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”.
It also awarded two 14-year-old boys in Sichuan, China, the prize for Young Astronomy Photographer of the Year.
The images are on show in an exhibition at the National Maritime Museum in London from Saturday.
“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 newsmen.
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 Newsmen.
The judges looked at more than 3,000 entries from around the world.