Photography turns the lens on amateur astronomers who contribute to science

Photography turns the lens on amateur astronomers who contribute to science

Amateur astronomy project

A photographer spent five years traveling the world to return his lens to amateur astronomers who have contributed to science.

Dan Homer visited stargazers on four different continents to take stunning black-and-white photos documenting the environment of amateur astronomers as well as citizen scientists themselves.

“The people I’ve photographed are people who have contributed to research in some way,” says Homer. PetaPixel.

British Deep Sky Astronomical Society Meeting.
British Deep Sky Astronomical Society Meeting.
Haute-Provence Observatory, France.
Spectro Star Party at L’Observatoire de Haute-Provence, France.
Hankasalmi Observatory
Hankasalmi Observatory in Finland.

During the course of his project, which is currently being crowdfunded on Kickstarter, he met Jack Newton, whose research on the supernova 2010O in Arp 299 led to him being awarded time as an investigator on the Hubble Space Telescope.

“It’s all these people who are connected all over the world contributing to research,” he says.

“Where are they [on Earth] it’s important because if they’re in South Africa or India or wherever, and a NASA telescope on the ground is on the opposite side of Earth, these astronomers have a view of the object that NASA wants to look at.

“The billion-dollar telescope is useless, and these people who might have a $500 or $1,000 telescope become valuable only because of their geography.”

Astronomy photo project
Nilay Mokashi in India.
Astronomy photo project
Michael Mattiazzo’s home in Swan Hill, Australia.
Astronomy photo project
Jack Newton’s B&B Observatory in Osoyoos, Canada.

Homer is from the UK but traveled to Canada, Australia, India, Holland, Germany, Belgium and France for the project he calls Route de la Belle Etoile (Route of the Beautiful Star).

“Some of them live in the middle of nowhere [for the dark skies]”, he explains.

“Trevor Barry in Australia lives in Broken Hill which is a border town; the last town before nowhere in the middle of Australia.

“You can drive to the end of town in about 30 seconds, but when you get there it just turns into desert.”

amateur astronomical photography project
Trevor Barry’s home observatory in Broken Hill, Australia.
amateur astronomical photography project
Spectro Star Party in France.
amateur astronomical photography project
Nyrölä Observatory in Finland.

Homer says many of the people he met were of recovery age and were inspired by the Apollo missions in the 1960s and 1970s, which made people “look up.”

“For me, space is magic. It’s a little surreal to think that we’re sitting on this rock looking out into the cosmos and experiencing meaning as a result,” he says.

“That’s why I approached it in black and white, the different geographies I visited around the world look very different.

“The overall background and the colors, the houses or what the people were wearing were so contrasting.

“I think the black and white kind of eliminated that bit that decontextualizes and brings all these geographies together without looking too different.”

Astronomy photo project
Oliver Gorde in France.
Astronomy photo project
Peter Anderson’s home in Brisbane, Australia.
Astronomy photo project
Christian Buil and Valerie Desnoux.

Homer, who does not participate in astrophotography himself, says he has spoken with scientists who confirmed that amateur astronomers make a “small but significant contribution” and have meaningfully helped astrophysics.

“They’re unpaid and they do it in their spare time,” he adds.

Homer is raising funds to release the project as a self-titled book Route de la Belle Etoile (Route of the Beautiful Star). You can find his Instagram here.


Image credits: And Homer

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