Mara Leite, a PhD student at the School of Life Sciences studying how algae can help humans travel to and settle on Mars, has been shortlisted in the Royal Greenwich Observatory’s Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition for 2021.

Mara Leite - Royal Greenwich Observatory Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition
Buck Moon and the Needle. Credit: Mara Leite

The Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition is the largest astrophotography competition in the world, which showcases the best space photography from a global cohort of photographers. The competition is now in its 13th year, and this year received over 4,500 entries submitted from 75 countries across the globe.

Mara’s photo, entitled ‘Buck Moon and the Needle’, pictures a full moon in the Magnolia neighbourhood of Seattle, Washington. A ‘Buck Moon’ is a full moon in July, which is given its name because young male deer grow their antlers around this time. Mara was keen to capture the moon rising close to Seattle’s iconic Space Needle, and found this area to be the perfect location.

Talking to the Royal Greenwich Observatory, Mara explained that the photo was taken using a 600mm lens on Saturday 4 July in Seattle. She said: “Due to COVID-19, there was no 4th of July fireworks display in Seattle, but the full moon put on a beautiful show.”

Due to her enthusiasm for space through her research and beyond, astrophotography has become one of Mara’s biggest passions. The annual competition run by the Royal Greenwich Observatory is a source of inspiration for astronomy photographers across the globe. As such, this has resulted in Mara increasing the amount of astrophotography she has completed dramatically, reaching its peak last year when she submitted her photos for the competition for the first time.

Talking about her shortlisting for the competition, Mara said: “I hope that being shortlisted gives me the chance to advocate against light pollution and inspire others to appreciate and start capturing the wonders of our night sky.”

The winner of the competition will be announced at a digital awards ceremony on 16 September. A selection of the winning and shortlisted images will also be displayed in the Observatory’s Astronomy Photographer of the Year exhibition at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich from 18 September.

Find out more about the competition on the Royal Museums Greenwich website.

Press and media enquiries

Contact us on:

[email protected]