<p><strong>A stargazer stands in awe as <a href="http://ssd.jpl.nasa.gov/sbdb.cgi?sstr=C%2F2011+W3">comet Lovejoy</a> skims across the night sky over <a href="http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/countries/australia-guide/">Australia</a> 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.</strong></p><p><strong>(See <a href="http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/12/pictures/111227-comet-lovejoy-pictures-space-station-nasa-paranal-chile/">more comet Lovejoy pictures</a>.)</strong></p><p>This fish-eye picture of Lovejoy won first place in the <a href="http://www.twanight.org/newTWAN/news.asp?newsID=6071">Third International Earth and Sky Photo Contest</a>'s "Beauty of the Night Sky" category, organizers announced last week.&nbsp;Founded by <a href="http://www.twanight.org">the World at Night (TWAN)</a> 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 <a href="http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2008/11/light-pollution/klinkenborg-text">light pollution</a>.</p><p>Pictures were judged in two categories: "Beauty of the Night Sky" and "Against the Lights."</p><p>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.</p><p>"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."</p>

1st Place, "Beauty of the Night Sky" Category

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."

Photograph courtesy Jia Hao, TWAN

Best Night-Sky Pictures of 2012 Named

A holiday comet, Icelandic auroras, and the Milky Way feature among the winning shots from the International Earth and Sky Photo Contest.

Read This Next

The most ancient galaxies in the universe are coming into view
‘Microclots’ could help solve the long COVID puzzle
How Spain’s lust for gold doomed the Inca Empire

Go Further

Subscriber Exclusive Content

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet