Whoooooosh

Comet Leonard: 8 stunning images of a visitor we'll never see again

If you missed this passerby, you won’t get another chance.

NASA via Giphy

Every so often, Earth gets a visitor from the edge of the Solar System.

Comets flying in from the distant Oort Cloud — an ancient cluster of icy bodies — create a rare spectacle.

Most recently, the comet Leonard made the journey from the Oort Cloud to the inner Solar System and beyond.

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Comet Leonard was first spotted by astronomer Gregory Leonard in January 2021.

Camillo Scherer

It passed by Earth in December 2021, and for a period of time was visible to the naked eye.

Because of its trajectory, that was the only period we will ever see the comet from Earth, explains Leonard.

“Once it passes the Sun, it will be ejected from the Solar System and is going to be flown out for millions of years until likely stumbling into another star system.”

Leonard tells Inverse.

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NASA via Giphy

On January 3, Leonard reached perihelion — its closest distance to the Sun.

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Even if you missed the rare event in person, scientists and stargazers around the world captured stunning images of Leonard.

Here are 8 incredible views of Comet Leonard:

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NASA’s STEREO spacecraft spotted Leonard trailing through the sky as it approached the Sun.

NASA/NRL/Karl Battams

Residents of Thailand saw Leonard streaking across the sky as the James Webb Telescope (upper right blob) lifted off on December 25.

Matipon Tangmatitham (NARIT)

Another shot of Leonard (center left) flying over Thailand in December.

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An up-close shot of Leonard taken from University of Arizona’s Mount Lemmon Sky Center.

Adam Block/Steward Observatory/University of Arizona

Leonard can be seen here with two faint galaxies in the background.

janush via Shutterstock

Leonard is located left of center in this image taken on December 20 at Maunakea in Hawaii. On the right is a rare red sprite — caused by electrical discharge in the atmosphere.

International Gemini Observatory/NOIRLab/NSF/AURA

The Calar Alto Schmidt Telescope in Spain captured this true-color image of Leonard whizzing by stars on December 7.

ESA/Near-Earth Object Coordination Centre (NEOCC)