed partially inverted to highlight the contrast on the surface as well as the atmospheric features on the limb, presented in false color for the aesthetic. This was one of the most interesting features on the Sun in all of 2020 and represents the first major activity since the start of the new solar cycle. The photographer is pleased with the way the processing shows the nature of the Sun in a naturally blue sky while preserving close to the proper hydrogen-alpha tones."

Photo, "Pleiades Sisters", taken by Jashanpreet Singh Dingra (India), aged 14, shows the unique bright blue stars up in the universe. 

"This is an outstanding image of shining stars over the photographer's region in winter. The Pleiades, also known as the Seven Sisters and Messier 45, is an open star cluster containing middle-aged, hot B-type stars in the north-west of the constellation Taurus. It is the nearest star cluster and Messier object to Earth and it is the cluster most obvious to the naked eye in the night sky. The data of this image was processed in Deep Sky Stacker, Photoshop CC 17 and Gimps."

A terrific capture by Larryn Rae from New Zealand, "Iceland Vortex" shows the unique Northern Lights shining in the night sky and reflecting on the clear waters. 

"This is a 250 panorama of the Aurora Borealis in Iceland. The photographer came across this estuary that reflected the sky perfectly on a well below freezing winters night. He captured the panorama first, and then took a shot of himself out on the ice. For the photographer, this is one of the most amazing aurora images that he has ever captured. It sums up an awe-inspiring trip to Iceland in wintertime that also emphasized the feeling of being just a tiny part of the planet's existence in the face of a very powerful natural environment. The panorama is comprised of twenty images, two rows of ten, captured on a Canon 5DMk3 and Canon 16-35mm."

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