If choosing the images and writing Voyager: 101 Wonders between Earth and the Edge of the Cosmos has taught me anything, it was just how many amazing images of the cosmos are being produced these days. They are being sent back from the various planetary bodies by spacecraft such as Cassini at Saturn or Mars Express at the red planet, or from ground-based telescopes such as the VLT in Chile. Then there are the space-based observatories such as Hubble or Herschel that have also returned fantastic pictures this year.
So I thought we should have a little fun and decide what has been the most inspiring astronomical photo of the year. You know, the one that made your jaw drop, either because of its beauty or because of what it represents. The Royal Greenwich Observatory does a fantastic job of running an astrophotography competition for individual photographers. So I thought here we would concentrate on the images publicly released for the first time by the various observatories, space agencies and other publicly funded bodies around the world.
I have suggested a few below and now I’d like your help to compile the rest of the short list. Which celestial photo have you seen that made your jaw drop? Simply post the link in the comments and say why you like it. I’ll then collate ten photos and we’ll set the poll running on Monday, 13th December. You’ll have until Friday 31st to vote. Please encourage your Twitter followers, Facebook fans and blog readers to vote as well!
Laser and Star Trails over Gemini North
Released on 21/5/2010. Credit: Gemini Observatory/Joy Pollard.
This is art coming out of science. It is a long duration photograph that captures the rotation of the Earth and the sweep of a laser beam that the Gemini Telescope uses to correct for atmospheric distortions when imaging the night sky. The original can be found here.
The microwave sky as seen by Planck
Released on 5/7/2010. Credits: ESA/ LFI & HFI Consortia.
This extraordinary image of the Universe combines the very first light – the microwave background radiation released more than 13 billion years ago – with some of the youngest, microwaves from nearby dust clouds in the Milky Way. The original can be found here.
Falling Material Kicks Up Cloud of Dust on Dunes
Released on 6/1/2010. Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona
The year got off to a spectacular start with this shot of bizarre looking sand dunes on Mars, taken by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The pale colour comes from carbon dioxide frost and the dark streaks are dust dislodged by the thaw. Every time I show it in lectures, it generates a gasp of astonishment. The original can be found here.
VISTA Captures Celestial Cat’s Hidden Secrets
Released on 21/4/2010 Credit: ESO/J. Emerson/VISTA
The density of stars in this image staggers me – like diamond dust scattered across the sky. We used to see images like this in science fiction films, now we see them in reality – and that makes them all the more beautiful. The original can be found here.
So now, it’s over to you – which ones have I forgotten? Remember, you’ve got just this week to propose images and then I’ll post the shortlist and we’ll all get people voting.