The plane of the Milky Way galaxy seems to follow the curve of a bristlecone pine in California's White Mountains, as seen in the winning picture from the 2010 Astronomy Photographer of the Year contest.
Photographer Tom Lowe—who also took top honors in the "Earth and Space" category for this August 8 shot—says he was inspired not only by the tree's gnarled beauty but also by its age: Bristecone pines can live up to 5,000 years.
"Being a timelapse photographer, it's natural for me to attempt to picture our world from the point of view of these ancient trees. Seasons and weather would barely register as events over a lifetime of several thousand years," Lowe said in a press statement.
But the trees are mere babies compared with the light from the stars pictured, "some of which began its journey toward us almost 30,000 years ago," added judge Marek Kukula, an astronomer with theRoyal Observatory, Greenwich, in the U.K.
Run by the observatory, this year's Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition was open to submissions taken up to two years before the contest's closing date. Judges selected winners in six categories from more than 500 entries.