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Stunning photos recall the magic of Comet ISON's journey

It's been five months since Comet ISON disintegrated after its close encounter with the sun, but skywatchers on Earth are still savoring its captivating journey.

The comet's million-year journey from the Oort cloud to the center of the solar system ended on Thanksgiving Day 2013, when it came within 730,000 miles of the sun. The flyby pulled apart and melted the ice holding ISON's nucleus together, transforming the sturdy comet into a collection of pebbles and dust.

"Tragically, on Nov. 28, 2013, ISON's tenacious ambition outweighed its ability, and our shining green candle in the solar wind began to burn out," astronomer Karl Battams wrote in a mock obituary for NASA.

PHOTOS: Comet ISON journeys through the solar system

Before its death, Comet ISON inspired space enthusiasts to turn their eyes to the sky. Many of them pulled out their cameras as well. A handful of the resulting pictures were honored this weekend at the Northeast Astronomy Forum at Rockland Community College in Suffern, N.Y. Among the judges was "Cosmos" producer Ann Druyan, who put together the golden record of "The Sounds of Earth" with her late husband, astronomer Carl Sagan.

The National Science Foundation's Division of Astronomical Sciences sponsored a photo contest with Astronomy and Discover magazines. The seven winning entries earned cash prizes of $1,000 to $2,500, and all will be published in the June issue of Astronomy.

Click through the photo gallery above to see the award-winning pictures and re-live the excitement from last fall.

If you could look at space photos all day, you've come to the right place. Follow me on Twitter and "like" Los Angeles Times Science & Health on Facebook.

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