Australia has some very very talented amateur astrophotographers, producing images that are among the best in the world. Our beautiful dark skies, combined with the stunning objects visible in the Southern Hemisphere, give Australian Astrophotographers a bountiful choice of targets on which to produce their inspiring work.
I wanted to feature and profile these brilliant individuals and showcase their best or their favourite images by compiling my Top 10 Best Astrophotographers in Australia.
Please continue reading to find out the criteria I used for selection, to see who made the top 10, and to be blown away by their fabulous astrophotography.
The list below is completely subjective – what I define as the “Best” might not be what someone else does. The “Best” for me, are people who are influential, highly respected, and consistenly produce amazing high-quality work.
Some of the criteria used in my selection includes:
- The imager must live in Australia and capture their images in Australia. Imagers living outside Australia using remote telescopes situated in Australia were not considered.
- The imager should have at least several years experience in astrophotography.
- The imager should be currently active. Some astrophotographers were not considered because they had not produced any new work in several years.
- Relative success in astrophotography competitions, locally and internationally.
- Relative success in having their work published in magazines or on popular “picture of the day” sites such as APOD.
- The imager produces consistent high quality work that almost always gives the “WOW” factor.
- The imager should be sharing their work somewhere – it’s difficult to include someone when you can’t find their images.
Not all of the above criteria was applied in a hard and fast way – for example, not all astrophotographers submit their work to APOD or magazines or enter competitions. So it would be unfair to exclude them on that basis.
Only very basic information about the capture/processing of the images is listed here. For more information, including larger versions of the image, please click on the image which will take you to the photographers website.
Now, without further ado, here’s my Top 10 Best Astrophotographers in Australia.
1. Peter Ward
Peter lives in Southern Sydney, NSW and has been involved in astronomy and astrophotography for 20+ years. Starting with a simple SLR and tripod pointed at the sky, Peter has now moved onto imaging the night sky with an array of high-end equipment, including:
..Alt-Az, Fork mounts, German equatorials (still my favorite) camera lenses from fisheye through to extreme telephoto, SCT’s, Maksutov’s and refractors with optics ranging from dubious to sublime. Most of my imaging is now done from my home in southern Sydney, where I use a variety of telescopes from 106mm to 350mm in aperture housed in a fully robotic Sirius Observatory.
Peter is one of those uniquely talented individuals who has taken exceptional photographs of almost all types of objects in the sky, including planets and solar system objects, through to wide field and very deep space objects.
Peter’s work has gained national and international recognition and has had images or articles published in Sky & Telescope, Astronomy, AS&T and Sky & Space, textbooks, NASA’s APOD web site and in this “International Year of Astronomy” the 2009 IYA Calendar.
Peter has also picked up a few prizes along the way – over a dozen CWAS David Malin Astrophotographic Awards (including the overall prize and Innovation prize) and in 2007 Peter received the inaugural Sky & Telescope “Beautiful Universe” 1st place, 2nd place and “readers choice” prizes for (Solar System) images he had taken during the total solar eclipse in the previous year.
Peter recorded this stunning image of the Total Solar Eclipse using a Digital SLR on a tripod.
I used a Pentax *ist DSLR and William Optics Megrez FD 80mm on a Manfrotto 501 fluid head for the eclipse. Multiple exposures were layered in Photoshop to preserve the details in the inner and outer corona.
Peter is the owner of Advanced Telescope Supplies, and is a pilot flying Airbus A380′s as a day job.
My work has allowed me to witness some spectacular astronomical events invisible from Australia. In 2003 I was lucky enough to blend the best of both of my worlds: crew a B747 charter over Antarctica for that year’s total solar eclipse.
2. Eddie Trimarchi
Eddie lives on the Gold Coast, Queensland and has been interested in astronomy since he was a youngster, starting with his first Tasco 2.4″ refractor in the same year that Man first landed on the Moon. It was some time later (in the late 1990′s) that he started taking photos of the night sky in his tin shed observatory, with the primary motivation to see clearer and further than he could through the eyepiece.
I skipped emulsion photography and moved straight to digital in 1997 by building the Cookbook 245 CCD camera. That was a great education into the function and configuration of the various components in an imaging system. Having a degree in Computer Science and being a software engineer by trade, helped encourage me to solve the inherent difficulties of which there were many, in getting a complete computer-controlled imaging system working from within a garden shed, at a time when there were very few options available that were affordable without a governments budget.
Eddie has achieved considerable success with his astronomical pursuits, including prints of his fantastic images as well as sales of his astronomical software products. He has also had his work published in several books and has taken out prizes in every CWAS David Malin Awards since 2005.
The image above is a Milky Way mosaic in Hydrogen-alpha, taken during the 2004 Queensland Astrofest from Camp Duckadang in Queensland. It took 6 complete nights of imaging to capture the 14 hours worth of exposures covering all 28 parts of the mosaic, using an Asahi Pentax 50mm lens (circa 1968 or thereabouts), a Schuler 10 nanometer hydrogen-alpha filter, an SBIG ST10XE camera and a Losmandy G11 mounting.
This image was awarded an Honourable mention from David Malin in the 2005 CWAS David Malin awards, was requested by the Univeristy of Townsville Astronomy department for use with a PHD thesis analysing the formation of dark nebula in the milky way and has been published by Astrovisuals as a poster and map.
Eddie’s next project is to create a very large high resolution (much higher resolution than this image) true-colour mosaic of the Milky Way.
As always, the intention is to provide something new – a unique take on things that have been seen many times before, but not quite in the same way and hopefully revealing something new about our immediate place in the Universe. The task at hand is grand I am expecting the total imaging time to cover many years. This could quite possibly become the project of a lifetime and could easily take the rest of mine to complete.
3. Mike Sidonio
Mike lives in Newcastle, NSW and has been interested in Astronomy since he was 15, starting with a Tasco 4.5″ Newtonian.
I was very active in astronomy and particularly astrophotography in the 80′s, building cold cameras and other interesting astrophotographic equipment.
Mike took a hiatus from Astronomy in the 90′s and early 2000′s in his quest to become the World’s Strongest Man, but regained his passion for astronomy and astrophotography in 2002, starting with a 12″ SCT and has never looked back.
As Mike’s experience has grown, so has his long list of achievements and awards – including the SPSP Astro’s (2005-2008), the CWAS David Malin Awards (2005, 2006, 2008), the Sky&Telescope “Beautiful Universe” competition in 2006 and the AAGC Astrophotography award La Palma Spain in 2007.
Mike’s stunning deep image of Centaurus A (NGC5128) was taken with an AP152 F7.5 Starfire APO refractor with 4″ field flattener and an FLI ProLine11002 CCD camera, over 3 nights at the ASNSW dark sky site “Wiruna” in remote NSW.
This unique and extremely deep colour image, compiled from nearly 20hrs of exposure with just a 6″ telescope, was taken from a very dark sky in remote Australia. The image reveals the full outer halo of the perculiar radio galaxy Centaurus A (NGC 5128) in Centaurus including faint polar extensions extending from the top and bottom of the galaxy running diagonally. Also evident in this image is the extensive but extremely faint Milky Way nebulosity and dust known as “Galactic Cirrus” or “Integrated Flux” that permeates this entire region.
Mike is insantly recognisable at the various star parties around NSW and is also recognised by his peers as a world-class astrophotographer.
4. Martin Pugh
Martin lives in Yass, in Southern NSW and started in astronomy in 1999 with a classic LX200 and a Starlight Xpress HX516. Unfortunately the weather in Belgium (where Martin was working at the time) was very bad with poor air quality and nothing of note was produced during this time.
After relocating to Portugal a couple of years later, Martin upgraded his equipment but unfortunately his frustrations didn’t end there.
I purchased a Tak NJP160 and an FS128 and went south. Unfortunately, I could not set up locally, and had to go remote. By that I mean a remote site I had to drive to. It was a great site, but heavily light polluted from Lisbon. I did all of my planetary work with the FS128 and a webcam from the very still skies of that I experienced at that site. Deep sky on the otherhand was still very difficult and again I achieved nothing and this was largely due to my the portable set up (I had to roll out from a disused garage), and a seemingly endless campaign to fix equipment problems. I then sold the ST8 and bought an ST10XME. At this point, a move to Australia was not even on the cards. I finally plunged for the ultimate upgrade – a Paramount ME, an STL11K and a 12.5″ RC (tube version). In short, I hated this telescope and went on a 12-15 month campaign of continuous collimation efforts. It was not a happy time for me. Once again, I produced nothing in the deep sky domain.
In late 2004 Martin emigrated to Australia, and in early 2005 the tube version of the RC was sent back to America to be converted into a truss version. When the RC came back in its new form in early 2006, Martin could finally put into practise everything he’d learned through years of equipment issues, frustrations and failures and his deep sky imaging began in earnest.
All of the brilliant images on Martin’s website have been produced since 2006 at Yass, and in that short time he has amassed an amazing 9 APOD’s (2 collaboratively with Rob Gendler), and Martin’s images have been published in Sky and Telescope, Australian Sky and Telescope, the French ‘Astronomie’ magazine, the Boston Globe, and
..two of my images were used in the production of a Celestial Navigation DVD for the Royal Australian Navy, and Hubble Heritage used one image as part of a video sequence they used when zooming into a particular nebula.
Martin’s image of IC2948 in Narrowband was taken with his usual equipment, the 12.5″ RC, SBIG STL11K with Astrodon OIII, SII and HA filters, AO-L guided on a Paramount ME, and won 3 competitions in 2008: The David Malin Award (Overall Winner), the South Pacific Star Party, and the Sydney Observatory Astrophotography Competition.
Clearly, my best and most proudest moment was winning the David Malin Award last year, and the bust of Galileo sits very prominently here on my desk in Omaha, Nebraska (where Martin is currently located).
5. Anthony Wesley
Anthony lives at Murrumbateman, outside Canberra but actually in NSW. Anthony has been imaging the planets since the early 2000′s and has always strived to push the boundaries of his equipment and his image processing.
His dedication to understanding the factors that influence the quality of the data when capturing the planets at high resolution led him on a journey to do everything he could to eliminate their effects.
From building his own active cooling unit for his home-made newtonian, to writing custom software for capturing and processing the data, when Anthony finds a problem, he’ll most likely develop his own solution.
Anthony’s consistent high-quality images of the moon and planets in high resolution, combined with his research and solutions in understanding and eliminating the effects of thermal instability has earned him enormous respect among his peers and he is regularly labelled as Australia’s best planetary astrophotographer and among the top planetary imagers in the world.
Planetary imaging is one of the most challenging and rewarding aspects of modern amateur astronomy. With the revolution in computing power and ccd camera technology over the last few years stunning, high resolution images are now within the grasp of the dedicated amateur that far exceed results from professional observatories in years gone by.
Anthony’s stunning image of Jupiter above was captured in June 2008 with his 13.1″ Newtonian (LEXX), on top of a Losmandy G11 Mount. He used a PGR Dragonfly2 camera with a 5x powermate and captured at 40fps in RGB, for 1 minute each channel.
Anthony has a passion for imaging Jupiter and tells us why:
Jupiter in particular is a very dynamic system that shows extreme changes over timespans as short as a few hours. Comparing the overall view of Jupiter in each of the last few years shows that it changes its look almost completely from one season to the next. There are few other objects as exciting as this.
6. Jason Jennings
Jason lives in Melbourne, Victoria and has been a closet imager for many years, using his remote observatory situated in South Gippsland, two hours drive South East of Melbourne. While his data acquisition techniques were sound, he was still looking for ways to improve on his images and turned his attention to the black art of image processing.
Through much research, trial and error and failures, Jason has progressively been able to improve his image output quality is now well-known and well-respected for his masterful techniques in image processing.
Watching an image come alive through image processing remains the primary thrill and constantly drives me to push processing boundaries, to seek new techniques in the quest of producing memorable images.
Jason’s willingness to share his techniques and help others to improve has earned him much kudos within the Australian community
While I enjoy using my own imaging equipment, the plethora of high-end imaging equipment available online to the advanced amateur imager provides unmarked benefits such as dark skies and perhaps more importantly, the ability to choose the desired instrument to match the target.
7. Greg Bradley
Greg lives in Sydney, NSW and has been interested in astronomy for about 4 years. He has a real passion for astronony and the night sky and just loves astrophotography.
Greg has received about 5 Anacortes Image of the Day and his consistently beautiful deep sky images have earnt him a great deal of respect after having been imaging for such a short time.
Equipment used was a TEC180mm Fluorite triplet APO, FLI Microline 8300 camera at -35C, Baader Clear RGB and Astrodon Ha and S11 filters and a Tak NJP mount with an Astrotech 66ED guide scope and SBIG ST402ME guide camera. Mounted on a pier at my dark site observatory in a remote rural area in NSW near Crookwell.
8. Phil Hart
Phil lives in Melbourne, Victoria and started taking photos of the night sky while building his first telescope in 1993. His skills and passion for the hobby have developed alongside the rapid evolution from film to digital cameras since then.
He enjoys crafting wide field views of the night sky as well as the painstaking work required to produce telescopic images of ‘deep sky’ galaxies, nebulae and star clusters. After five years in Scotland photographing the Aurora Borealis and the delights of the northern sky, Phil returned to Melbourne in 2006 and is a regular visitor to the Astronomical Society of Victoria’s dark sky site near Heathcote in central Victoria.
Phil had a great year in 2008, winning both the widefield and solar system categories in the CWAS David Malin Awards, and received an honourable mention in the 2007 awards.
Phil’s beautiful Southern Cross Mosaic is a 3-part mosaic taken in February 2008 and is one of his favourite images, partly because it’s done using somewhat more affordable equipment (50mm lens on an old Vixen GP-DX mount unguided).
Since I grew up with the Akira Fujii image on my wall, I was pretty chuffed to have David Malin say this last year:
“This is a beautiful rendition of a part of the sky that is familiar to all of us. It was not long ago that to make a wide field picture like this, with this kind of definition you needed a 4 x 5 camera and very pricey lenses — like Akira Fujii. This picture is a 3-part mosaic made with a modified Canon 40D camera (ISO 800) and a standard Canon 50mm F/1.4 lens. Each of the three parts is made by combining 30, four-minute exposures, so the total exposure time was six hours. The blurred stars were recorded separately through high cloud. “
Phil particularly enjoys long, dark and cold winter nights.
9. Steve Crouch
Steve lives in Canberra, ACT and has been involved in Astronomy since about 1962 when he got his first telescope (a 40mm refractor), but his interest wasn’t uniform over that time and hardly touched his telescope during the late 1970′s.
I actually took my first astro image in about 1970 which was a shot of Alpha Centauri with noticeable separation. Initially I only did the moon and planets and didn’t start on deep sky until the mid to late eighties.
Steve images exclusively from his backyard which has mostly average seeing, but he still produces amazing deep space images which have received several awards, and have been widely published in Astronomy magazines and various Webb society publications. In fact the Webb Society just recently awarded Steve their Graphics award for images in their publications.
Steve has earned a couple of APOD’s including one for his beautiful image above, which is a HaRGB composite at 220:120:140:140, taken with a 12.5″ RCOS at F9 and an SBIG STL11000M.
I have been retired from Centrelink where I used to work as an IT manager for about 6 years. These days I work as a volunteer at the Canberra tracking station at Tidbinbilla. I almost exclusively do astrophotography these days but I’m also an eclipse chaser having got up to eight successful ones now. Hopefully this year will make it nine.
10. Mike Salway
Originally I wasn’t going to include myself in this list, just because.. it feels weird. But when contacting people in the top 10 for their image and information, several of them made the comment, “I hope you’re including yourself in that list”. Those comments, combined with an honest analysis of the criteria in which I outlined above, made me change my mind.
Mike lives on the Central Coast of NSW, and has been active in astronomy as a hobby since mid-2004 when he bought his first telescope, a 10″ dob. Before long he turned his attention to astrophotography, concentrating on solar system objects as the equipment he was using was unsuitable for deep space imaging.
I wanted to show people what I was seeing through the eyepiece, and share my passion for astronomy by taking pictures, but I couldn’t afford expensive equipment so I developed and perfected my techniques for astrophotography on a budget.
After a period of time with the 10″ dob on an EQ platform, Mike upgraded to a 12″ Newt on an EQ6 and has been using this combination (with a DMK21AU04 webcam) to image the moon and planets from his backyard since January 2007.
Mike has written a number of articles to help share his knowledge of planetary imaging and processing techniques and has given many talks at astronomy society meetings to present to others the techniques he has learned and show how you can do beautiful astrophotography on a budget.
Along with planetary imaging, Mike enjoys widefield and landscape astrophotography with nothing more than a camera, lens and tripod.
I love capturing terrestrial landscape images with an astronomical theme such as conjunctions. It’s a matter of being in the right place, at the right time with the right composition.
Mike has had numerous publications and awards over the past few years, including 5 APOD’s, several LPOD’s and Astronomy.com POTD’s, Universe Today features and SpaceWeather features. Mike had two images featured in Sky&Telescope’s 10 Great Astrophotos of 2008, has had images published in a book, calendars and magazines (both nationally and internationally) and has contributed to an article published in the Nature journal.
Mike won 1st place at the SPSP Astro’s from 2006-2008 (widefield in 2006 and solar system categories in 2007 and 2008), and took out 1st prize in the Solar System category of the CWAS David Malin awards in 2007, with honourable mentions in 2007 and 2008.
Mike’s Clavius Mosaic above was taken in December 2007 using his 12″ Newt on an EQ6 with the DMK21AU04, 5x powermate and Astronomik Red filter.
Mike is also the co-founder of IceInSpace, the largest astronomy community in the Southern Hemisphere.
It should be noted that there’s very little to separate most of the people in the top 10 and it was so very difficult to limit my list to just ten.
The next few people just missed out on my top 10 but are still very competent and talented individuals producing amazing work. So honourable mentions must also go to:
11. Marcus Davies
Marcus lives in Grose Vale, NSW and has only been doing serious astrophotography since 2007 when he bought a Takahashi TOA-150 APO plus an EM-400 mount and an SBIG STL-11000M camera.
By January 2008, Marcus had learned the basic skills and techiques of imaging and image processing and had built his first observatory. In the first three months of 2008 (leading up to the SPSP), he took three images; NGC 1365, NGC 3576 and Rho Ophiuchus. Of those, NGC 1365 received an honourable mention and Rho Ophiuchus won a first prize during the SPSP imaging competition (widefield category).
I find myself leaning towards quality not quantity in my imaging so that means I spend a lot of time getting each one just right. So I’m pretty proud of most of my more recent images – they all capture something different but equally beautiful.
12. Fred Vanderhaven
Fred is a self-employed electronics engineer living in Sydney, NSW and has always had an interest in Astronomy (and photography).
One day I suddenly thought, instead of just reading magazines (many, many magazines ;-), do it! So I bought an LX90, attached a DSLR, joined IceInSpace and so it began.
Fred is an affiliate of GRAS (Global Rent a Scope), owning GRAS15, is a member of the ASNSW and an enthusiastic supporter of IceInSpace. He enjoys deep sky narrowfield imaging, particularly Narrowband.
Fred’s unique starless image of the Lagon Nebula is a HaRGB totalling 14hrs exposure time. Fred used his home equipment, a Meade 12″ LX200R OTA, on a Losmandy G-11, with an ST10XME housed in his home-built observatory.
This beautiful image was deservedly featured on NASA’s APOD on July 15th 2008.
13. Gary Hill
Gary lives at Wingham, NSW and has been interested in the stars since his early teens, and after receiving his first Tasco back in the late 70′s he hasn’t looked back.
After progressive upgrades to a classic C8 and now a homemade 8″ scope on a Losmandy GM-8 in a Roll-off Roof Observatory, Gary produces beautiful deep-space images captured using his modified Canon 20D.
Over the years I done some astrophotography with limited success. But since 2004 and the digital revolution I found a new passion for imaging and have been upgrading and imaging when the skies permit.
This image above of the Swan Nebula (M17) is one of Gary’s favourites:
It shows many respects of when things come together on that special night when the seeing, tracking and capture all come together to capture the very best one can hope for with one’s equipment.
14. Louie Atalasidis
Louie lives in Sydney, NSW and his interest in astronomy started at the age 14 on a school excursion to the Warrumbungles where he got my first look at Saturn and Jupiter…. he was hooked!
He spent the next three months badgering his parents for a telescope and they bought him a 3″ refractor, a luxury at the time.
My interest in Astrophotography started in 2005 not long before I joined IceInspace forums where I met many wonderful people having the same passion for Astronomy and Astrophotography.
I’ve spent the past four years buying better equipment suited to imaging the heavens, and developing my skills.
Louie now images with a FSQ106N, SXVF-M25c CCD, AP600E mount, FS60c guide scope and QHY5 guide cam.
My favorite image would have to be Gum 15 for its most interesting combination of emission and dusty reflection components.
15. Rich Bowden
Rich lives in Streaky Bay, South Australia and started astronomy as a serious hobby in 1994 when buying his 13 acre block of land. The imaging bug started biting in 2000, when Rich bought a B&W Connectix webcam off ebay in the US.
Finally I had arrived. Well, still behind the 8 ball but moving in the right direction. And it was thanks to some really smart and generous people back then on the net that plundered devices, developed simple, free software that could be used with these cams, to introduce people like me, with little or no money, the joys of digital imaging.
Rich’s beautiful image of the Sombrero Galaxy (M104) was taken in February 2009 using his home-built 10″ Newtonian and Starlight Xpress HX916.
I love everything about astronomy. It is one of those hobbies/obsessions where you can build up to what ever level you wish and take up a lifetime doing so. By this I mean not only equipment and knowledge, but build it yourself, with whatever might do the trick. Gets rid of a lot of those bits ‘n’ pieces you’ve put away out in the shed.
Rich’s observatory is a modified galvanised rainwater tank, and wants to try and image as much as he can of the night sky before he’s dead.
Thanks to these extremely talented astrophotographers for sharing their work and inspiring countless other amateurs to keep trying to improve – to capture better data, to perfect their techniques, to buy bigger and better equipment
What do you think of the top 10? Do you agree or disagree? Did I miss someone who you think should be on the list? Maybe you just want to comment on the beautiful work on display. In any case, please use the comment form below to leave your thoughts.