The winner of the 2022 Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition is an extraordinary capture of a rarely observed “disruption event” where solar winds break off part of a comet’s tail. The image is just one of many highlights in the world’s most prestigious astrophotography competition.
“Once again we’ve had a great year for astrophotography and the contestants have produced amazing images for the competition,” said Ed Bloomer, astronomer at the Royal Observatory Greenwich. “The level is unbelievably high. It was truly gratifying to see how many participants challenged themselves to capture unusual, seldom depicted, or transient events: there are things you haven’t seen before, and even things you’ll never see again.”
This year’s incredible overall winning picture was taken by Austrian photographer Gerald Rheeman on Christmas Day in Namibia. The image shows Comet Leonard, which was only discovered in early 2021, and Rheeman was lucky enough to observe an extremely rare disruptive event before the comet left our solar system, never to be seen again.
“A piece of Comet Leonard’s tail was pinched off and carried away by the solar wind,” Gerald explained. “I was very fortunate that the weather was superb at Tivoli Farm in Namibia when I opened the observatory roof. I realized that the comet’s tail looked dramatic in the first image I took, so I decided to widen the field of view with a second image, and that’s where the break happened.”
Another highlight was the winner of a Moon category by British photographer Martin Lewis. Judge Steve Marsh said this stunning shot highlights the breathtaking size of some of these lunar craters.
“I never tire of looking at craters on the moon, but this shot of Plato with its long, curving shadows took my breath away,” Marsh said. “Given the length and magnitude of these shadows and the mountains they create, this image is truly a deserved winner.”
Other stunning highlights include international space hovering over the site of the 1969 moon landing, stars streaming behind a snow-capped mountain in Tibet, and a truly unique mosaic of multiple exposures of the Sun composited to ring in one resemble tree stump.
Check out all of the spectacular winners from this year’s competition in our gallery.