Comet Leonard over a luminous Plett 

Comet Leonard
Published: January 11th, 2022
by Janet Middleton

Astrophotographer captures Comet Leonard over a luminous Plettenberg Bay, South Africa

Photographer, Jared Greenstein inadvertently captured an image of passing Comet Leonard while photographing Magellanic clouds and bioluminescence in the waves off Plettenberg Bay, South Africa.

An impromptu trip to photograph the night sky turned into an exciting find for Jared as he captured an enchanting image of the Milky Way, the vibrant Magellanic clouds, electric blue bioluminescence in the waves of the bay…and the comet of the moment, Comet Leonard.

What Jared originally thought was a smudge on the photo turned out to be much more; with the help of renowned Astro-photographer, Matt Dieterich, Jared identified the smudge as Comet Leonard!

Comet Leonard, also known as Comet C/2021 A1, was identified just a year ago by Greg Leonard, an astronomer with Arizona’s Catalina Sky Survey, and last passed earth 80 000 years ago. While its flyby of Earth is about 35 million kilometres, Comet Leonard came the closest it has ever been to Venus (scientifically speaking, a hair’s breadth at 4.2 million kilometres). Sadly, this astral object is not expected to pass this way again as its trajectory will take it out of our solar system and into deep space.

Adding sparkle to an already remarkable starscape, the waves of Plettenberg Bay were bright with bioluminescence. Bioluminescence, also known as sea sparkle, is light emitted by organisms in the ocean; some marine creatures like squid, tiny crustaceans, algae, and some fish produce this strange light either to confuse predators, attract prey or lure in potential mates. In Plettenberg Bay, bioluminescence is most often caused by a plankton bloom which results in the ocean glowing as the waves disturb the plankton.

Photographers have always enjoyed capturing the sparkling skies over Plettenberg Bay with the bonus of the opportunity to include a bioluminescent seascape. The area is an amazing coastal town with astonishing natural beauty and many natural wonders, so it’s no surprise a once-in-a-lifetime photograph has captured a magical moment.

For more information about Plettenberg Bay and its magnificent nature, visit www.pletttourism.com.

Image Credits: Jared Greenstein (for additional use of the images for print or without a watermark, please contact the photographer on https://www.instagram.com/jaredg_photography/