The winner of the 2022 Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition's 'Best Newcomer 'category has been disqualified, the Royal Observatory Greenwich has announced.

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The winning images of this year's astrophotography competition were revealed during a ceremony on 15 September 2022, but after a subsequent investigation, organisers have decided to strip the former category winner of their 'Best Newcomer' prize.

"It has been determined that the initial winner of Astronomy Photographer of the Year 14's 'Sir Patrick Moore Prize for Best Newcomer' did not meet the eligibility criteria and has been disqualified," a statement from the Royal Observatory Greenwich said.

"[The prize] is awarded to entrants who have taken up astrophotography no earlier than a year before the competition opened."

The Astronomy Photographer of the Year 14 judges took another look at this year's entries and decided to award the prize anew to Hannah Rochford for her photograph ‘The Heart of the Heart – Melotte 15’.

See all the winning images of Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2022

The Heart of the Heart – Melotte 15 © Hannah Rochford, Bruton, Somerset, UK, 13–15, 18, 27, 28 and 30 January 2022. Winner – The Sir Patrick Moore Prize for Best Newcomer, Astronomy Photographer of the Year 14. Equipment: SkyWatcher Evostar 80ED telescope (with 0.85x reducer), Baader ultra narrowband filters, SkyWatcher EQ6R-pro mount, ZW0 ASI2600MM Pro camera, 510 mm f/6.37, 333 x 300-second (H-alpha x 102, OIII x 129, SII x 102) exposures
The Heart of the Heart – Melotte 15 © Hannah Rochford, Bruton, Somerset, UK, 13–15, 18, 27, 28 and 30 January 2022. Winner – The Sir Patrick Moore Prize for Best Newcomer, Astronomy Photographer of the Year 14. Equipment: SkyWatcher Evostar 80ED telescope (with 0.85x reducer), Baader ultra narrowband filters, SkyWatcher EQ6R-pro mount, ZW0 ASI2600MM Pro camera, 510 mm f/6.37, 333 x 300-second (H-alpha x 102, OIII x 129, SII x 102) exposures

Melotte 15 is an open star cluster within the Heart Nebula, located in the constellation Cassiopeia.

Hannah Rochford began deep-sky imaging in November 2021, and it took 5 nights of data collection throughout January 2022 to produce the image.

Judge and astronomer at Royal Observatory Greenwich, Ed Bloomer says: ‘This is a wonderfully balanced image: lots of softness without being fuzzy, and lots of colour without being harsh.

"It is incredible to capture the fine details (for anyone, let alone a newcomer!), and is framed well to draw the viewer in. It's a real achievement. Absolutely beautiful."

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The photograph is currently on display in the Astronomy Photographer of the Year exhibition at the National Maritime Museum.

Authors

Iain Todd, BBC Sky at Night Magazine
Iain ToddScience journalist

Iain Todd is BBC Sky at Night Magazine's Content Editor. He fell in love with the night sky when he caught his first glimpse of Orion, aged 10.

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