The sky at night: Highlights from this year's Astronomy Photographer Competition

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The 2011 Astronomy Photographer of the year competition has received more spectacular pictures than ever before.

More than 700 entries were submitted via a dedicated Flickr group in the global search for the best and most impressive visions of the cosmos.

'I love the fact that anyone can enter, from seasoned astrophotographers to complete beginners - you don’t even need a telescope to take great shots of the night sky, a simple digital camera can produce amazing results' says Dr Marek Kukula, Public Astronomer at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich and one of the competition judges.

The winners of the third annual competition, organised by the Royal Observatory and Sky at Night Magazine, will be announced by a judging panel on 8 September. Categories include ‘Earth and Space’, ‘Our Solar System’, ‘Deep Space’ and ‘Young Astronomy Photographer of the Year’. A free exhibition of all winning images opens on 9 September, and will run until February 2012 at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich.

Click here or on the image on the right to see some of the competition entries.