Astronomy Photographer of the Year: ‘Once in a Lifetime’ Shot of Comet Scoops the Title
A rare photograph of a comet that will never be seen from Earth again has won the prestigious Astronomy Photographer of the year prize.
With judges scouring over more than 3,000 entries from across the globe, the winning image illustrates a piece of Comet Leonard’s tail breaking off and being carried away by the solar wind. It has been described as a ‘once in a lifetime’ shot as 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 which runs the Astronomy Photography of the Year competition described the shot as ‘astonishing’. The observatory also awarded two 14-year-old boys in Sichuan, China, the prize for Young Astronomy Photographer of the Year.
Winning photographer, Gerald Rhemann, from Vienna, Austria, said: “Comets look different from hour to hour; they are very surprising things. I was absolutely happy to take the picture; it’s the highlight of my photography career.”
The winning shot was captured on Christmas Day 2021 from an observatory in Namibia, home to some of the world’s darkest skies and Gerald had no idea that the comet’s tail would disconnect, leaving the sparkling dust trail in its wake.
Astronomer Dr Ed Bloomer, who was one of the competition judges, said the image was one of the best comet photographs in history.
Dr Hannah Lyons, Assistant Curator of Art at Royal Museums Greenwich, said: “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.”
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 our own. Yang Hanwen, said: “I think this photo shows how gorgeous our nearest neighbour is.”
The category Young Astronomy Photographer of the Year is for people aged under 16 and Dr Lyons explained that she was ‘completely blown away’ by the quality of the young photographers, producing the most remarkable images.
See more at the Royal Observatory Greenwich website.