Amateur Astronomy "Firsts"

2020: First Amateur Detection of Light Echo from Supernova 1987A

This animation shows the first amateur detection of light echoes from SN1987a - 33 years after the event. The light echoes are produced when the initial flash from SN1987a is subsequently reflected off interstellar dust as light travels outward from the event. Direct light from the supernova was observed on Earth in 1987, and we then see light reflected from dust in the interstellar space arriving later because it has travelled further to reach us.

2015: Longest Exposure Time Reached by an Amateur (152 Hours)

Over the course of 6 months, from January to June 2015, I collected 152 hours of data on the rarely imaged Antlia Galaxy Cluster (Abell S0636).

See APOD 2016 October 18: https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap161018.html

2013: First Optical Detection of the Sourthern Jet in Centaurus A


Referenced in Optical Detection of Star Formation in a Cold Dust Cloud in the Counterjet Direction of Centaurus A, Keel et al.
The Astronomical Journal, Volume 157, Issue 2, article id. 66, 7 pp. (2019).

2011: First Amateur Detection of the Circumstellar Disc around Beta Pictoris


This image received worldwide attention in Nov/Dec 2011, being the first amateur image of such a dust disc around another star. See examples below under "Published Images".


NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD)

APOD: 2016 October 18 - The Antlia Cluster of Galaxies

https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap161018.html

APOD: 2015 April 8 - Full Moon in Earth's Shadow

https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap150408.html

APOD: 2015 February 12 - Exploring the Antennae

https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap150212.html

APOD: 2014 July 23 - IC 4603: Reflection Nebula in Ophiuchius

https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap140723.html

APOD: 2014 May 15 - Voyager's Neptune

https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap140515.html

Amateur Astronomy Picture of the Day (AAPOD2)

StarAnalyzer Spectra Comparison of 31 Naked Eye Stars

AAPOD2: 2021 Jul 23 - Fun with Spectroscopy!

https://www.aapod2.com/blog/fun-with-spectroscopy
Messier 20: A Deep Look at The Trifid Nebula and Surrounds

AAPOD2: 2021 Feb 16 - The Trifid Nebula

https://www.aapod2.com/blog/m20

Scientific Collaboration

In 2021 NASA reached out to me to use my deep optical 130 hour image of active galaxy Centaurus A, for a news release about NASA's James Webb Telescope. The optical image was combined together with x-ray, infrared and radio data from NASA's observatories to produce this multi-wavelength image.

Link to official NASA press release and individual images for download: Peering into a Galaxy's Dusty Core to Study an Active Supermassive Black Hole
In 2018 my deep Centaurus A image was used for astronomical research and as a result I am co-author of the following paper:

McKinley, B. et al. "The jet/wind outflow in Centaurus A: a local laboratory for AGN feedback", Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, vol. 474, no. 3, pp. 4056–4072, 2018. doi:10.1093/mnras/stx2890.
In 2014 I was contacted by NASA for a pro-am collaboration project where my deep Centaurus A image was combined with observations from NASA's Chandra X-Ray Observatory and Spitzer Space Telescope:

Astro Pro-Am: Professional and Amateur Astronomers Join Forces

Collaboration with NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory Center


NASA Chandra X-ray Observatory Center, April 2014
NASA Spitzer Space Telescope, April 2014
Sky & Telescope, 25th April 2014
Space.com, 6th May 2014

Astrophotography Awards

2021

Animation of the Light Echoes from Supernova 1987a

AstroCamera Competition

Winner: Light Echoes from Supernova 1987A

2020

AstroCamera Competition

Winner: Antlia Galaxy Cluster Extreme Deep Field - 152 Hours

QSI Astrophotography Competition

Runner-up (Galaxies): NGC1365, A cosmic maelstrom in fornax

New Zealand Astrophotography Competition

Highly Commended (Deep Sky): Interacting Galaxies NGC 1549 and NGC 1553 in the Dorado Group

2019

Astronomy Photographer of the Year

Winner (Galaxies): Deep Image of Peculiar Shell Elliptical Galaxy NGC 3923 in Hydra

New Zealand Astrophotography Competition

Winner (Deep Sky): Centaurus A Extreme Deep Field - 130 Hours

2018

Astronomy Photographer of the Year

Highly Commended (Deep Sky): Thackeray's Globules in Narrowband Colour

2017

Astronomy Photographer of the Year

Finalist (Deep Sky): NGC 1999 and HH1/HH2 in Orion

Astronomy Photographer of the Year

Finalist (Deep Sky): Interstellar Origins - The Great Orion Nebula and The Running Man

New Zealand Astrophotography Competition

Winner (Deep Sky): The Hydra Cluster (Abell 1060)

New Zealand Astrophotography Competition

Highly Commended (Artistic): Cosmic Storm

2016

Astronomy Photographer of the Year

Highly Commended (Deep Sky): Antlia Galaxy Cluster Extreme Deep Field - 152 Hours

New Zealand Astrophotography Competition

Winner (Deep Sky): NGC6726 and HH 100 in Corona Australis

OPT PICNIC Competition (Oceanside Photo and Telescope)

Winner: NGC6726 and HH 100 in Corona Australis

2015

Astronomy Photographer of the Year

Runner-up (Deep Sky): Antennae Galaxies Extreme Deep Field

AstroCamera Competition

Winner (Deep Sky): Centaurus A Extreme Deep Field

New Zealand Astrophotography Competition

Winner (Deep Sky): The Horsehead Nebula (Barnard 33) and NGC 2023

OPT PICNIC Competition (Oceanside Photo and Telescope)

Winner: The Horsehead Nebula (Barnard 33) and NGC 2023

2014

Astronomy Photographer of the Year

Finalist (Deep Sky): The Turbulent Heart of the Scorpion

New Zealand Astrophotography Competition

Winner (Deep Sky): Antennae Galaxies Extreme Deep Field

Starmus Festival Astrophotography Competition

Winner (Deep Sky): Centaurus A Extreme Deep Field

2013

Astronomy Photographer of the Year

Finalist (Deep Sky): Centaurus A Extreme Deep Field - 120 Hours

New Zealand Astrophotography Competition

Winner (Scientific): Hidden Treasures of the Infrared Sky

New Zealand Astrophotography Competition

Winner (Deep Sky): Swan Nebula

New Zealand Astrophotography Competition

Highly Commended (Deep Sky): Thor's Helmet

2012

Astronomy Photographer of the Year

Finalist (Deep Sky): The Circumstellar Disk around Beta Pictoris

New Zealand Astrophotography Competition

Winner (Scientific): The Circumstellar Disk around Beta Pictoris

Published Images

Many of my images have been published in various news media, magazines, books and on astronomy websites.
I have also been interviewed on TV and radio. Below are some examples:

Astronomy Photographer of the Year, Collection 1, Harper Collins, ISBN 9780007482801
Astronomy Photographer of the Year, Collection 2, Harper Collins, ISBN 9780007525799
Astronomy Photographer of the Year, Collection 3, Harper Collins, ISBN 9780007598694
Astronomy Photographer of the Year, Collection 4, Harper Collins, ISBN 9780008146351
Astronomy Photographer of the Year, Collection 5, Harper Collins, ISBN 9780008196264
Astronomy Photographer of the Year, Collection 6, Harper Collins, ISBN 9780008249502
Astronomy Photographer of the Year, Collection 7, Harper Collins, ISBN 9780008295745
Astronomy Photographer of the Year, Collection 8, Harper Collins, ISBN 9780008348991
Annals of the Deep Sky: A Survey of Galactic and Extragalactic Objects by Jeff Kanipe, Volume 7, Willmann-Bell Inc. 2019, ISBN 9781942675136
Shallow Sky: Imaging our Solar System with the Masters, John Harrington 2019, ASIN: B07MJCLP69
The Vacation Guide to the Solar System: Science for the Savvy Space Traveller, Jana Grcevich 2017, ASIN: B01MZGCQJL
Phil Plait, Bad Astronomy, 29th May 2013
Phil Plait, The Best Astronomy and Space Photos of 2013, 24th Dec 2013
Horseshoe Galaxies and Hand Grenades, Phil Plait, Bad Astronomy, 3rd Sep 2019
Vela X-1 is Plowing its Way Through the Galaxy, Phil Plait, Bad Astronomy, 6th Jun 2018
Stunning Astrophotos: Orion in Context, and in Detail, Phil Plait, Bad Astronomy, 4th Apr 2017
Going Deep on Colliding Galaxies, Phil Plait, Bad Astronomy, 28th Aug 2020
A Hex on Neptune, Phil Plait, Bad Astronomy, 26th Mar 2019
Measuring a Monster: The Two *Billion* Solar Mass Black Hole in NGC 3258, Phil Plait, Bad Astronomy, 10th Aug 2019
New Zealand Astronomical Yearbook 2012, ISSN 1171-1108
New Zealand Astronomical Yearbook 2013, ISSN 1171-1108
New Zealand Astronomical Yearbook 2019, ISSN 1171-1108
New Zealand Astronomical Yearbook 2020, ISSN 1171-1108
Science News, 17th March 2021
Universe Today, 27th December 2013
National Geographic Daily News, June 2012
Australian Sky & Telescope, Aptil 2014 issue
Australian Sky & Telescope, November 2013 issue
Spaceweather.com, 2nd February 2013
EarthSky, 6th February 2013
Ciel & Espace, 12th February 2013 (FRA)
Storm.no, 4th February 2013 (NOR)
IceInSpace Image of the Week, 22nd January 2013
Universe Today, 25th January 2013
Universe Today, 13th November 2012
Australian Sky & Telescope, February/March 2013
Universe Today, 12th August 2012
IceInSpace Image of the Week, 16th July 2012
Universe Today, 12th June 2012
Universe Today, 9th Oct 2011
IceInSpace Image of the Week 17th October 2011
IceInSpace Image of the Week, 06th April 2010
Phys.org, 29th May 2013
Sky & Telescope, September 2013 issue
Australian Sky & Telescope, October 2013 issue
RadioLive, New Zealand, 22nd June 2013
Ciel & Espace, July 2013 issue (FRA)
Universe Today, 28th May 2013
Quantum Scientific Imaging Newsletter, 2nd August 2013
Universeru.com, 29th May 2013 (RUS)
Cienctec, 30th May 2013 (SPA)
Le Cosmographe, 2nd June 2013 (FRA)

Discover Magazine (USA), Phil Plait: Amateur astronomer glimpses an alien solar system

Space.com (USA), 29th Nov 2011: Stunning Photo of New Solar System Captured by Amateur Astronomer

The Daily Mail (United Kingdom), 27th Nov 2011: The sky is no longer the limit: Astronomer captures first amateur image of another solar system from his back yard

Universe Today (USA), 25th Nov 2011: First Amateur Image of Another Solar System

New Zealand Herald, 28th Nov 2011: NZer captures first photos of another solar system

3 News (New Zealand), 28th Nov 2011:

Radio New Zeealand National: Live interview 28th Nov 2011

TVNZ (New Zealand), 28th Nov 2011: Kiwi captures first amateur image of another solar system

Stuff.co.nz: Aucklanders We Admired in 2011

Slashdot 26th Nov 2011: 'Amateur' Astronomer Snaps Pic of Planet-Forming Disk

NBC News (USA), 29th Nov 2011: Amateur takes stunning photo of new solar system

The Register (United Kingdom), 29th Nov 2011: Backyard astronomer snaps Beta Pictoris dust disk

Fox News (USA), 29th Nov 2011: Amateur Astronomer Snaps Historic Photo of Another Solar System

Yahoo 7 News (Australia), 28th Nov 2011: Amateur Captures New Solar System in Stunning Pictures

Coelum (Italy), Dec 2011: Il disco protoplanetario di Beta Pictoris ripreso da un amatore

Ingeniøren (Denmark) 3rd Dec 2011: Amatørastronom tager fantastisk billede af fjern stjerne

Espectador (Uruguay), 28th Nov 2011: Amateur consigue la primer imagen de otro sistema solar

Zee News (India), 27th Nov 2011: First amateur image of another solar system captured

The West Australian, 28th Nov 2011: Amateur captures new solar system in stunning pictures

The Nation (Pakistan), 28th Nov 2011: First amateur image of another solar system?

Deccan Herald (India), 27th Nov 2011: First image of another solar system captured

Ciel et Espace (France): Un amateur photographie un système planétaire

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