Stunning image of Comet Leonard breakup wins top astronomy photography prize of 2022

The overall winner of the 2022 Astronomy Photographer of the Year contest was this picture of Comet Leonard, called "Disconnection Event." (Image credit: Gherard Rhemann)

Update Oct. 13 11:40 a.m. EDT: The original winner of the Sir Patrick Moore Prize for Best Newcomer was deemed ineligible, and a new winner has been named. This piece has been updated to reflect the new winner's entry.

A flare in last year's brightest comet topped entries in an astronomy photographer contest.

Gas spewing off the tail of Comet Leonard won the top prize of the Royal Observatory Greenwich's Astronomy Photographer of the Year contest for 2022. Comet Leonard broke into pieces early this year after rounding the sun, but not before producing a long tail easily visible in amateur photos.

The winner, Gerald Rhemann, will be featured among the top category entrants at the National Maritime Museum (opens in new tab) in Greenwich, U.K. in an exhibit opening Saturday (Sept. 17).

In pictures: Amazing photos of Comet Leonard in the night sky

"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," the observatory stated, adding the decision to award Rhemann the top prize was unanimous. 

"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," added Rhemann in the same statement.

The contest received more than 3,000 entries from 67 countries and you can see the top selectees in each category below.

If you're looking for a telescope of binoculars to look at comets like Leonard, check out our guide for the best binoculars deals and the best telescope deals on right now. Our best cameras for astrophotography and best lenses for astrophotography guides also have tips on how to pick the best imaging gear to snap photos.

Planets, Comets & Asteroids 

"Disconnection Event" (Image credit: Gherard Rhemann)
  • Gherard Rhemann (Austria) with Disconnection Event (Winner and Overall Winner) 
  • Damian Peach (UK) with The Jovian Family (Runner Up) 
  • Lionel Majzik (Hungary) with Cosmic Rose (Highly Commended) 

Skyscapes

"Stabbing into the Stars" (Image credit: Zihui Hu)
  • Zihui Hu (China) with Stabbing Into the Stars (Winner) 
  • Abhijit Patil (USA) with Badwater Milky Way (Runner Up) 
  • Filip Hrebenda (Slovakia) with The Night Highway (Highly Commended)

People & Space 

"The International Space Station Transiting Tranquility Base" (Image credit: Andrew McCarthy)
  • Andrew McCarthy (USA) with The International Space Station Transiting Tranquility Base (Winner) 
  • Mikhail Minkov (Bulgaria) with Back to the Spaceship (Runner Up) 
  • Hannah Rochford (UK) with Equinox Moon and Glastonbury Tor 

Auroras

"In the Embrace of a Green Lady" (Image credit: Filip Hrebenda)
  • Filip Hrebenda (Slovakia) with In the Embrace of a Green Lady (Winner) 
  • Fred Bailey (Canada) with Misty Green River (Runner Up) 
  • Akexander Stepanenko (Russia) with Winged Aurora (Highly Commended) 

Galaxies 

"Majestic Sombrero Galaxy" (Image credit: Utkarsh Mishra, Michael Petrasko and Muir Evenden )
  • Utkarsh Mishra (India), Michael Petrasko (USA) and Muir Evenden (USA) with Majestic Sombrero Galaxy (Winner) 
  • Mark Hanson (USA) and Mike Selby (Thailand) with Arp 271 “Cosmic Collision” (Runner Up) 
  • Mathew Ludgate (New Zealand) with SMC and the Magellanic Bridge (Highly Commended) 

Our moon

"Shadow Profile of Plato's East Rim"  (Image credit: Martin Lewis)
  • Martin Lewis (UK) with Shadow Profile of Plato’s East Rim (Winner) 
  • Andrea Vanoni (Italy) with Moon: Big Mosaic (Runner Up) 
  • Noah Kujawski (USA) with An Eclipse From a Thousand Sunsets (Highly Commended) 

Our sun

"A Year in the Sun" (Image credit: Soumyadeep Mukherjee )
  • Soumyadeep Mukherjee (India) with A Year in the Sun (Winner) 
  • Stuart Green (UK) with Solar Inferno (Runner Up) 
  • Miguel Claro (Portugal) with A Giant in the Sun’s Limb (Highly Commended) 

Stars and nebulas

"The Eye of God" (Image credit: Weitang Liang)
  • Weitang Liang (China) with The Eye of God (Winner) 
  • Martin Cohen (UK) with What a Flaming Star! (Runner Up) 
  • Péter Feltóti (Hungary) with The Centre of the Heart Nebula (Highly Commended) 

Young Astronomy Photographer of the Year 

"Andromeda Galaxy, The Neighbor" (Image credit: Yang Hanwen and Zhou Zezhen )
  • Yang Hanwen and Zhou Zezhen (China) with Andromeda Galaxy, The Neighbour (Winner) 
  • Peter Szabo (Hungary) with Mineral Moon Mosaic (Highly Commended) 
  • Saahil Sinha (USA) with A Rainbow Rose (Highly Commended) 
  • Julian Shapiro (USA) with The Crab Nebula in Hydrogen and Oxygen 

The Annie Maunder Prize for Digital Innovation

"Solar Tree" (Image credit: Pauline Woolley )

The Sir Patrick Moore Prize for Best Newcomer 

"The Heart of the Heart," an image of star cluster Melotte 15. (Image credit: Hannah Rochford)

Editor's note: This story was updated at 11:40 a.m. EDT on Oct. 13, 2022 to reflect the new winner of the Sir Patrick Moore Prize for Best Newcomer that was awarded after the original entrant was deemed ineligible. 

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell, Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022. She was contributing writer for Space.com (opens in new tab) for 10 years before that, since 2012. Elizabeth's reporting includes an exclusive with Office of the Vice-President of the United States, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and (soon) a Bachelor of History from Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science since 2015. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: https://qoto.org/@howellspace