Uniting Art and Science since 1974

  • I founded Black Rock Observatory, the finest mobile observatory dedicated to public outreach in the world.
  • I operate the hardest-working telescope in the business for Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, the best public observatory on planet Earth. The telescope pictured above has shown more people the sky than any telescope in history.
  • I’ve been a freelance photographer for many years.
  • I’m an artist.
  • I speak at events.


#1. I’m a Dad. #2. I’m a husband. #3 I’m an artist, educator and astronomer.

Born in Georgia in a rural town outside of Atlanta called Jonesboro, my older brother taught me how to draw when I was very young and I spent much of my youth drawing and painting; training my eye for composition. After attending Georgia State University for two years where I majored in art (philosophy and 2D Design) and working some dead-end acting  jobs, I decided I’d found myself.

Out of the red, one image changed me forever. When the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Ca landed a rover on Mars, I headed west determined to study red planet, baffled by images from the surface from a tiny robot called Pathfinder transmitted on July 4th, 1997.

Pathfinder on Mars in 1997.

I learned once again the power of one photograph in a stunning single moment. Inspired by what humans working together could accomplish and how important exploration was to the future of man, I packed all of my things in a giant card-board box and sent them to the Golden State. The same week I arrived, I joined the local astronomy club.

In 2003, Mars came closer to Earth than it had in the previous 60,000 years. I felt like it was a privilege to see it and it was my duty to record it. I took nearly 50,000 images of Mars through my telescope that year and spent many hours honing my post-processing skills. I became an observer. Not just of the planets and stars, but of everything. The universe is made of an infinite number of miracles and its my job to praise them. Observing wasn’t a passive enterprise; it was participating. It changed me.

Pathfinder on Mars in 1997.

I am an artist. I can’t always decide what media I like the most, but right now, its astronomy, photography and sculpture. I love to draw and paint when I get the chance. I also hike as often as I can in the Sierras or the Angeles National Forest. I live a great life in Southern California with my daughter Scarlett, seeking adventure in all it’s forms.

Tom Varden by Reid Godshaw at Harmonic Light Web

Here’s the Black Rock Observatory (the thing I’m most famous for):