A rare photo of a comet that will never be seen from Earth again has won a prestigious photography award.
The image shows a piece of Comet Leonard’s tail breaking off and being swept away by the solar wind.
The comet made a brief appearance on Earth after it was discovered in 2021, but has now left our solar system.
The Royal Observatory Greenwich in London is running the Astronomy Photography of the Year competition and called the image “stunning”.
We also awarded two 14-year-old boys from Sichuan, China, the Young Astronomy Photographer of the Year award.
The images are on display at the National Maritime Museum in London from Saturday.
“Comets look different from hour to hour – they are very strange things,” explained winning photographer Gerald Rhemann, from Vienna, Austria.
The photo was taken on Christmas Day 2021 from an observatory in Namibia, home to some of the world’s darkest skies.
He had no idea that the comet’s tail would detach, leaving a trail of glittering dust in its wake.
“I was absolutely delighted to take the picture – it’s the highlight of my photographic career,” he told BBC News.
Astronomer Dr Ed Bloomer, who was one of the competition judges, said the image was one of the best pictures of comets in history.
“The perfect astrophotography is the collision of science and the arts. Not only is it technically sophisticated and projects the viewer into deep dark space, it is also visually compelling and emotional,” said Dr Hannah Lyons, assistant curator of art at the Royal Museums Greenwich. BBC News.
The judges reviewed more than 3,000 entries from around the world.
For their winning image, Yang Hanwen and Zhou Zezhen, both 14, teamed up to photograph the Andromeda Galaxy, one of the Milky Way’s closest and largest neighbors.
The image shows the stunning colors of a galaxy close to our own. “I think this photo shows how wonderful our nearest neighbor is,” Yang Hanwen said.
The Young Astronomy Photographer of the Year category is for people under the age of 16.
Dr Lyon said she was “blown away” by the quality of the young photographers, “producing the most remarkable images”.
See more of the winning and highly commended images:
This image by Slovak photographer Filip Hrebenda shows the Northern Lights reflected in a frozen Icelandic lake above the Eystrahorn mountain.
Peter Szabo was honored as Young Astronomy Photographer of the Year for this photo of the Moon, which he took in Debrecen, Hungary.
The image uses high-quality processing to show the surface of the Moon in incredible detail, revealing a sight that is familiar to most people but in an extraordinary way.
Péter Feltóti captured this image from Hungary. IC 1805 is a region of massive amounts of ionized gas and interstellar dust. A strong stellar wind blows the surrounding material outward, creating a hollow cave-like shape in a cloud of gas.
“It’s very difficult to image a dark nebula with any kind of clarity,” explained Dr. Ed Bloomer.
Astrophotography was important, he added, because it revealed features of the universe that the human eye couldn’t see just by looking at the night sky.
Weitang Liang took this photo of the Helix Nebula in Río Hurtado, Chile, at the Chilescope observatory.
“It is easy to see how the ancients used to look at the stars in the heavens and imagine that the Universe was looking back, keeping a watchful eye on us,” said Judge Imad Ahmed.
This image by Pauline Woolley, combining images taken by large telescopes, won the innovation award
It shows how the sun changes over time using the concept of tree dating.
Using an ordinary camera, Lun Deng captured this image of the Milky Way towering over Minya Konka Mountain, the highest peak in Sichuan, China.
All images are subject to copyright.