Austrian astrophotographer Gerald Rhemann has captured an awe-inspiring panorama of a dying comet, including its dazzling tail, in front of an endless stretch of stars. It is so mesmerizing that it seems unreal.
The photo earned him the top prize at the Royal Observatory Greenwich’s Astronomy Photographer of the Year contest this year. It shows the comet Leonard, an extremely bright comet that was discovered in January 2021, as it ventures through the solar system.
“Astronomy, myth, and art come together beautifully in this shot,” contest judge Imad Ahmed said in a statement. “It holds great value to scientists, as it elegantly captures a disconnection event.”
The comet was named after its discoverer, Gregory Leonard, a senior research specialist at the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory. It proved to be extremely bright, becoming visible to the naked eye, including its enticing tail.
Rhemann’s image was taken on Christmas Day last year. It demonstrates comet Leonard’s tail, otherwise known as a coma, in all its glory. Comets become visible as they shed any volatile materials including dust and gases, as they pass through the inner solar system.
The comet met its demise and disintegrated during a close approach of the Sun in January 2022.
But its blaze across the sky gave astrophotographers a plethora of chances to get a closer look.
Other top entries of the contest include a stunning image of the International Space Station passing in front of the Moon’s Sea of Tranquility and a gorgeous photograph of a helix nebula called “Eye of God.”
Understandably, Rhemann was pretty chuffed.
“This award is one of the highlights of my astrophotography work,” he said in the statement. “All the effort that went into making this image a success was worth it.”