The shortlist for this year's Astronomy Photographer Of The Year competition at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich has been revealed.

The stunning photos are some of the finest ever seen in the competition, revealing beautiful views of space, stars and galaxies.

They shots depict everything from the moon setting behind a historic abbey in Italy, an eruption on the surface of the sun and clouds of dust giving birth to dazzling new stars thousands of light years away.

The competition's judges include BBC The Sky at Night's Sir Patrick Moore, acclaimed photographer Dan Holdsworth and the Royal Observatory's Public Astronomer Dr. Marek Kukula.

All entries to the competition were submitted to a Flickr group and range from experienced amateurs to those newer to the pastime.

Winners will be announced on 19 September, and the exhibition will be open to the public from the following day until February. First price is £1,500.

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  • M51

    Astronomer Will Gater said of Pugh's photo: "It's arguably one of the finest images of M51 ever taken by an amateur astronomer".

  • Simeis 147 Supernova Remnant

    Runner-up, deep space

  • NGC 6960 - The Witch's Broom

    Highly commended, Deep Space

  • Star Icefall

    Winner, Earth & Space

  • Sky Away From The LightsTunc Tezel

    Earth and Space, Highly Commended

  • Green World

    Runner-up, Earth & Space

  • Summer Nights in Michigan

    Highly Commended, Earth And Space

  • The Milky Way view from the Piton de l'eau

    Earth & Space, highly commended

  • Transit of Venus 2012 in Hydrogen Alpha

    Winner, Our Solar System

  • Comet C2009 P1

    Highly Commended, Our Solar System

  • Ghost of the Cepheus Flare

    Highly Commended, Deep Space

  • Deep Space: IC 1396 - Elephant-Trunk Nebula © Bill Snyder (USA) This picture shows the column of dust known as the 'Elephant's Trunk' in the constellation of Cepheus. Deep within the dense clumps of dust and gas that make up the 'trunk' new stars are currently forming.

  • Earth and Space: Double Arch with a Perseid Meteor and the Milky Way © Thomas O'Brien (USA) A meteor captured streaking across the sky above Arches National Park, Utah, during the annual Perseid meteor shower. The Perseids is one of the most prolific showers, often with around 80 meteors an hour during its peak. Nevertheless, meteors are hard to catch on camera. The photographer has used an artificial light source to illuminate and emphasise the dramatic rock formations.

  • Earth and Space: Sky Show © Tommy Eliassen (Norway) The dazzling Aurora Borealis over Høgtuva Mountain in Norway. The Earth's magnetic field funnels particles from the Solar Wind down over the planet's polar regions. More than 80 kilometres above the ground, these particles collide with atoms and molecules of gas in our atmosphere, causing them to glow in the characteristic colours of green and pale red for oxygen and crimson for nitrogen.

  • Earth and Space: Sky away from the Lights © Tunç Tezel (Turkey) A view from the Uludag National Park in Turkey. The Milky Way stretches across the sky above the manmade pockets of hazy lights from the towns and villages below.

  • Deep Space: The Smoking Sword © Michael Sidonio (Australia) To the naked eye the Orion Nebula appears as a small patch of hazy light amongst the stars of Orion's sword. The true scale and complexity of the Nebula only becomes apparent when viewed through a telescope. In the centre of the nebula newly-formed stars blast their surroundings with radiation, carving out a cavity in the dust and causing the hydrogen gas to glow pink.

  • Deep Space: Cygnus © J-P Metsävainio (Finland) This mosaic image reveals a huge swathe of the sky in the constellation of Cygnus. Huge clouds of colourful glowing gas and lanes of dark dust stretch across the field of view. Their light is too faint to register with the human eye, but long exposure times and special filters allow us to appreciate their grandeur and scale.

  • Our Solar System: Active Sol © Paul Haese (Australia) This image shows solar activity including a huge solar prominence. 2012 saw the Sun moving towards the peak of its eleven year-cycle of activity following an unusually long and quiet lull. Sunspots, explosive flares and prominences are much more common than in previous years.

  • Our Solar System: Sunny Airlines © Dunja Zupanic (Croatia) A chance alignment superimposes a jet and its twin vapour trails against the disc of the Sun. Also visible is an enormous sunspot complex, a region of the Sun's surface in which intense magnetic fields are suppressing the upwelling of heat from the solar interior. Sunspot activity has been increasing in 2012 as the Sun approaches the peak of its eleven year-cycle.

  • Our Solar System: 116 megapixel Moon Mosaic © David Campbell (UK) A multi-image mosaic of the Moon, which is our nearest neighbour in space and therefore appears larger in our sky than any other astronomical object apart from the Sun. Even a telescope of quite modest magnification will only show a part of the Moon's surface at one time, meaning that multi-image mosaics such as this are needed to show large areas of its surface.

  • People and Space: It's Raining Stars © Miguel Claro (Portugal) This time-lapse shows how the stars appear to move across the sky as the Earth rotates. In a humorous touch, an observer appears to use an umbrella to shelter from the star trails, whilst Jupiter is also visible on the right of the silhouette.

  • Young Astronomy Photographer of the Year: Stargazers © Jessica Caterson (UK), AGED 15 This is a self-portrait of the photographer (far right) with her friends at her caravan site in the Gower Peninsular, Wales. Several short exposures were aligned and combined to capture the crisp stars and dark sky, while minimising trailing due to the Earth's rotation; the visible progress of the aeroplane in the upper right reveals this process. Adding the final frame of the backlit friends gives context to the scene.