Star Fields
Photograph courtesy Tunç Tezel, APOY/Royal Observatory

This image of the Milky Way’s vast star fields hanging over a valley of human-made light was recognized in the 2012 Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition run by the U.K.’s Royal Observatory Greenwich.

To get the shot, photographer Tunç Tezel trekked to Uludag National Park near his hometown of Bursa, Turkey. He intended to watch the moon and evening planets, then take in the Perseids meteor shower.

"We live in a spiral arm of the Milky Way, so when we gaze through the thickness of our galaxy, we see it as a band of dense star fields encircling the sky," said Marek Kukula, the Royal Observatory’s public astronomer and a contest judge.

Full story»
Curtains for Kvaløya
Photograph by Fredrik BromsA garland of northern lights hangs above the island of Kvaløya in northern Norway on January 8.
High auroral activity in the first weeks of the new year peaked on January 7 and 8 around the Arctic Circle. But high-latitude sky watchers were treated to plenty more in the following days. Near Tromsø, Norway, on January 12, auroras began at 6 p.m. and kept up the show for the next 12 hours.
During its peak the northern lights were so bright they could be seen from as far away as Northern Ireland, according to a report on
Port Orford, Oregon
Photograph by Randall Scholten, Your ShotA quaint and cozy little seafood restaurant on the commercial dock in Port Orford, Oregon, is all decked out for the holidays in this photo taken at first light. Life in this small, rustic fishing village is frozen in the past when life was much less hectic and when the simple pleasures of life were still noticed and appreciated.

Download Wallpaper (1600 x 1200 pixels)
Empire State Building, New York
Photograph by Joe McNally, National GeographicIn the city that never sleeps a new awareness about energy means the Empire State Building now uses bright lights at night only to celebrate holidays and special events. And power-hungry Manhattan has generating potential of its own: A tidal-energy project under development in the swift-flowing East River could power a thousand homes.

Download Wallpaper (1600 x 1200 pixels)
Fireflies, Ontario
Photograph by Steve IrvineThis is about one hour of firefly activity near my home in rural Ontario. The precision of the background star trails is an interesting contrast to the chaotic pattern of the firefly flashes.

Download Wallpaper (1600 x 1200 pixels)
Octopus, Hawaii
Photograph by Joshua Lambus
This Month in Photo of the Day: Most Popular Photos From 2009An octopus I came across on a dive sometimes referred to as a “blackwater hang.” About three miles off the coast of Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.

Download Wallpaper (1600 x 1200 pixels)