Celestron astropix winners are up!

By Phil Plait | August 13, 2009 11:44 am

The winners of the "Capture the Universe" astrophotography contest have been announced and are now up for your viewing!

OK, I suppose that may need some explanation.

Celestron contest image of Comet Holmes

In June, Discover Magazine and Celestron announced a contest for people to submit their best pictures of the sky using Celestron equipment. For a judge they wisely chose an experienced and seasoned astronomer, skilled in the arcane arts of astrophotography and critical analysis of aesthetics… oh wait, no they didn’t, they asked me to do it.

The contest ran all month, and in the end there were over 150 pictures entered. It was very tough making the choices! For example, there lots of incredible images of galaxies, but I didn’t want five out of the top ten being all of one kind of object. I tried to spread it around, but even then it was difficult choosing.

But I finally made my decisions, and the Top Ten (actually 11, because I’m a wuss and ran two images tied) are now on display in a gorgeous gallery of galactic, uh, gorgeousness.

Celestron contest image strip of entries

My congrats to the winner, who will receive a Celestron NexStar 8SE computerized telescope, a very nice prize that makes me very, very jealous! I’d also like to thank very much the fine folks at Celestron and of course The Hive Overmind Discover Magazine for running this contest and allowing me to judge it. It was an absolute pleasure to go through so many beautiful images of the night sky, even though it was torture picking the best ones.

Seeing all these entries reminds me that astronomy has come a long, long way in the past few years. Equipment that is very affordable allows people to make incredibly beautiful and astonishing pictures of celestial objects, images that even a couple of decades ago were only possible from professional astronomers using large observatories. Amazing.


Comments (28)

  1. Adrian Lopez

    Congratulations to the all winners.

    I had an entry of my own, but it didn’t win:


  2. Breathtaking is all I have to say.

    What an amazing age we live in when looking up at the skies and being able to see all those celestial bodies (either through a telescope or online) is within almost anyone’s reach.

  3. Love the moon and Venus the most. The winner was a little too “processed” for my taste, though still undeniably beautiful and amazing.

  4. Is there a place showing the entries along with what equipment they used to capture the images? Curious photo/astronomy geeks want to know about the equipment.

  5. Astronomynut

    I love that you picked the mosaic as number 1. The planning and effort that went into that is awesome. The others are incredible too, but most we’ve seen by someone else. The mosaic was original.

  6. Chip

    Thanks. I am pleased and excited that you enjoyed my photograph of the venus transit. This has made my day, week and month…I’ll hold out on year just yet. It almost didn’t happen but fortunately the Sun rose above the clouds that morning just in time for me to snap 70 pics…lol. This was my favorite and is hainging in my office infront of me now. Let me know when you’re in Denver some time and I will buy you a beer (or beverage of your choice). I read BA first thing, after APOD, everyday but now I may have to read it twice a day. ūüėÄ
    To all the other winners, and entries (i surfed them all)…outstanding images! What great company to be in!
    Clear skys,
    Chip #4a

  7. Gary Ansorge

    M13 attracted my attention. I’ve been wondering just how reasonably Joss Whedons use of a tight globular cluster was for the Firefly universe. Are there any small clusters close to us that might be a reasonable extrapolation into the Firefly universe,ie lots of planets we could terra form, either in orbit around near by stars or many such 10,000 km wide rocks in orbit around a super jovian?

    I really don’t like writing SciFi dependent upon FTL to get around, so, many close planets makes for a good story, adhering to what we know of velocity limitations.
    ,,,and by close I mean w/in a few million up to a few hundred million Klicks of each other.(I know we haven’t actually SEEN such small bodies, but a super Jovian could theoretically have a bunch of satellites in the usable range)

    GAry 7

  8. Cheyenne

    All were just fantastic.

    The Moon/Venus shot is just extraordinary. That’s one of the coolest astronomy pics I have ever seen.

  9. Andy Diamos

    Has Phil ever made a post about the various types of astronomy equipment and the images that they’re capable of? I have no idea what is required to produce all of these beautiful images. I’m sure all of us astronomy noobs would appreciate that sort of thing.

  10. Hey Phil, not that I mind being chosen for the top 10, but it’s drksky, not drsky ūüėÄ

    Yes, I’m picking nits…

  11. Andy, if you go to the Celestronimages dot com site, look at the description of the pics made there. Most of the astrophoto shots show the details of equipment, techniques, software, etc.

  12. Christopher

    All of the images are amazing! It’s funny also because the winner is going to get the same telescope he used to take the picture. :)

  13. minusRusty

    Yo, Phil! #3 should be titled “Skeleton in a Window”


  14. Awesome pics… are there any high-res (widescreen) resolution wallpaper versions of those somewhere? I’d love to get my hands on some of them.

  15. dhtroy

    Great picks Phil.

    #14 (Morrigan) I’m with you, I’d love to get my hands on some HiRes versions of these for wallpaper.

  16. First off, I want to thank Phil for deeming my moon shot worthy for #5. I have only been at this astrophotography thing for about a year and half and I am constantly amazed with the images that I have gotten from some modest equipment. Also, congrats to the winner and the rest of the top 10. Amazing images from all of you.

    Second, Yes I have a high-res version of my picture available. You can find it here at my Flickr page: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zamb0ni/3408992858/sizes/o/

    Lastly, as for equipment, I took my moon mosaic using a relatively cheap 6″ and imaged through a webcam. A pic of the telescope can be found here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zamb0ni/3560139824/in/set-72157607505443083/

    For those of you who may be interested in astrophotography….If a person like me can take an image that hit #5 in this contest, so can you :). It *can* be an expensive hobby, but many of you may already have equipment that can get you started in the hobby, and the barrier of entry into long exposure deep space astrophotography is pretty low and getting cheaper every day.

    If you have a DSLR and a tripod, you already have a beginner’s astrophoto setup. You can easily use it to create star trail photos and some beginning widefield shots of the constellations. Add a tracking mount and a 300mm lens you can get images that rival the Andromeda picture at #10. There is time involved in snapping the photos and a lot of time invested in image processing, but much of the software needed is available online for download for free.

    If you are interested in taking up the hobby, Jerry Lodriguss has a nice primer for beginners available here: http://www.astropix.com/HTML/I_ASTROP/TOC_AP.HTM . There are also some nice amateur astronomy forums like Cloudy Nights http://www.cloudynights.com/ubbthreads/ubbthreads.php?Cat= were any questions you have can be answered by knowledgeable people.

    Again, thanks go out to Phil and congrats to those chosen for the top 10!

  17. Very very impressive. Congratulations to the winners. Makes my shot of Jupiter through a Galileoscope with mobile phone look even more ordinary than I originally thought. :-)

    zAmboni, thanks for the tips. Excellent work. I’m now in the market for some real equipment even though I’ve been peering through the Galileoscope every day. I never get sick of looking at the moon and Jupiter.

  18. Wow, thanks Phil,i had a ISS shot as well,(http://www.celestronimages.com/details.php?image_id=3628) then read what the contest was about..just so happined i could catch all the planets in one 12 hour peroid,couple at before midnight, other’s pre-dawn..the sun before the whole escapade..(i didn’t get pluto,would been so small wouldn’t known what was anyway )to all the other readers,i’ve only owned my telescope ,heh,..8SE ( same i won it turns out)since April 08′,the camera was digital CanonG10 held up to 25mm eyepiece(not by hand) …i’m a car washer basicaly(own a busniess)..before buying my scope had no idea Telescope’s are this far along as well as camera’s ease of use,Processing images after nights outing a Whole Other Matter!!( where all your time will be spent,example, 60 frames to be,stacked,alinged,wavelength,gamaray,tone maped,contrast,adjusted etc ,etc, etc.. One planet done…)This new scope will be deep sky set-up with new prime focus eos Canon T1i thats been modified by Huetech, while my origainl set for satellites an rocket launches an Planets with G10 on 25x7mm adjustiable lens!!i’m still a carry the scope out an back in person..The best overall way to observe/captures is with a observitory..
    Enjoy!!.. an Clear Skys!!


  19. I wish I had a higher res version of my North American shot. I’ve got the film chip stored so that when I have the time I can hook my film scanner up again and start digitally preserving my old film. I did have a res scan of it at one point, but I lost it in a computer crash. All I still had was the low-res web version :(

  20. Lovely shots. That comet image is sublime.

    Kudos (and Kang) to all.

  21. ruidh

    I have to say I liked the Venus transit the best. It gave me a real sense of Venus as a fairly large object instead of just a near point in the sky. The Venus-Moon conjugation was interesting, especially the matching phases, but I didn’t get the same sense of size.

    Well done to all submissions.

  22. Adrian Lopez

    zAmboni: That high-res shot of the moon is awesome, and I like the orientation of that image better than the one your winning image. The detail is just amazing.

  23. Thanks Adrian, I liked the orientation better on Flickr also. For some reason Celestron has the image limits being longer for height and not width. I rotated it 90 degrees so I could get as large a pic of the Moon I could within their limits (to preserve more details).

    Bozo, Impressive!
    I started out doing some afocal stuff with a Nikon Coolpix 990 but gave up because it wasnt sensitive enough and had way too much noise. Then bought a Canon 300D for prime focus stuff.

    You may have a tough time doing deep space stuff with the 8SE because you will get some field rotation with the SE mount. The mooded camera is the way to go. Congrats!

  24. MarkW

    I remember watching the Venus transit — was it really 5 years ago? So that one was a particular favourite of mine. Congratulations to all the winners!

  25. MadScientist

    What are the circumstances for #1? What equipment etc? I wish I could see the gas giants in such detail through an amateur telescope. ūüėõ

    I like the moon and Venus too – keep in mind the moon is ~1/2 degree across and you can work out the apparent angle subtended by Venus in that particular shot.

    The Moon mosaic is great too. :)

  26. Here you go Mad: 1. an 8 inch or 400x useful magnifcation scope (or bigger)
    2. a 25 x 7 mm adjustiable zoom lens/eyepiece( plus one x2 barlow) 3. higher end modle digital camera(you need some flexibility)..Thats it basicaly less the universal camera mount to hold it to the lens/eyepiece(wonder if a surgern could hand snap without the mount,heh) …The more scope’s pointed up all over the world the better i feel…;^)

  27. Lexrst


    I made your pic my backround on my dual-monitor rig. I centered the pic so that it spans both monitors… awesome!



  28. Wonderful photos! I really enjoyed the moon+venus shot. But… is it really “coincidence” that they were in the same phase? Surely, if they are in the same direction from Earth, that’s a given, isn’t it?


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