Comet C/2021 A1 (Leonard, for short) completes a full orbit around the Sun in more than 80,000 years. This is enough to figure out how incredibly difficult it can be to spot the comet and even in great detail, as Gerald Rhemann was capable of. He’s an Austrian photographer with a strong passion for astronomy.
While our planet completes a full orbit around the Sun in 365 days (1 year), Comet Leonard needs 80,000 times more time for the same mission. That’s because the comet is a lot farther away from the Sun compared to Earth and also a lot smaller than our planet. Leonard is located more than 4 AU away from our planet.
Gerald Rhemann wins the Astronomy Photographer of the Year contest
Gerald Rhemann was awarded the top prize during the Astronomy Photographer of the Year contest that was held by the Royal Observatory Greenwich, as livescience.com reveals. There was no doubt about his victory, as the prize was given in a full agreement.
Here’s the photo that made Rhermann the winner:
Stunning image of Comet Leonard's breakup wins astronomy photography prize https://t.co/nVGPn0f2N2 pic.twitter.com/APd0xzWkDs
— SPACE.com (@SPACEdotcom) September 15, 2022
What you’re seeing is the tail that any comet has, only that this one is being “brushed” by solar winds. The so-called ‘tail’ that comets have is just their own gas being evaporated by the heat coming from the Sun.
A statement from the observatory says 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.
Comet Leonard’s core is big enough to make us worry if the space object would ever be on a collision course with our planet. That kernel measures about 1km across. Judging by the information we have so far, there’s no chance that Comet Leonard can ever hit our planet.