Stephen James O’Meara was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and began looking at the sky at the age of 6. He learned the constellations on his own from a star wheel that he cut out from the back of a Corn Flakes box, and he discovered how a telescope focuses by accident. At the age of 14, Steve knew the sky so well that he was given the keys to Harvard College Observatory, where he began to study the stars using the observatory’s 9-inch and 15-inch refractors. He used these scopes to discover the spokes in Saturn’s B ring and to become the first person in history to accurately determine visually the rotation period of Uranus.
O’Meara earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Northeastern University in Boston. He spent much of his early career on the editorial staff of Sky & Telescope before joining Astronomy magazine as the “Secret Sky” columnist and as a contributing editor.
The Texas Star Party (TSP) gave Steve its highest honor, the Lone Stargazer Award, “for setting the standard of excellence in visual observing.” The TSP also gave him its Omega Centauri Award for “advancing astronomy through observation, writing, and promotion, and for sharing his love of the sky.” The International Astronomical Union named asteroid 3637 O’Meara in his honor. Steve has also been awarded with the Caroline Herschel Award for his greatest observing achievements, which include being to first person to visually recover Halley’s Comet in 1985 when it was at magnitude 19.6.
O’Meara is the author of about a dozen books, including the Deep-Sky Companions series of deep-sky observing guides. His latest release in the spring of 2009 will be a children’s book titled, Are You Afraid Yet?: The Science Behind Scary Stuff.
In his spare time, Steve travels the world to document volcanic eruptions. National Geographic Explorer produced a movie (“Volcano Hunters”) about the O’Mearas’ research; the film was selected as one of the year’s best National Geographic documentaries and won a CINE Golden Eagle Award in the fall of 2002 for excellence in a documentary.
O’Meara is a dynamic lecturer on astronomy and volcano topics. He is also a contract videographer for National Geographic Digital Motion and a contract photographer for the National Geographic Image Collection.