A British amateur astronomer won a major prize last night for a stunning photo that judges said rivalled those taken by the Hubble space telescope. Damian Peach beat hundreds of rivals around the world with an exquisitely detailed view of giant planet Jupiter and two of its many moons, Io and Ganymede.
Damian, from Selsey, West Sussex, was so determined to get a quality image that he travelled with his telescope to Barbados from where he knew Jupiter would be high in the sky.
By capturing it through a thinner layer of Earth’s turbulent atmosphere, he produced a photo that wowed judges of the Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition run by the Royal Observatory Greenwich and Sky at Night Magazine. Skymania was at the ceremony when winners were announced.
Competition judge Dr Marek Kukula, Public Astronomer at the Royal Observatory in London said: “There were so many beautiful images this year but this one really stood out for me. It looks like a Hubble picture. The detail in Jupiter’s clouds and storms is incredible, and the photographer has also managed to capture detail on two of the planet’s moons which is remarkable for an image taken from the ground. An amazing photo.”
Fellow judge Sir Patrick Moore, presenter of the BBC’s The Sky at Night, said: “The standard of this year’s entries was first class, as always, but this picture is a very worthy winner against extremely strong competition.”
Damian, whose exceptional work is well known among amateur astronomers, used a Celestron 14-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope with a Point Grey Flea3 CCD camera to take his outstanding image in September 2010. Ganymede is the grey moon to the upper right and Io the orangey one.
The competition received more than 700 entries from all over the world. While Damian took the overall prize, and won the solar system category, other winning entries included a dazzling green aurora over ponds in Norway, the remnants of a supernova that blew itself to bits, the Moon during a lunar eclipse and the Milky Way stretching above a line of tropical palm trees. You can view all the winning entries and runners-up at the Sky at Night site or view them at the Royal Observatory Greenwich until February.