© ESA NASA (taken by Tim Peake)

Dr Marek Kukula, the Royal Observatory’s public astronomer and a competition judge said: ‘Tim’s images give us a unique view of the cosmos, thanks to his perch on the [International Space Station], which essentially acts as a very tall camera tripod.’

When asked if Peake plans to enter this year’s contest – which boasts a £10,000 top prize – a competition spokeswoman told Amateur Photographer: ‘There’s actually nothing in the rules to say he can’t enter… so he could if he wanted to.

‘When asked though, he thought it would be quite unfair as he is in space!’

If Tim had decided to enter he would face tough competition, with more than 4,500 ‘awe-inspiring’ entries from 80 countries – a 60% rise since the number of last year’s entries.

Peake’s chosen images include the colourful layers of a sunrise (above) – plucked from the 16 sunrises per day that Tim and his fellow astronauts say they get to witness.

He also selected a photo of the Milky Way (below), which organisers describe as ‘akin to a sweeping scene from a sci-fi movie’.

Stars in the Universe © ESA NASA (taken by Tim Peake).web1© ESA NASA (taken by Tim Peake)

Peake, who returns to Earth from the International Space Station later this month, has been capturing photos on a daily basis from space, using a Nikon camera.

Organisers added: ‘Arguably, Tim’s privileged viewpoint on the ISS gives him a slightly unfair advantage, but as judging approaches… the Royal Observatory and UK Space Agency were curious to find out which of Tim’s snaps he thought might have a chance of taking home the grand prize.’

Kukula continued: ‘He’s captured inspiring shots of our planet and the wider universe, which I’m sure will spur on a whole new generation of astronauts and space industry workers.’

The winning entries are due to be showcased in a free exhibition at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, London, from 17 September.

Organisers say Peake’s remarkable images have engaged people of all ages ‘from school children the world over to slightly older aspiring astronauts’.