The above photo of Comet Leonard is the overall winner and the winner for the category of Planets, Comets and Asteroids for the Astronomy Photographer of the Year Awards. Comet Leonard was discovered by G.J. Leonard on Jan. 3, 2021. It made its closest pass to Earth on Dec. 12, 2021 and, having left the Solar System, won’t be seen from Earth again. On Dec. 25, 2021, a dramatic tail disconnection event happened, and is depicted in the photo. (Gerald Rhemann/Astronomy Photographer of the Year)

  • The winners have been announced in the Astronomy Photographer of the Year contest.
  • T​he overall winner was a photo titled “Disconnection Event,” taken by Gerald Rhemann, depicting Comet Leonard’s tail disconnection.
  • The contest is comprised of seven categories, each of which has a winner, plus other special prizes.

T​he overall winner was a photo titled “Disconnection Event,” taken by Gerald Rhemann, depicting Comet Leonard’s tail disconnection before the disconnected section was carried away by the solar wind. The contest judges voted unanimously to dub Rehmann with the title of Astronomy Photographer of the Year after seeing this awe-inspiring image.

T​he comet was first identified in Jan. 2021, according to Space.com, and was the brightest comet in our skies that year. However, the comet won’t be seen from Earth again, as it has now left our solar system.

“When I first saw this image of Comet Leonard, I was blown away,” said contest judge and social media officer for the Institute of Physics, Melissa Brobby. “This picture of a recent visitor to our Solar System has been captured so beautifully. The stars in the background give the comet’s tail a magical appearance. I could stare at this image all day.”

T​he contest broke down entries into seven categories, for each of which there is a winner, a runner-up and a “highly commended” image, in addition to offering The Annie Maunder Prize for Digital Innovation (a £750 prize), The Sir Patrick Moore Prize for Best Newcomer (also a £750 prize) and the Young Astronomy Photographer of the Year award. T​he overall winner will receive £10,000, while the winners of each category, as well as the Young Astronomy Photographer of the Year, win £1,500. Runners-up receive £500 and highly commended entries receive £250.

T​he prize for the Young Astronomy Photographer of the Year went to two 14-year-old boys from China, Yang Hanwen and Zhou Zezhen, who together captured an image of the Andromeda Galaxy.

“I think this photo shows how gorgeous our nearest neighbour is,” Zezhen said. “One of the main functions of astrophotography is to attract more people to fall in love with astronomy by showing the beauty of the Universe.”

S​ome other notable photos include Weitang Liang’s stunning, colorful image of the “Eye of God,” also known as the Helix Nebula or NGC 7293, which won in the “Stars and Nebulae” category, as well as Mark Hanson and Mike Selby’s image of two spiral galaxies, NGC 5426 and NGC 5427, known collectively as Arp 271, which won runner-up in the “Galaxies” category.

The winning photos will be on display at the National Maritime Museum in London, and can also be viewed in the slideshow above.

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