Comet ISON didn't live up to its advance billing as the "Comet of the Century," but photographers still managed to turn the broken-up snowball into a star.
The evidence of that can be seen in the award winners from an ISON photo contest sponsored by the National Science Foundation's Division of Astronomical Sciences, Astronomy magazine and Discover magazine.
Skywatchers hoped the comet would turn into a stunner after last November's close encounter with the sun, but instead it fizzled away to nearly nothing. Almost all of the pictures entered in the contest were taken before the encounter.
The first-place winners included Atish Aman of Delhi, India, in the "Cameras and Tripods" category; Ohio's John Chumack in the "Piggyback Cameras" category; and Britain's Damian Peach in the "Through-the-Scope" category. Website visitors voted in Portugal's Eric Cardoso as the "People's Choice" winner.
Prizes of up to $2,500 were awarded over the weekend at the Northeast Astronomy Forum in Suffern, N.Y. To see all seven of the top photos, check out NSF's website — or get your hands on Astronomy's June issue.