The 2014 Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition has just released its cosmically awesome shortlisted entries. Capturing scenes across the solar system, galaxy, and beyond, the images are spectacular reminders that we’re all living on a "mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam," as astronomer Carl Sagan famously put it in "Pale Blue Dot."
These images were chosen from more than 2,500 entries to the sixth annual competition, run by the Royal Observatory Greenwich in association with BBC Sky at Night Magazine. Some photographers aim their lenses close to home: one snapped the aurora borealis dancing above the clouds from the window of a transatlantic flight between London and New York. Others peer 1,350 light years away, where new stars are born in the stellar nursery of the Orion Nebula, visible to the naked eye on a dark, moonless night. One father and son duo in Massachusetts spent weeks preparing to shoot the comet PanSTARRS, which won't be seen for another 100,000 years. Then there's stunning imagery of the Milky Way reflected in the Snake River at Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park; a solar eclipse gleaming through the steam of Old Faithful Geyser at Yellowstone; and Jupiter, captured moments before aligning with the body of the moon.
The winners of the competition’s four categories—Earth and Space, Our Solar System, Deep Space, and Young Astronomy Photographer of the year—will be announced on September 17. An exhibition of the winners will open the following day at the Royal Observatory. All the entries to the contest were submitted via the Astro Photo Flickr group and can be seen here.