Comet C/2021 A1 (aka Leonard) was discovered last year in January when it was zooming at 5 AU from the Sun. Having an orbital period of over 80,000 years, Leonard also has a nucleus that measures about 1km across. In other words, there’s a large comet we’re talking about!
The Astronomy Photographer of the Year contest from the Royal Observatory Greenwich has now awarded a new fabulous photo of the comet with the top prize, according to livescience.com. Gerald Rhemann, an Austrian photographer, is the lucky man who took the amazing photo of the Leonard Comet on the same day when NASA launched the long-awaited James Webb Space Telescope: on Chrismas Day, 2021. You are free to feast your eyes on the photo below:
— SPACE.com (@SPACEdotcom) September 15, 2022
The decision for the photographer to receive his prize was unanimous.
Rhemann seems very proud of his work, as he explained in a statement quoted by livescience.com:
This award is one of the highlights of my astrophotography work,
All the effort that went into making this image a success was worth it.
An official statement from the observatory sounds like this, as space.com quotes:
Rhemann’s astonishing image of Comet Leonard, a long-period comet first identified in January 2021, was captured by the Austrian photographer in Namibia on Christmas Day.
It’s not mandatory being a scientist to figure out what the image is all about: the gas emitted by the comet is being ‘caressed’ by the solar wind. It’s well-known that when a comet approaches the Sun, the gas is evaporated by the heat emitted by our star. Comets orbit the Sun in a similar way that planets and asteroids do. The difference is that a comet usually has a very elongated orbit.
Comets are also called ‘cosmic snowballs’ or ‘dirty snowballs.’