Deep space and northern lights photos by White Plains resident Scott Nammacher will be on display at Larchmont Public Library, March 2 to 28. The exhibit is called Treasures of the Night Skies.
Nammacher, who works by day as a financial advisor perched in his office on the 51st floor of the Empire State Building, is an amateur astro-photographer during his free time.
His interest in astronomy, Nammacher said during a recent interview, began when he was a child, under the age of 10. He recalls going to a park where stargazers were partying, and looking up he became spellbound. From there things just accelerated.
Over the years Nammacher began going to “star parties” and he joined local astro-groups. He even took an astronomy course in college, but never wanted to be an astro-physicist or to deal with the math of studying deep space. His interest was purely in observing the sky at night. But Nammacher had an interest in photography as well, taking pictures during family vacations, even shots under water using specialized cameras.
Nammacher moved to White Plains in the 1980s to raise a family, and soon joined the Westchester Amateur Astronomers. For a while he took photos of comets and set up a telescope in his backyard in White Plains, dealing with the light from two street lamps adjacent to his property.
Nammacher remembers that while commuting to Manhattan every day he would pass a “Discovery” store in Grand Central Station that sold telescopes. In 2003, he recalls, when NASA began visiting Mars, he saw an 8-inch mirror telescope for sale that was able to track an object’s progress. “You could program in what you wanted to see,” Nammacher explained.
Tired of dealing with the ambient light in his backyard, Nammacher started taking trips to upstate New York to get the photographs he wanted. That led to his purchase of property in Athens, NY, where he designed with the aid of architectural CAD software, and built, his own observatory called Starmere.
By this time, telescope software had become sophisticated enough to allow remote access and control. After determining the targets in the night sky he wants to photograph, Nammacher plots a trajectory and sets up a series of shots through color filters that are layered and combined in Photoshop to make a full picture. These are printed on aluminum to give them a dramatic and vibrant look.
The photographs in Nammacher’s exhibit were taken at Starmere and two other locations where he rents time – an observatory in Australia, and one in New Mexico.
What Nammacher says affects him the most in taking these photos is that he is looking into the distant past. “These stars and galaxies are tens of trillions of light years away,” he said. “There are billions of stars in the Milky Way and neighboring Andromeda Galaxy, some with planetary bodies that might support life.” The enormity of the experience keeps pulling Nammacher “out there.”
Back on Earth, Nammacher recently travelled to Manitoba, just south of the Arctic Circle, to observe and photograph the Northern Lights (aurora borealis), which he called an incredible experience. A number of these photographs will also be on display during the March exhibit.
The artist’s reception will take place on March 2, from 2 to 4 p.m. at the gallery, followed by a lecture on March 3 at 2 p.m. Weather permitting, Nammacher will set up a solar telescope for attendees to get amazing views of the sun.
Larchmont Library is located at 121 Larchmont Ave., Larchmont; 914-834-2281; www.Larchmontlibrary.org.