By Georgina Rannard
BBC News Climate & Science
A rare photograph of a comet that will never be seen from Earth again has won a prestigious photography prize.
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 to Earth after being discovered in 2021, but has now left our Solar System.
The Royal Observatory Greenwich in London runs the Astronomy Photography of the Year competition and called the image “astonishing”.
The images are on show 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 the winning photographer Gerald Rhemann, from Vienna, Austria.
The picture 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 disconnect, leaving the sparkling dust trail in its wake.
“I was absolutely happy to take the picture – it’s the highlight of my photography career,” he told BBC News.
Astronomer Dr Ed Bloomer, who was one of the competition judges, said the image was one of the best comet photographs in history.
“The perfect astrophotograph is the collision of science and arts. Not only is it technically sophisticated and projects the viewer into deep dark space, but also it’s visually arresting and emotional,” Dr Hannah Lyons, assistant creator of art at Royal Museums Greenwich, told BBC News.
Andromeda Galaxy – Winner of Young Astronomy Photographer of the Year award
For their winning image, Yang Hanwen and Zhou Zezhen, both 14, worked together to photograph the Andromeda Galaxy, one of the closest and largest neighbours of the Milky Way.
The image shows the stunning colours of a galaxy near or own. “I think this photo shows how gorgeous our nearest neighbour is,” Yang Hanwen said.
The category Young Astronomy Photographer of the Year is for people aged under 16.[…]