An american named Tom Lowe has nabbed the Royal Observatory's prize for astronomy photographer of the year with this stunning image of an ancient Bristlecone pine with the cosmos as a back drop. The contest was broken into three categories for individual images and a prize was given for Earth and Space (which Lowe also won), Deep Space and Our Solar System. Another prize was also awarded for young astronomy photographer of the year.
Image description from the contest website:
The gnarled branches of an ancient tree align with a view of our Milky Way galaxy. The Milky Way is a flat, disc-like structure of stars, gas and dust measuring more than 100,000 light years across. Our Sun lies within the disc, about two-thirds of the way out from the centre, so we see the Milky Way as a bright band encircling the sky. This view is looking towards the centre of our galaxy, 26,000 light years away, where dark clouds of dust blot out the light of more distant stars. What appears to be an artiﬁcial satellite orbiting the Earth makes a faint streak of light across the centre of the image.
Also, as part of the competition this year, the Royal Observatory has introduced a neat new way of tapping into the popular photo site Flickr to create a map of the night sky. The observatory is asking the public to upload its photos to their album and use "astrotags" to cite the date, time and object. They then use a bot to finish off the astrotag and add things like RA and dec to create the final map.