Photographer Turns the Lens on Amateur Astronomers Who Contribute to Science

Amateur astronomy project

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

Dan Homer visited stargazers across four different continents to take gorgeous black and white photos that document the environment of amateur astronomers as well as the citizen scientists themselves.

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

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

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

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

“Where they are [on Earth] is 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 the Earth, these astronomers have a view of the object NASA wants to look at.

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

Astronomy photo project
Nilay Mokashi in India.
Astronomy photo project
Home of Michael Mattiazzo in Swan Hill, Australia.
Astronomy photo project
The observatory B&B of Jack Newton in Osoyoos, Canada.

Homer is from the U.K. but traveled to Canada, Australia, India, The Netherlands, 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 frontier town; the last town before nothingness in the middle of Australia.

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

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

Homer says a lot of the people he met were of retriment age and had been inspired by the Apollo missions in the 1960s and 1970s which caused people to “look up.”

“To me, space is magic. It’s slightly surreal to think 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 various geographies I visited all over the world all look very different.

“The general background and the colors, the houses, or what people were wearing was so at odds.

“I think the black and white eliminated that a little bit which decontextualizes it and knits all these geographies together without them looking too different.”

Astronomy photo project
Oliver Gorde in France.
Astronomy photo project
Home of Peter Anderson in Brisbane, Australia.
Astronomy photo project
Christian Buil and Valeri Desnoux.

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

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

Homer is crowdfunding to release the project as a book entitled Route de la Belle Etoile (Route of the Beautiful Star). His Instagram can be found here.

Image credits: Dan Homer

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