He became interested in astronomy when he was 7–8 years old, and had his first telescope when he was around 9–10 years old. Espenak earned a bachelor's degree in physics from Wagner College, Staten Island, where he worked in the planetarium. His master's degree is from the University of Toledo, based on studies he did at Kitt Peak Observatory of eruptive and flare stars among red dwarfs.
He was employed at Goddard Space Flight Center, where he used infrared spectrometers to measure the atmosphere of planets in the Solar System. He provided NASA's eclipse bulletins since 1978. He is the author of several canonical works on eclipse predictions, such as the Fifty Year Canon of Solar Eclipses: 1986–2035 and Fifty Year Canon of Lunar Eclipses: 1986–2035, both of which are standard references on eclipses. The first eclipse he saw was the solar eclipse of March 7, 1970, which sparked his interest in eclipses, and he has since seen over 20 eclipses. He is co-author with Jean Meeus of Five Millennium Canon of Solar Eclipses, which covers all types of solar eclipses (partial, total, annular, or hybrid) from 2000 BC to AD 3000. He is also a co-author (with Mark Littmann and Ken Willcoxof) of Totality: Eclipses of the Sun.
He is also known as "Mr. Eclipse." He gives public lectures on eclipses and astrophotophy. Astronomical photographs taken by Espenak have been published in National Geographic, Newsweek, Nature, New Scientist, and Ciel et Espace magazines.
Fred Espenak in 2017
New York City, New York, U.S.