Amateurs are urged to enter the Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2012, as astrophotographers prepare to catch a once-in-a-lifetime glimpse of Venus in silhouette against the sun next week.

Picture credits (left to right, above):
Ole C Salomonsen,
Jeffrey Sullivan, Damian Peach

Entrants can submit up to five images for the chance to win a top prize of £1,500 cash.

This year it may be a case of ‘you snooze, you lose’.

Photographers who get up at the crack of dawn on 6 June may witness Venus as it glides in front of the sun.

The rare ‘transit of Venus’ event – which shows the planet as a black dot – last took place in 2004 and won’t happen again until 2117, according to experts.

‘Observers in the UK will need to get up early to be in with a chance of seeing the transit,’ said a spokesman for the Royal Observatory in Greenwich which is hosting the competition.

‘It will only be visible here during a short window at sunrise on 6 June.’

Contest categories including Earth and Space, where entries can include landscapes, people and other ‘earth-related things’ alongside an astronomical subject such as the moon.

A Best Newcomer award will go to an amateur astrophotographer who has taken up the hobby in the past year, and who has not entered the contest before.

The competition will be judged by a panel that includes Sir Patrick Moore.

The closing date is 29 June.

Images must be entered via the competition’s Flickr account.

For a full list of rules visit www.rmg.co.uk/astrophoto

To see some of the latest entries visit www.flickr.com/groups/astrophoto