(Video link here.)  For years, Thomas Ashcraft has been documenting atmospheric phenomena —meteors, space dusts, the sun, fleeting emanations of cosmic light called sprites. Although he’s gained a lot of recognition for the remarkable sightings he’s recorded in his All Sky Observatory in New Mexico, this is the first video that explores the inside of Tom’s thinking and method, of a scientist-artist-observer whose work is wonder and mystery: what makes “the heart light up“.

I’m very blessed to be an observer of shooting stars. Everybody says “Oh, wow did you see that? A shooting star.” The heart lights up.

I’m taking note and recording everything and if I don’t discover something… by leaving a document behind, the document can be data-mind at some future time.

Like Pasteur said, “chance favors the prepared observer’.  So if chance favors the prepared observer, how does the observer prepare? So, how can I generate clearer perception?

Referring to his All Sky Observatory, Tom describes his way of seeing as well as the range of his equipment:

Since I am recording wide open, I’m also open to any discovery there might be”

Gabriella Marx for The New York Times
Gabriella Marx for The New York Times

He quotes the Walt Whitman poem Beginning My Studies:

‘Beginning my studies the first step pleased me and awed me so much…
…that I have hardly gone, and hardly wished to go any farther,
But stop and loiter all my life, to sing it in ecstatic songs.’

I think that guided Whitman in his loving acceptance of the cosmos…

…if you wanted to bring it back to art, or singing, or poetics, or natural inquiry, there’s a great feeling of love that I have in all these studies. That’s a byproduct, and a blessing.

It’s an engagement with the world, just this blooming, buzzing, this phenomena, this stuff of the cosmos. Why are we here? Why are there these forms? We’re alive. This is what we experience. From there, it’s the mystery.

(If you look closely, you’ll see a shooting star via Tom/Heliotown)

Over the years we’ve known Tom, we’ve seen him quietly, steadfastly FOLLOW wherever his inquiries led him. Fully-engaged, fueled by amazement, committed to fostering ever-clearer perception, his work is an extraordinary fusion of art and science, shot through with mystery and love.

Sample it at Heliotown.


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