Gazing up at the night sky is a reward unto itself: the splendor of the Universe awaits! But when you use a telescope and a camera, you can capture that beauty in ways that even our sophisticated eyes cannot detect.
DISCOVER and Celestron sponsored the Capture the Universe contest for astrophotographers who use Celestron equipment to bring the heavens down to Earth. Our own Bad Astronomy blogger Phil Plait judged the entries, and here are his selections as the top 10 images (11, actually--there was a tie) among the many great submissions.
#10: Andromeda Galaxy, by astrochuck
M31, the Andromeda Galaxy, is the nearest big spiral galaxy to our own. That makes it a favorite for astrophotography, but rarely do we see it done so nicely as here.
The dusty spiral arms stand out wonderfully, and its two dwarf elliptical companions are visible: NGC 205 to the right of the spiral's bright core, and M32 almost buried in M31's arms on the left. This image has impressive depth, clarity, and tracking over a large field of view, and is a great reminder that even familiar objects can be sources of great beauty.