Yucatecan astrophotographer shines at NASA with images of Chichén Itza and the Milky Way

Roberto Fernández is a certified public accountant in Cancún’s hotel zone, the primary destination in the Mexican Caribbean. His passion for astrophotography has garnered attention from the United States’ National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) on six occasions.

He stumbled into photography by chance and with an interest in sports. He began capturing images because his doctor recommended he find a hobby to relieve stress.

“By profession, I am an accountant, and I found photography as an escape valve to get out of the routine and stress,” Fernández commented in an interview with EFE.

Fernández used to offer his work for free in exchange for media outlets helping him secure accreditations for soccer games. However, when his favorite team, Atlante, dropped to the second division, he was left with professional photography equipment and a range of telephoto lenses. As a result, he shifted his focus to astrophotography and nighttime photography.

Yucatecan photographer Robert Fernández Tamayo managed to capture comet C/200 F3 or Neowise in Cancun.

“Soccer stopped being news or novelty in Cancún, and I had a lot of equipment for sports photography. I decided to change my focus and experiment with astrophotography so that instead of using telescopes, I could use optical lenses,” he explained.

From Río Lagartos, a fishing community in Yucatán that promotes ecotourism and hosts the annual “Río Lagartos Photo Fest” workshop, the photographer recalled the process of the first photograph NASA published in 2019.

He recounted how he fell in love with the Moon and the Milky Way, which are featured in several of the photographs selected by the American agency for its Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD).

Known as Robert Fedez on social media, he was born in Valladolid, Yucatán. He tried to capture images of the Chichén Itzá archaeological site with astronomical themes.

“I fell in love with it. Since I saw the pyramid, I imagined a photograph of the Chichén pyramid with the Milky Way, crowned with the Milky Way, and so I did it,” he detailed.

It wasn’t his first attempt; he had sent a couple of photos that had gone unnoticed. However, one day he received an email that changed everything.

“One of the great wishes of any astrophotographer is to have an astronomical photograph published as APOD, which is the Astronomy Picture of the Day. So, many try every day,” he observed.

That recognition came in 2019 and was repeated in 2023 with two photos taken by NASA of this Mexican archaeological site in the southeast of Mexico, featuring the Milky Way and planets like Jupiter and Saturn, as well as the star Antares.

“I also sent two or three photos before that weren’t even considered. Then, when I sent one, my surprise was that I received an email saying they were considering my photograph,” he added.

His next challenge is to capture a good image of the annular solar eclipse that will be visible in parts of the Yucatán Peninsula on October 14. For months, he has been conducting experiments with homemade filters and makes the most of every minute to practice.

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