The winners of the prestigious 2024 Melkweg photo competition have been announced

Baillie Farley captured this image at the Rainbow Valley Conservation Reserve in Australia’s Northern Territory, during a trip that saw her experience “some of the darkest southern night skies in the world.” She added: ‘This area exudes a unique charm, with its vibrant hues and beautiful geological formations’

Photographer Alexander Forst took this photo at a lake in Graubünden, an Alpine region in Switzerland. He said: ‘Located at 2,000 metres [6,561ft] altitude, it gets very cold after sunset. We forgot our coats in the car, 1.5 hours away. I only had a clear view of the Milky Way for 30 minutes before it disappeared behind the clouds again’

A mesmerizing shot by Hugo Valle in Egypt’s White Desert, a national park that covers more than 2.8 million square kilometers from the Nile to Libya. Hugo commented: ‘The night sky is among the best I have ever seen’

On December 15, Andrea Curzi captured this overview of a starry sky above pristine snowfall on Italy’s Passo Giau, a 2,236-meter pass in the Dolomites. The photographer said it was a scene he had ‘long dreamed of capturing’

Francesco Dall¿Olmo headed to the Laguna de los Tres natural viewpoint, in Argentine Patagonia, and captured this impressive twilight image, capturing Mount Fitz Roy framed by the Milky Way Arc

Above is a heavenly shot of the famous ‘Morning Glory’ hot spring in Yellowstone National Park. The photo was taken by Jerry Zhang, who explained that the pool was originally blue, but turned green due to “human intervention and pollution.” He added: ‘In this photo the pool is reflecting [constellation] Scorpio, especially [star] Antares, against a clear dark sky and a beautiful Milky Way’

See Rainbow Valley in Chile’s Atacama Desert. An area at 3200 meters altitude in the Cordillera Domeyko Mountains that the photographer behind this incredible shot, Cari Letelier, compares to Mordor from the Lord of the Rings films. She explained that the image was taken under a Bortle 1 sky, a classification that means it is one of the least light-polluted places on Earth.

John Rutter took this photo of the Milky Way deep within the ‘Mars-like’ Mungo National Park in New South Wales, Australia. He explains that the landscape ‘holds the oldest human remains outside Africa’, adding: ‘Its remoteness gives it a Bortle 1 sky, allowing you to stand where the first Australians once stood and access the same sky stare they beheld 100,000 years ago’

Kerry-Ann Lecky Hepburn took this wow-factor photo at 15,000 feet in Chile’s Atacama Desert, after “a terrifying 40-minute trek in the dark along a salt path.” A torch was used to make the lagoons reflect bright blue

Yuri Beletsky’s shot of the ‘Galactic Center’ shining brightly above the Atacama Desert

Marcin Zajac, the photographer behind this photo, explains that it was taken in Utah’s Goblin Valley State Park, in a remote corner of the Colorado Plateau, which “provides some of the darkest skies in the world.” [America]’. In the foreground, wildflowers bloom in front of a striking rock formation known as the Three Sisters

An ‘alien-looking’ bottle tree captured under the stars by Rosita Dimitrova on Socotra Island in Yemen

The striking image above was captured by Mihail Minkov in Jordan’s Wadi Rum desert, with the photographer explaining that the concept was ‘to emphasize the stark contrast between the vastness of the cosmos and the minuscule nature of humanity’. He added: ‘The composition deliberately draws the viewer’s attention to a tiny figure, underscoring our insignificance in the grand scheme of the universe, while the majestic core of the Milky Way dominates the background.’

This image shows the Milky Way ’emerging’ from New Zealand’s highest mountain, Aoraki, also known as Mount Cook. Photographer Tom Rae said: ‘The scene made me feel like I had landed on another planet. The image shows icebergs in the cyan blue glacial lake, red airglow painting the sky and the glow of billions of stars in the Milky Way.’

A series of mushroom-shaped stone structures in Utah called the “Toadstool Hoodoos” form the foreground for this dazzling photo by Stephnanie Thi, taken during the “blue hour”: the time after the sun sets but before it is completely dark.

Here, Julien Looten has captured the entire ‘winter arc’ of the Milky Way at the foot of a medieval castle in the Dordogne, France. Also present in the image is a natural phenomenon called ‘sky glow’. Julien explained: ‘This happens due to a chemical reaction in the upper atmosphere, emitting faint light known as chemiluminescence.’ The stars can be identified from left to right as Sirius and the constellation Orion, Mars, the Pleiades, the California Nebula, Cassiopeia, the double cluster of Perseus and the Andromeda Galaxy. The image is composed of 40 shots that took an hour to complete

Marc Rassel drove four and a half hours to reach this spot in Lake Superior, Minnesota, USA. He said: ‘I managed to complete the sky frames and most of the foreground photos. The final edit required the foreground to blend seamlessly as dusk approached’

Photographer Matej Mlakar set up his camera for this photo on Prednje robi¿je (1,941 meters), a mountain in the Slovenian Julian Alps

According to photographer Rachel Roberts, there are few places on the planet as dark as where this photo was taken. The location is Bluff Hut, located in the Southern Alps on the South Island of New Zealand. It is only accessible via a difficult hike or a helicopter flight. Rachel got there via the latter and explained that the spot was chosen by the pilot after bad weather ruined Rachel’s first choice location. She said: ‘I trusted the helicopter pilot to choose the best spot for clear skies that evening. Luckily it didn’t disappoint and I was able to capture the Milky Way arching majestically over the cabin from one of the darkest places on Earth.”

While camping in Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park, New Zealand, photographer Kavan Chay took this photo as the sun rose and a kea bird ‘harassed’ campers. He said: ‘The climb was a struggle with 20-25kg of equipment, but I achieved a respectable time’

The Milky Way hangs above desert vegetation in this incredible image by Maximilian Höfling, captured in the Teide National Park on Tenerife, Canary Islands. He said: ‘In Teide National Park, located at an altitude of around 2,000 meters (6,561 feet), clear skies are virtually guaranteed, with lower clouds blocking out the city lights, keeping light pollution to a minimum.’

Photographer Lorenzo Ranieri explained that he captured this image ‘during an adventurous night on the Atacama Desert plateau [in Chile], a potentially dangerous area due to its designation as a mountain lion sanctuary,” adding, “After an entire afternoon of searching for compositions, I came across this remarkable mass of rock adorned with tufts of grass, now burned by the harsh environment. The area was littered with small animal bones and footprints of considerable size, indicating the presence of wildlife not usually associated with peaceful sheep. Although it was a bit nerve-wracking to spend the night there, the opportunity to photograph such beauty made it worth it’

Photographer Brandt Ryder explains how this mesmerizing shot was captured: ‘In May 2023, I spent a few days in the iconic town of Lone Pine, California, where the lupines in the foothills were just coming into bloom and the skies are notoriously dark. I knew I wanted to create an image that transported the viewer to a sea of ​​purple flowers, framed by the snow-capped Sierra and the Milky Way rising above. While this place was special, it was the incredible palette of colors in the night sky that I captured this night that really takes this image to the next level. Every time I look back at this image, I can still smell those flowers’

Benjamin Barakat took this photo of the sky above from beneath a ‘twisted’ juniper tree on Jebel Shams, which at 3,018 meters (9,902 feet) is the highest mountain in Oman

Tervel Kutsev’s tantalizing entry took place in Bulgaria’s Pirin Mountains, with Tervel explaining that the peak at the center of the panorama is Vihren (2914 metres). The Pirin Mountains are named after one of the most powerful gods in Slavic mythology – Perun – the god of thunder, and Vihren is considered his throne, Tervel reveals

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