Foton Pharming from FRO


My astronomical journey started in 1982 when I became aware that a vast universe existed beyond the confines of this little rock called Earth. I read every astronomy publication I could find from several nearby libraries to get a better understanding of the subject. 

In 1983 our family bought a small country property near Mudgee, NSW Australia. From there I had a much better view of the night sky away from the terrible light pollution in Sydney where I lived. But that has changed to the worse... more on that here .

My job then, as a full time fire-fighter, had a shift roster that allowed me to get away for 4 days at a time. This gave me a much better opportunity to enjoy at least one (or more) clear nights each time I visited our property.

I soon started taking astro-images with various high speed colour films. Over the next 10 years, I had taken over 2,200 images but various technical problems made only about 40% usable. Many of my better images were published in local and overseas astronomy magazines, local newspapers and various astronomy text books world wide. I even made 'Image of the Month' in the US Astronomy magazine, September 1992, with a shot of the Eta Carina Nebula. I also had an article in US Sky & Telescope magazine, February 1991, reviewing several colour films for astro-photography. In 1993 I supplied a significant number of images for Gregg D. Thompson's book 'Australian Guide to Stargazing'. It proved quite popular and has been reprinted numerous times.

Steve Massey and I teamed up and produced two successful books, 'Atlas of the Southern Night Sky' in 2007 and 'Deep-Sky Video Astronomy' in 2009. Most of the images in both books were taken by the two of us with the GSTAR-EX video camera.
The Atlas went to a second edition in 2010, a revised third edition in 2013, a fourth edition in 2016 and a 5th edition in 2018.
Steve and I are both very proud of these works.


In the 1988 Skywatch Bi-Centennial Astrophotography Competition I achieved overall winner with an image of Messier 42/43 - NGC 1977 nebula in Orion. I was also awarded 3rd prize for an image of the NGC 6559 nebula complex in Sagittarius. Judging was by David Malin from the Anglo-Australian Observatory, Andrew Brown from Kodak Australasia and Rita England AFIAP Coonabarabran Photographic Club. The success of the competition was to spurn even more astro-photographic competitions which are pretty common nowadays. Sadly, I got no recognition for this in the astronomical community, even the astronomy magazine and others that advertised the competition did not publish the results.

I received an honorable mention at the 2005 Parkes AstroFest David Malin Awards for my 20 year sequence of the proper motion of Proxima Centauri.
You can see the sequence, now 30 years long, on my animations page.

Sincere thanks to long time friend, Rob McNaught for giving the name "Quirk" to a main belt asteroid he discovered...
18376 Quirk (1991 SQ).
I love that he chose one with my initials in the discovery number. This was a very nice "thank you" from Rob for:  
Steven (Steve) Quirk (b. 1958) is an accomplished astrophotographer whose photographs have appeared in many books and magazines. He has been of immense assistance to the discoverer by volunteering to operate fireball patrol and meteor video cameras.
[Ref: Minor Planet Circ. 51980]. (See here for the Meteor System pages)

During most of its orbit, 18376 shines below 20th magnitude but for a few weeks around opposition it can rise to as bright as 18.3.
This presented a chance to image it with my equipment during May 2008.

Date__(UT)_ HR:MN   R.A._(J2000.0)_DEC      APmag
2008-May-05 12:00   14 35 27.39  -16 19 58.5   18.68

My image shows 18376 in the centre of the field.
2 other asteroids also appear in the field, E6620 and 90125, both shining at 18.8 magnitude.
All were identified correctly with Astrometrica.

I then took a series of video integrations (4 minutes each) spaced every 10 minutes.
The animation shows the movement nicely.
How cool is that, thanks again Rob.

Image times mid exposure UT: 2008-May-05