A rare photograph of a comet that will never be seen from Earth again has won a prestigious photographic award.
The image shows a piece of Comet Leonard’s tail breaking off and being carried away by the solar wind.
The comet made a brief appearance on Earth after being discovered in 2021, but has now left our Solar System.
The Royal Observatory of Greenwich in London is organizing the Astronomy Photography of the Year contest and has called the image “amazing”.
He also awarded two 14-year-old boys in Sichuan, China, the Young Astronomical Photographer of the Year award.
The images are on display in an exhibition at the National Maritime Museum in London from Thursday.
“Comets look different from hour to hour – they are very surprising 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 darkest skies in the world.
He had no idea that the comet’s tail would break away, leaving behind a trail of sparkling dust.
“I was absolutely delighted to take the photo – it is the highlight of my photographic career,” he told BBC News.
Astronomer Dr Ed Bloomer, who was one of the judges of the competition, said the image was one of the best comet photographs in history.
“Perfect astrophotography is the collision of science and art. Not only is it technically sophisticated and projects the viewer into a deep dark space, but it is also visually captivating and exciting,” said Dr. Hannah Lyons, assistant creator of the 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, worked together to photograph the Andromeda Galaxy, one of the Milky Way’s closest and largest neighbors.
The image shows the stunning colors of a nearby or own galaxy. “I think this photo shows how beautiful our closest neighbor is,” said Yang Hanwen.
The Young Astronomy Photographer of the Year category is reserved for children under 16.
Dr Lyons said she was “amazed” by the quality of the young photographers, who “produce the most extraordinary images”.
See more winning and highly praised images:
This image by Slovakian photographer Filip Hrebenda shows the Northern Lights reflected on an icy Icelandic lake above the Eystrahorn mountain.
Peter Szabo was highly praised as Young Astronomical Photographer of the Year for this photograph 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 familiar to most people but in an extraordinary way.
Péter Feltóti captured this image from Hungary. IC 1805 is an area of enormous amounts of ionized gas and interstellar dust. A strong stellar wind pushes the surrounding material outward, creating a cave-like hollow shape in a cloud of gas.
“It is very difficult to capture the dark nebula with any kind of clarity,” explained Dr. Ed Bloomer.
Astrophotography was important, he added, because it revealed features of the cosmos 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’s easy to see how the ancients looked at the stars in the skies and imagined the cosmos was looking back, keeping an eye on ourselves,” said Judge Imad Ahmed.
This image by Pauline Woolley, which combines images taken by large telescopes, won the innovation award
Show how the sun changes over time using the idea of tree ring dating.
Using a regular camera, Lun Deng captured this image of the Milky Way rising above Minya Konka Mountain, the highest peak in Sichuan China.
All images subject to copyright.