Check out this incredible picture of the Great Orion Nebula. It's not from the Hubble Space Telescope. It's the work of amateur astrophotographer Marcus Davies, and it just one of the finalists for this year's Astronomy Photographer of the Year.

When you witness the marvels of the universe that ordinary geeks are able to capture from their back yards, it's enough to keep you up at night... taking your own pics. The finalists in this year's astronomy contest are just mind-blowing. Here are a few more of the finalists, plus a few of the pics from the contest's Flickr pool that we felt should have been on the shortlist! More details about the contest at the link. [Telegraph]

The Great Orion Nebula photographed by Marcus Davies. This amazing image captures the superheated gas and dust of the closest star-forming region to Earth, 1350 light years away. Tons more amazing images at the link.

The Large Magellanic Cloud - Central, by Dave Trimarchi on Flickr.
Mosaic Panels: 3
Exposures per mosaic panel: R:5 hours + Ha:5 hours , B:5 hours + OIII: 5 hours (20 hours per tile, 60 hours total)
Total Field Covered: 240 x 130 arcminutes.

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Dates: 12th, 13th, 22nd and 23rd November, 2nd, 3rd, 12th and 13th December 2009.
Location: Gold Coast, Queensland.

Processing:
Sub-Image calibration and per-filter colour image sigma rejected addition with CCDStack.

Background correction using the PixInsight software's Dynamic Background Extraction Tool.

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Green Synthesis, RGB combination, mosaic assembly, levels and Adobe RGB 1998 colourspace conversion with Adobe Photoshop CS4.

Notes:
This image was an experiment in dealing with light pollution from my site by blending Narrowband filters with RGB and synthesizing Green, usually the most problematic colour.

Using Ha and OIII filters to limit the earthly glows and blending the flat backgrounds from these with standard Red and Blue filters.

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For this particular image, being a mosaic, there is approximately 60 hours of exposures here without taking any Green or SII, which would have required another 30 hours of exposures in this case.

In an attempt to limit light pollution influences and also reduce the total amount of time needed to take all the exposures for this three-panel, pseudo RGB image, the Green channel was synthesised from the combined R = R+Ha and B= B+OIII images.

Telescope: Takahashi FSQ106ED
Focal Length: 390mm
Camera: SBIG ST10XE
Pixels: 2184 x 1472 x 6.7um

Spin Cycle by Steph Hall on Flickr.

ISO 400, f/3.5, 100×30sec.
Steel wool spin ISO 200, f/8, 144sec. Stacked in Startrails.de
Nikon D90, 18-105mm lens
And it's available for sale.

The Sun (composite of four exposures) by R. Nicola on Flickr.

Takahashi APO 130
H-Alfa Coronado SolarMax
Nikon D300
Processing with PSCS5

More pics at AstrofiliPC.it.

Rose Nebula by Ho Yoel Ryu on Flickr. This wasn't a finalist, but we felt it should have been!

FSQ106ED with reducer
QSI 583 narrow band image

Veil-Nebula-Full by MPastro2001 on Flickr. This wasn't a finalist, but we felt it should have been!

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2 panel mosaic of the Veil Nebula in Cygnus using just Ha and OIII data. Taken with an SBIG STL1000M and a Takahashi FSQ106N mounted on a Software Bisque Paramount ME. Exposure time is 10.5:10 hours.

Rosette Narrowband 2010 crop by Endosidney on Flickr. This wasn't a finalist, but we felt it should have been!

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Scope: TSA102
Mount: EM200
Camera: STL 11000M
Exposure: Ha 5nm 25x20 min/ SII 3nm 18x20/ OIII 3nm 18x20/

Total exposure 20 hours; my longest exposure to date

M42 The Orion Nebula by Trevor W. on Flickr. This wasn't a finalist, but we felt it should have been!

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Target: M42 The Orion Nebula (and M43)
Camera: Canon 350d modified, Astronomik CLS clip filter
Exposure Capture: DLSR Focus
Scope: GSO CF RC200 with WO F2 reducer
EFR: f/6.4
Mount: EQ6 Pro
Exposure Setting: Prime focus, ISO800 ICNR off Custom WB
Exposures: 19 x 60s, 16 x 330s lights taken between 8:00 and 11:00pm 16/12/09
Seeing: no moon, slight smoke haze and wind
Guiding: Orion Starshoot Autoguider using PHD with ED80
Focus: DSLR Focus
Stacking: DSS with darks or flats
Processing: PS CS3

Right Ascension 05 : 35.4 (h:m)
Declination -05 : 27 (deg:m)
Distance 1.3 (kly)
Visual Brightness 4.0 (mag)
Apparent Dimension 85x60 (arc min)

Swan Nebula - M17 by Greekastronomy on Flickr. This wasn't a finalist, but we felt it should have been!

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-> Telescope: LX200GPS 14" - HS 3
-> CCD: ATIK 314L+
-> Guiding Telescope: SkyWatcher 4"
-> Guiding Camera: Meade DSI 2
-> Guiding Software: PHD Guiding
-> Filter: Baader Ha (7nm), O3, S2, Hb
-> Processing: MaximDl / AstroArt /PS3
-> Exposure: 18 Hours
-> Date: May & June 2010
-> Place: Athens Greece

The Wall in NGC 7000 in Cygnus, by Karelteuwen on Flickr. This wasn't a finalist, but we felt it should have been!

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Instrument: 40cm Dream Astrograph@f3.75 mounted on an ASA DDM85
Detector: FLI ML16803 + CFW-5-7
Filters: Baader LRGB + Baader H-Alpha 7nm
Exposures: Lum : 110 min, H-Alpha : 470 min, RGB 90:90:90 min (all 1x1bin)
Location: Verclause (France)
Date: 24, 28/06/ and 03, 07/07/2010
Comments: data acquired remotely - added 50% H-Alpha to Red