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A spectacular image of Comet Leonard has won the top prize in the prestigious Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition.
Comet Leonard was first identified in January 2021 by astronomer Gregory J Leonard at the Mount Lemmon Infrared Observatory in Arizona.
It came closest to Earth on December 12, 2021, when it was 34.9 million km from our planet.
The comet is now hurtling out of our solar system and will never be seen again by Earthlings.
The winning photo, titled Break eventwas captured on Christmas Day by Austrian photographer Gerald Rhemann in Namibia.
It shows a piece of the comet’s gas tail being disconnected and swept away by the solar wind.
The winning photo, titled Disconnection Event, was taken on Christmas Day by Austrian photographer Gerald Rhemann in Namibia. It shows a piece of Comet Leonard’s gas tail being disconnected and swept away by the solar wind
WHAT IS COMET LEONARD?
Comet Leonard, cataloged as C/2021 AI, is named after the astronomer who first discovered it.
Gregory J Leonard spotted the comet on January 3, 2021 using the Mount Lemmon Observatory.
This was a year before it reached perihelion – the closest approach to the sun.
It last appeared in the inner solar system 70,000 years ago, and it does so in a 70,000-year orbit around the sun.
It came closest to the sun on January 3 this year, as part of its last orbit on its hyperbolic orbit before leaving the solar system.
“When I first saw this image of Comet Leonard, I was stunned,” said Melissa Brobby, judge and social media officer at the Institute of Physics.
“This photo of a recent visitor to our solar system is captured so beautifully. The stars in the background give the comet’s tail a magical appearance.
“I could stare at this image all day.”
Mr Rhemann said: ‘This award is one of the highlights of my astrophotography work.
“All the effort it took to make this statue a success was worth it.”
The Young Astronomy Photographer of the Year award was won by two 14-year-old boys from China.
Yang Hanwen and Zhou Zezhen teamed up to capture Andromeda Galaxy: The Neighbora mesmerizing photo of one of the galaxy’s closest and largest neighbors.
Stars not only reveal the vibrant colors of a nearby galaxy, but they also penetrate the darkness, highlighting the awe and wonder of this breathtaking spectacle.
“It’s a beautiful shot by young astrophotographers, who also demonstrate their exceptional talent in processing a deep-sky image,” said László Francsics, judge and president of the Hungarian Association of Astrophotographers.
“I am honored and thank the judges,” Zhou Zezhen said. “One of the main functions of astrophotography is to make more people fall in love with astronomy by showing the beauty of the universe.”
Yang Hanwen added: ‘I think this photo shows how beautiful our closest neighbor is.’
The Young Astronomy Photographer of the Year award was won by two 14-year-old boys from China. Yang Hanwen and Zhou Zezhen teamed up to capture ‘Andromeda Galaxy: The Neighbour’, a mesmerizing photo of one of the galaxy’s closest and largest neighbors
The other winning images are:
- In the embrace of a green lady by Slovak photographer Filip Hrebenda, showing the Northern Lights reflected on an icy Icelandic lake
- Shadow profile of Plato’s East Rim by British photographer Martin Lewis, one of the sharpest images of the giant lunar crater Plato
- A year in the sun by Indian photographer Soumyadeep Mukherjee, who tracks gradually drifting sunspots over the course of a year
- The Eye of God by Chinese photographer Weitang Liang, an ethereal image of the Helix Nebula, resembling a staring eye looking back at us on Earth
‘Shadow Profile of Plato’s East Rim’ by British photographer Martin Lewis, one of the sharpest images of the lunar crater, Plato
‘A Year in the Sun’ by Indian photographer Soumyadeep Mukherjee, who tracks sunspots over the course of a year
‘The Eye of God’ by Chinese photographer Weitang Liang, an image of the Helix Nebula, resembling a staring eye
Another of the judges’ favorite photo was The International Space Station Transiting Tranquility Base by American photographer Andrew McCarthy, which won the People & Space category.
It shows the ISS located directly above the Sea of Tranquility, the landing site for the first manned landing on the moon in 1969.
Judge Imad Ahmed, director of the New Crescent Society, described the image as “one of my favorite photos in this year’s contest.
“The moon’s ancient rocky expanse serves as the perfect backdrop for the curious ISS,” he said.
“To me, this is not only a representation of our human fascination with the moon, but perhaps it hints at a future where landing on the surface could finally, one day, be an opportunity open to all of us.”
Another of the judges’ favorite photo was The International Space Station Transiting Tranquility Base by American photographer Andrew McCarthy, which won the People & Space category. It shows the ISS directly above the Sea of Tranquility, the landing site for the first manned landing on the moon in 1969
Steve Marsh, judge and art editor for BBC Sky at Night Magazine, said: ‘The world’s best astrophotographers have shown their talent and innovation.
‘Fourteen years of competition have shown that astronomy is timeless and can withstand anything.
This year has seen some near ‘space telescope’ quality imaging, with participants plunging into celestial events as they occur, finding new ways to bring us well-documented objects and demonstrating acute knowledge of their craft.
“As always, it was both humbling and a pleasure to review these incredible images.”
Ed Bloomer, astronomer at Royal Observatory Greenwich said: ‘We’ve had another great year for astrophotography and the entrants took great pictures for the competition. The level is unbelievably high.
“It was really satisfying to see how many participants challenged themselves to capture unusual, rarely depicted or transient events: there are things you haven’t seen before, and even things you’ll never see again.”
Hannah Lyons, Assistant Curator of Art at Royal Museums Greenwich: ‘I was amazed at the quality of the entrants for this year’s Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition.
‘Choosing the shortlist was a marathon task, but I am confident that the jury has selected some beautiful and technically advanced images that will delight and inspire.’
Organized by the Royal Observatory Greenwich, the Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition received more than 3,000 entries from 77 countries this year.
Astrophotographer captured comet Leonard in extraordinary detail as it rocketed through space in a glow of blue, green and orange colors
Comet Leonard was captured last year by an Arizona astrophotographer as it rocketed through space in a glow of blue, green and orange.
Andrew McCarthy waited several hours to get the perfect shot, which showed “incredible texture and color” around the comet’s nucleus and a wispy, green-tinged tail.
Comet Leonard was discovered on January 3, 2021 by astronomer Gregory J Leonard at the Mount Lemmon Infrared Observatory in Arizona and cataloged as C/2021 AI.
It had a green tail because the interior of the icy rock warmed as it got closer to the sun, emitting blue dust first, then yellow or white, and finally green.
When it took on this blue-green color, it meant that the comet was warm, high in cyanide and diatomic carbon, and most likely to break up.
Most of the surface was colored slightly red by organic-rich material such as carbon, while occasionally ice-rich material was slightly bluer.
“Despite being quite low in the southwestern sky, I was able to take close-up photos for about 12 minutes, which allowed me to see the incredible structure and color around the core,” McCarthy said.
Comet Leonard was first seen on January 3, 2021 by astronomer Gregory J Leonard. It was then ‘extremely dim’ but brightened as it got closer to the sun