NEW BERLIN, Wis. — New Berlin might not sound like the go-to place for stargazing and astronomical research, but one 18-year-old is channeling his inner Galileo to study the stars.
William Gottemoller, a senior at Menomonee Falls High School, is an aspiring professional astronomer and astrophotographer looking to the cosmos to find answers to the universe. He takes stunning photos of the cosmos that look like they came from the James Webb telescope.
“In a way, it’s kind of like our last frontier. Like we’ve explored the oceans. We’ve explored land. We’ve cataloged pretty much everything about our planet, but we haven’t really gone beyond yet if that makes sense,” Gottemoller said.
His hard work as a citizen scientist is being recognized across the nation.
Gottemoller won the 2022 Horkheimer/Smith Award which is the Astronomical League’s most prestigious award for service and the 2022 Horkheimer/Parker Award for Astro imaging. He is one of three people to ever win both major youth awards, and he is the first person to do it in the same year. In total, he was awarded $2,700 in cash prizes for the award.
“Astronomy is changing, and the face of astronomy is William and the future. And also, you know, it’s about being accessible,” Matthew Ryno, a board member at the Milwaukee Astronomical Society (MAS) said.
Gottemoller is the youngest ever board member in the 90 years of the organization. The team of citizen scientists at the MAS are dedicated to imaging the stars, understanding the cosmos, and educating people about the universe. There are nine observatory buildings on 18850 W. Observatory Rd.
“We have a lot of folks that are interested in visual astronomy, and astrophotography we even have a solar observatory. We kind of cover the entire spectrum of the astronomical world and the only way you can do that is to have lots of observatories,” Dennis Roscoe, a board member with MAS said.
Winning those awards was a huge honor for Gottemoller. It’s a validation of hard work. However, space is his passion. He simply wants to explore more of it.
“You can look straight at it, but you can not know much about it,” he said.
In the future, Gottemoller hopes to study theoretical physics and dark matter in college and beyond.
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