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Rare Spectacular Comet Wins Top Prize At Astronomy Photographer Of The Year

Galaxies, Skyscapes and Aurorae, oh my!

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Eleanor Higgs

Creative Services Assistant

clockSep 16 2022, 11:09 UTC
Bright blue comet streaking through the starry sky with a gas tail
Overall Winner: Disconnection Event, starring Comet Leonard snappedon Christmas Day 2021. Image credit: © Gerald Rhemann

The winners of the Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2022 have been announced, and as always they are spectacular. Chosen from over three thousand entries from 67 countries, Austrian photographer Gerald Rhemann has taken the top honors and the £10,000 prize with his photograph "Disconnection Event". 

The incredible image features Comet Leonard’s gas tail being disconnected from the back of the comet and carried away by the solar wind. This extraordinary photo was taken in Namibia on Christmas Day in 2021. Comet Leonard was the brightest comet of 2021 but will not be visible from Earth again. The first prize was awarded unanimously by the judges who were “blown away” by the image. 

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"When I first saw this image of Comet Leonard, I was blown away. 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," said judge Melissa Brobby.

Two 14-year-old boys from China won the title for The Young Astronomy Photographer of the Year (below) by working together on their image "Andromeda Galaxy: The Neighbour".  

"I think this photo shows how gorgeous our nearest neighbour is," Yang Hanwen said, while his collaborator Zhou Zezhen added, "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."

Young Photograp[her of the Year winner: Andromeda Galaxy, The Neighbour. Image credit: © Yang Hanwen, Zhou Zezhen
Young Photograp[her of the Year winner: Andromeda Galaxy, The Neighbour. Image credit: © Yang Hanwen, Zhou Zezhen


The People and Space category was won by American photographer Andrew McCarthy with "The International Space Station Transiting Tranquillity Base".

Judge Imad Ahmed, Director of the New Crescent Society said of the image: “The ancient rocky expanse of the Moon serves as the perfect background for the inquisitive ISS. To me, this not only captures our human fascination with the Moon, but perhaps hints at a future, where touching down on its surface may finally, one day, be an opportunity open to all of us.’  

People and Space winner: The International Space Station Transiting Tranquility Base. Image credit: © Andrew McCarthy
People and Space winner: The International Space Station Transiting Tranquility Base. Image credit: © Andrew McCarthy


Other incredible winners and highly commended entries featured aurorae, nebulas, stars, and much more.

Highly Commended Aurorae: Winged Aurora. Image credit: © Akexander Stepanenko
Highly Commended Aurorae: Winged Aurora. Image credit: © Akexander Stepanenko



What a Flaming Star! Imagecredit: © Martin Cohen
What a Flaming Star! Image credit: © Martin Cohen


The Sir Patrick Moore Prize for Best Newcomer was won by Lun Deng for their image of the Milky Way rising over the highest peak in Sichuan China, Minya Konka Mountain, taken in February 2021.

Sir Patrick Moore Prize for Best Newcomer: The Milky Way Bridge Across Big Snowy Mountains. Image credit: © Lun Deng
Sir Patrick Moore Prize for Best Newcomer: The Milky Way Bridge Across Big Snowy Mountains. Image credit: © Lun Deng


All these spectacular photos and more will in the exhibition at the Royal Observatory Greenwich, London from September 17. 


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