A stargazer stands in awe as comet Lovejoy skims across the night sky over Australia last December. Officially known as C/2011 W3, the comet was predicted to dive into the sun and be destroyed. Instead the icy body survived its solar encounter and went on to offer Southern Hemisphere sky-watchers rare views of its bright tail in the predawn skies.
(See more comet Lovejoy pictures.)
This fish-eye picture of Lovejoy won first place in the Third International Earth and Sky Photo Contest's "Beauty of the Night Sky" category, organizers announced last week. Founded by the World at Night (TWAN) and the Dark Skies Awareness project, the annual contest invites photographers to submit their best shots of landscape astrophotography—pictures that showcase both Earth and the sky—as well as images that capture the battle against light pollution.
Pictures were judged in two categories: "Beauty of the Night Sky" and "Against the Lights."
To capture this above image, photographer Jia Hao chased Lovejoy to a remote countryside outside Perth. With few housing options due to the holiday season, "I managed to survive for two days, alone, sleeping in a rental car and eating only bread," Hao told National Geographic News in an email.
"With all the money and efforts thrown into the chase, the comet didn't let me down," he added. "Alongside with the southern Milky Way, so bright it cast a shadow on the ground ... the view brought me to tears."