Over the course of the past year, SkyNews readers have submitted hundreds of stunning images of stars, nebulae, planets and other astronomical phenomena to our 20th annual Photo of the Week contest. Chosen by our panel of judges, here are the best.
Prizes for the 2021-22 SkyNews Photo of the Week contest are sponsored by Sky-Watcher, Celestron, iOptron, The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada and SkyNews. Find out more about the amazing telescopes, prize packages and gift vouchers awarded to the best photos this year.
Best of the best
Winner: HFG1 and Abell 6 by Dan Kusz
The pair of planetary nebulae HFG1 and Abell 6 is incredibly difficult to image, let alone image well. But this year’s Photo of the Year winner Dan Kusz managed to capture the pair beautifully, along with the Hydrogen-alpha background and the colourful nearby stars.
HFG1 is a low-surface-brightness planetary nebula in Cassiopeia. It surrounds, and was produced by, a binary star system (V664 Cas) that is moving through our galaxy at a brisk 29 to 59 kilometres per second. V664 Cas is composed of a white dwarf star and a Sun-like star, estimated to be only a few million kilometres apart and rotating around their common centre of gravity every 14 hours. Due to the incredible
speed of V664 Cas and HFG1 as they rip through the interstellar medium, a bluish arc shock has developed, and they leave behind a long wake of gas about 10,000 years old.
Abell 6 is an example of a bubble-shaped planetary nebula. It remains quite faint at magnitude 15.
“This was a great target to work on,” Kusz wrote. “I knew it would be a long project, because I wanted a clean background and good detail within both feature targets of the image.
I am happy with the shock front of HFG1 and the “wispy” detail in the Oxygen III channel in this object. There is a decent texture present in Abell6aswell;thatwasabitofa surprise.”
Kusz said processing was extremely challenging, trying to balance the extremely faint detail in HGF1 with the relatively bright Abell 6.
“This was my big project for the fall season and I am very happy and proud of the final result for this image.”
Location: Vernon, British Columbia
Date: October 2021 Camera: ZWO ASI2600MM Pro
Telescope: Sky-Watcher Esprit 120 (reduced to 647mm, f/5.4)
Mount: Sky-Watcher EQ6-R Pro
Total integration time: 43 hours
Hydrogen-alpha: 121 subs × 600 seconds
Oxygen III: 128 subs × 600 seconds
RGB: 120 subs × 15 seconds using each filter for star colour
Best deep sky
Winner: Melotte 15 by Andrew Lesser
The oft-captured heart of the Heart Nebula is section of the sky that harbours newborn stars, crafting pillars out of the surrounding gas and dust. About 1.5 million years old, the nebula is located about 7,500 light-years away in Cassiopeia.
The judges liked the creativity in Andrew Lesser’s image, with the main branches of the nebula emerging from behind clouds, like trees in fog. The stars were clear and well captured, adding a touch of sparkle to the scene.
“This is my first image captured with the TS Optics RC eight-inch reflector and my last captured with a one-shot colour camera,” Lesser wrote. “This was combined with a dual-band filter to capture both the Hydrogen-alpha and Oxygen III emission wavelengths. These were mapped to the RGB channels as H, HO, HO, and I later added true colour RGB stars for good measure.”
Location: Calgary, Alberta
Date: October 19, 2021
Camera: ZWO ASI2600MC Pro
Telescope: TS Optics Ritchey-Chrétien eight-inch carbon fibre
Mount: Sky-Watcher EQ6-R Pro
Total integration time: 44 minutes
Winner: Milky Way widefield, Dan Posey
Dan Posey said it is always a challenge to find a southern horizon that allows for a good shot into the Milky Way.
He said that two years ago before taking this shot, he realized that carting gear from place to place was one of the main reasons he hadn’t captured the shot that he wanted of the region of sky around Sagittarius.
“I slowly began to build a ‘grab and go’ kit that uses a small unguided tracker and camera/lens combo,” he wrote in his submission, noting that he used it to capture this image, consisting of 78 30-second exposures.
“It was a tricky one to process, because there is so much going on here,” he wrote. “The image includes the Lagoon and Trifid nebulae, the Sagittarius Star Cloud, the Swan and Eagle nebulae and several open clusters. All of those fade into the wonderful structures of the Milky Way itself that has many rich dark structures to explore.”
Location: Metchosin, British Columbia
Date: August 4, 2021
Camera: Canon Ra (unfiltered)
Lens: Sigma 105mm lens (f/1.4)
Mount: iOptron SkyGuider Pro
Total integration time: 39 minutes
Winner: Jupiter, Daniel Borcard
“Here in southern Québec, the seeing is most often bad, in the 2.5 to 3.0 arcsecond range,” Daniel Borcard stated in his image entry. “Unfortunately, we are almost constantly under the influence
of the jet stream, complicated by various currents blowing from various directions. Therefore,
planetary imaging requires a good amount of patience and dedication. You have to be up and ready when the exceptional night happens.”
In early October, Borcard used the weather to the best of his abilities and equipment, capturing Jupiter with incredible clarity.
The image on the left was captured at 7:46 p.m., the centre at 9:00 p.m. and the right at 9:56 p.m. He said the seeing left him wanting a larger telescope, but he felt he managed to use his current 10-inch scope to its limits.
The zones and belts in the Solar System’s largest planet are clear in Borcard’s images, with even cloud detail coming through. As a bonus, Borcard noted, the Great Red Spot spent the best part of the night transiting, and it can be seen spinning across the series.
“Sometimes, the seeing was breathtaking,” he wrote. “So 100 GB of data and many processing hours later, here are three images representing the best moments of that memorable night.”
Location: Saint-Roch-de-l’Achigan, Québec
Date: October 6, 2021
Camera: ZWO ASI224MC
Telescope: TS Optics ONTC 1010 10-inch Newtonian telescope (f/4)
Mount: Astro-Physics 1200GTO mount
Total integration time: Three hours
Winner: Zodiacal light, Justin Anderson
One of Justin Anderson’s favourite imaging locations last year was a church that stands tall on a prairie in Minto, Manitoba. The church was built in 1919 to honour four men from the community who fought in the First World War.
Pictured against a backdrop of the Milky Way and the zodiacal light, dotted with the Orion molecular cloud complex Messier 45 and the Andromeda Galaxy, this little church on the prairie was the location of Justin Anderson’s Youth category winning image.
Anderson said he was just testing out his newly modified Canon 6D, hoping to capture the zodiacal light.
“I started to pack up as the light started to fade,” he wrote. “At this point, I was getting ready to leave, then decided to capture a pano of the foreground, doubting I would use it.” He said the images sat on his hard drive, unedited, for the next few months.
“Doing a sweep I decided to edit this panorama finally and I am quite happy with the outcome,” he wrote. “I will be using my tracker much more this winter.”
Location: Minto, Manitoba
Date: March 11, 2021 Camera: Canon 6D Mk I (astromodified)
Lens: Samyang 24mm f/1.4
Mount: iOptron SkyTracker
Imaging time: 10 × 45 seconds (sky) | 10 × 30 seconds (foreground)
Winner: Moonrise composite, Brad Perry
Prize: iOptron SkyGuider™ Pro Mount
The Moon looks like fire rising over the clear water, which reflects its light as well as the shine from the house windows. It’s a perfect scene, along with the picturesque lighthouse on the peninsula.
Shooting from St. Andrews, New Brunswick, on May 21, 2022, Brad Perry captured the waning gibbous Moon rising, and with it, the Readers’ Choice Photo of the Year.
Perry said the composite image of the Moon climbing over the St. Andrews’ harbour depicts the changes in colour as it rises, from the deep red as its light stretched through more of Earth’s atmosphere to bright, pale yellow about 20 minutes later.
The picture consists of a sequence of 74 photos captured at 15-second intervals between 2:11 a.m. and 2:29 a.m.
“A final, longer exposure was captured to be used as a base image, then all photos were combined in Photoshop,” he wrote. “The shooting location and time were calculated using Planit Pro.”
Location: St. Andrews, New Brunswick
Date: May 21, 2022
Camera: Sony A6000
Lens: Canon EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III USM
Imaging time: 74 exposures at 0.8 seconds each for the Moon, and one ground shot at 30 seconds.
Prize: Each runner up receives a package from The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada and SkyNews