Stephen M. Brincat

In the first series of Meet the Astronomer, we meet Stephen Brincat, a Maltese astronomer well-known for his photometric work on stars and asteroids. Using ground-based photometric surveys, Stephen has, over the years, discovered and studied numerous variable stars that were yet unknown to the international astronomical and scientific community. He has authored and co-authored many scientific papers from his observational work conducted at his Flarestar Observatory in San Gwann, Malta.

Dedication, passion, constant interest in new technologies, and a meticulous approach to observation. These are the drivers that motivated Stephen, from doing casual observation to being engaged in international scientific cooperation on a reoccurring basis with many astronomers and foreign universities.

Stephen is well known Maltese observer and researcher, and his work is internationally recognized through scientific publications and his cooperation is much appreciated by scientists. In fact, unlike many amateur astronomers, Stephen’s interest goes beyond ordinary observation or astrophotography as he specializes in astronomical photometry.

Stephen at work in his roof observatory

Photometry is a branch of science that involves the measurement the light from the stars and other celestial objects. This study technique is applied to various fields, such as for the study of variable stars and the analysis of the periodic rotation of asteroids. Going into practice, the object is photographed over a given period of time, and the object’s brightness is compared with the standard brightness of the fixed reference stars.

Editing all the shots with dedicated software tools, measurements are displayed through a graph with a brightness against time called a light curve, that displays the object’s change in magnitude. Such data are subsequently either transmitted to appropriate institutions or archived for further analysis.

V844 Her is an SU UMa type cataclysmic binary – this is currently in superoutburst and shows superhumps in the light curve

Stephen has some great tips for every amateur astronomer and astrophotographer:

Always take notes and record every relevant detail. It is important to write down all the necessary details related to the observation itself, such as shooting times data, weather conditions, instruments used, and any other important detail that you may find useful for record-keeping. Over a period of time, these records will help the observer to improve his way of operating at the telescope whilst having an accurate record of the object under observation. You will certainly treasure such records as you gradually move up the astronomy ‘ladder’.

Always keep RAW files. Many astrophotographers have the habit of deleting raw files, to keep only the final post-processed image. Such practice is not recommended as the final post-processed image no longer contains the original data, but only the edited version. This will refrain you from any possibility for re-analyze your images through some novel approach or new techniques in the future.

If you would like to learn more about Stephen’s astronomical work and discoveries over the years, visit his site: