Thinking of You, Shuttle Challenger Crew

Mission patch for the failed mission, STS-61, of shuttle Challenger, on January 28, 1986

Mission patch for the failed mission, STS-61, of shuttle Challenger, on January 28, 1986

It was this day back in 1986 that we said hello and goodbye to the crew of the shuttle Challenger (OV-099) as she blasted off into the atmosphere, only to be felled by a faulty rubber seal that engineers knew would not perform at the temperatures in the morning of that launch day.


Shuttle Challenger crew:

It’s hard to watch the videos of the explosion having watched as a little boy live.  But it’s interesting nonetheless.  I highly recommend watching The Challenger Disaster on Amazon, William Hurt ROCKS that role.  The two videos below are the best news coverage videos of the event that I could find — I hope each of their souls found rest.

Thanks NASA and Wikipedia.

The International Space Station’s Touring Roadcase Toolbox


Packing your touring toolkit is always a bit of a challenge — you almost have to have future vision to decide what is going to be needed, what little trinkets and wrenches will be most useful, and what not to pack.  Frankly, I love the job!

But…  can you imagine having to put together the roadcase of tools for use aboard the International Space Station?  Now THAT is a task suited for a rocket scientist!  (Or if you’re my old buddy Kirby Roberts, a rocket surgeon!)  The ultimate tour must have the most ultimate tool box…  right?

Check out these photos posted by UK astronaut Tim Peake posted these photos of the ISS’ road case toolbox for all of us to enjoy — or as happens in our industry, critique to the point of madness.  Come on, you know exactly what I’m talking about, I can even hear the snark from here — “He doesn’t have a single Crescent in there, this guy must be an amateur.”

Check it out!  I guess my first question would be which of the nut drivers they turned into a one hitter?







I’m guessing that the pry bars are for when the aliens can’t get the truss to line up correctly.  Remember NASA, make your “M”s and “W”s!  I mean, there’s a truss hammer in there, after all!


Thanks to Tim Peake for posting these on his personal Flickr account!

Ring of Fire! May 10, 2013’s Annular Solar Eclipse from Pilbara, Western Australia


Source: Twitter/@Pharaoness

I just saw this, and I could not NOT post this, especially as PLASA Focus Orlando people are traveling home.

This is the annular solar eclipse that just happened in Western Australia on May 10, 2013.  I hope this brings you as much peace as it just brought me.

Ring of Fire – May 10 2013 Annular Solar Eclipse, Pilbara, Western Australia from Colin Legg on Vimeo.

This video captures the sunrise annular solar eclipse from 3 locations in the Pilbara, Western Australia, May 10, 2013.

Cameras were placed at the south west, north west limits and centreline. 3 Canon 5DmkII + 800 mm timelapse at each location and Canon 1DC + 2000 mm 4K video in the north.

A big thanks to Geoff Sims for setting up the south camera, collaborating on site location, transporting lenses and eclipse timing/position calculations.

Thanks also to Peter Nanasi for providing the lovely original score at short notice.

I’m still on the road in north Western Australia and have done the editing from a cold caravan park in bright daylight skies, so it may be a little rough around the edges. There is also some stabilization still to be done, due to wind shake, but that requires better tools than I have on my laptop. One for later when I return to Perth.

If you ever get to see an annular eclipse, I recommend going to the path limits (sunset or sunrise). All sorts of weird things happen to the Sun, right on the horizon.



Colin –
Geoff –
Peter –

Good Morning Inspiration! Berlin, from Space, at Night, from Colonel Chris Hadfield at ISS

Good morning, Earth!

An awesome piece of inspiration this morning from Canadian Colonel Chris Hadfield, Commander of the International Space Station.  Col. Hadfield took a photo of Berlin at night from the ISS (he does this all over the Earth, btw, and they’re all awesome), showing an obvious color temperature divide between the higher quality HIDs of West Berlin and the crap Sodium Vapors of East Berlin.  To look at this photo gives me inspiration, and I hope it does for all of you.  West Berlin has 43,000 sodium vapor lamps that are being phased out slowly.

Also, are you on Col. Hadfield’s FacebookWHY NOT?  He is AWESOME!



We Can’t Stop Asteroids from Smashing Humanity into Powder


With a headline like that, one would think this would be bigger news than anything Kim Kardashian might produce, even trumping what color baby bib little cranky monkey Justin Bieber might be wearing today.  But, you’d be wrong.

Here’s the fact of the matter:  all over Earth right now – scientific organizations, special lobbying groups, NASA, the European Space Agency, et al – are telling lawmakers and news outlets that we need to get a collective effort going to solve the problem of hey, what happens if a global killer asteroid smashes into Earth?  Can we protect ourselves?  After all, apparently it only takes one medium-sized asteroid, something around a kilometer in width.  You saw Armageddon, right?  Billy Bob Thornton’s character makes it perfectly clear what would happen if that big rock in the movie slammed into the ocean – and this is just the movies:

asteroids-coming-again copy

“Even if the asteroid itself hits the water, it’s still hitting land. It’ll flash boil millions of gallons of sea water and slam into the ocean bedrock. Now if it’s a Pacific Ocean impact, which we think it will be, it’ll create a tidal wave 3 miles high, travel at a thousand miles an hour, covering California, and washing up in Denver. Japan’s gone, Australia’s wiped out. Half the world’s population will be incinerated by the heat blast, and the rest will freeze to death from nuclear winter.”

Now, that’s just lines from a movie.  But even for a movie that’s pretty hardcore!  Can you imagine it?  I’ve had some bad days, but that sounds horrible.  Thank goodness it’s only the movies.  Are we actually supposed to entrust Billy Bob Thornton with our astrophysical safety, he was also the “french fried pertaters” guy in Slingblade?!  Of COURSE we are!

asteroids-coming copy

Back in the real world that I live in, I ask myself exactly what might happen if a thousand thousand tons of rock slams into the bedrock of Earth.  In that other movie about asteroids with Morgan Freeman (It’s called Deep Impact, and I hear that many a porno has been modeled after the title), astronauts were able to not exactly save Earth, but they were able to pulverize the asteroid enough so that only a smaller chunk of it smashed into Earth.  Still, that smaller chunk made the seas rise a few hundred feet, created a big tidal wave that made the Atlantic wash up into Tennessee and killing a few hundred million Americans.  But that was still just a movie!  Right?!

Asteroid 433 Eros, a planetary killer discovered in 1898, has a dimension of 34.4 kilometers by 11.2km by 16.84 km.  It's the size of a large midwestern city.

Asteroid 433 Eros, a planetary killer discovered in 1898, has a dimension of 34.4 kilometers by 11.2km by 16.84 km. It’s the size of a large midwestern city.  433 Eros is a potential Earth impactor.

What Do Earth’s Scientists Think?

Scientists are all over the freaking place about this very real issue right now.  Some people are deeply concerned, others think that there’s such a little chance that it would ever happen:

“Right now, based on our survey, we see no national imperative for this nation to be upset or excited about impending doom.”  – James L. Green, Director of NASA‘s Planetary Science Division, on Discovery

Perhaps the most daunting answer to come from the House Science Committee hearing with John Holdren was this:  “An asteroid of that size, a kilometer or bigger, could plausibly end civilization… from the information we have, we don’t know of an asteroid that will threaten the population of the United States.  But if it’s coming in three weeks, pray.”   – White House Science Advisor John Holdren

University of California Santa Barbara physicist Philip M. Lubin thinks we should start small on smaller asteroids first – ones we know are coming:  ““We need to be proactive rather than reactive in dealing with threats. Duck and cover is not an option. We can actually do something about it, and it’s credible to do something. So let’s begin along this path. Let’s start small and work our way up. There is no need to break the bank to start.”

Scientists don’t disagree that something needs to be done.  What they do differ on is how it needs to be done.  Some scientists feel that some sort of projectile, either nuclear or otherwise, should be thrown at the asteroid somehow.  Some think that attaching some kind of “solar sail” or assisted rocket takeoff device on a grand scale would be the best bet.  One scientist even suggests painting the asteroid in order to change the amount of light it reflects.  Others, seriously yet still funny enough, make jokes in Senate hearings about “calling Bruce Willis,” while actual scientists theorize about possibly making a huge laser and reflector work as our asteroid goalkeeper.  Lest we not forget that Bruce Willis was not only an asteroid killer in the movies, but also Died hard a whole bunch of times.  Like, a TON of times.  How many times can you actually die hard?  Maybe he can just tell the asteroid to go f*ck itself while shooting at it.  Since John Holdren pretty much summed our Earth-asteroid defense systems with “if it [an asteroid] comes in the next three weeks, pray,” then maybe some fictional help might not hurt!


A few of these ideas that scientists are kicking around still in theory format:

Yarkovsky Paint

The long and the short of this idea is to change the amount of light that the asteroid emits in IR photos, eventually causing a miniscule “rocket thrust” in one direction.  The article at Wired explains this fantastically:

The Yarkovsky effect works by changing the amount of light an asteroid gives off. As an asteroid rotates, the surface that has been heated by the sun moves away to face space and radiates infrared photons. Though massless, these photons carry away small bits of momentum from the asteroid, essentially generating a tiny rocket thrust in one direction. The effect is very slight but over time can noticeably change an asteroid’s orbit. By making an asteroid lighter or darker, and therefore changing the amount of radiation it absorbs, we could turn up or down this miniscule rocket thrust. It’s a long haul-technique, requiring years, decades, or even centuries of advanced notice to alter an asteroid’s trajectory.

Will it work?  I have no idea.  I don’t think we have “decades or even centuries” to wait it out, though!

DE-STAR, or Directed Energy Solar Targeting of Asteroids and exploRation


DE-STAR is basically a re-directing and re-purposing of the Sun’s energy into little laser blasts that might be able to either re-direct or completely vaporize an approaching asteroid over the course of a year.  From a post at Popular Science:

Described as a “directed energy orbital defense system,” DE-STAR is designed to harness some of the power of the sun and convert it into a massive phased array of laser beams that can destroy, or evaporate, asteroids posing a potential threat to Earth. It is equally capable of changing an asteroid’s orbit –– deflecting it away from Earth, or into the Sun –– and may also prove to be a valuable tool for assessing an asteroid’s composition, enabling lucrative, rare-element mining. And it’s entirely based on current essential technology.

The DE-STAR team also claims that their system might also be able to push a spacecraft at the speed of light into the unknown.  More on that in another post.

Surfing An Asteroid On Solar Sails


Solar Sails are something that have taken on validity in this race to figure out how to mitigate the asteroid threat.  This would basically consist of a huge solar sail deployed in space, making good use of the ever-present solar pressure that is exerted on objects in space.  From How Stuff Works:

The reflective nature of the sails is key. As photons (light particles) bounce off the reflective material, they gently push the sail along by transferring momentum to the sail. Because there are so many photons from sunlight, and because they are constantly hitting the sail, there is a constant pressure (force per unit area) exerted on the sail that produces a constant acceleration of the spacecraft. Although the force on a solar-sail spacecraft is less than a conventional chemical rocket, such as the space shuttle, the solar-sail spacecraft constantly accelerates over time and achieves a greater velocity.

Interesting.  The principle of solar pressure also kind of tickles me in that special place.  But again, another post for another time.

Potential Impact of Potential Impacts

Watch this – the recent asteroid that exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia, which exploded around 40 miles above the town with the force of 300 Hiroshimas, was 55 feet across, and injured over 1500 people.  This was in a sparsely populated area, so imagine the impact of an asteroid exploding over San Francisco or New York City:

Also, if you have some time (or want to skip through to where John Holdren tells the Senate Committee that if an asteroid comes to NYC in the next three weeks that we can only pray), check out John Holdren’s Senate Hearing en toto.  It’s actually pretty interesting right off the bat — it might also be interesting to hear the almost comical questions and answers from our elected legislators to these scientists presenting scary information to Congress, not to mention the entire House Science Committee turning every answer of these scientists into how much it would cost and all of the interrupting that these scientists had to endure:

Thanks to:
Mother Jones
Daily Mail
Red Orbit
Space Politics
The Register
NBC’s Cosmic Log
Wikipedia on Asteroid Impact Avoidance

You’ve Never Seen the International Space Station like THIS!


I saw this in a post the other day somewhere, and I forgot to bookmark the link.  I just spent the last several minutes digging through Vimeo to determine if this was the one, or if I need to lay off the Nabob.

Check this out — this is a video of the Earth from the International Space Station (ISS).  This is about the coolest thing I have seen this week, besides of course getting married to my lady!

Time-Lapse | Earth from Bruce W. Berry Jr on Vimeo.

I went apesh*t when I saw this video, so of course I found some other awesome stuff. How about the fabulous Commander Suni Williams giving a nice tour of the International Space Station? I was completely immersed, so I hope you enjoy this over your morning coffee too!  (Consequently, the ISS was here when I was writing this post.)

Heeeeeeeere’s Suni!

Still need a fix?  Try this:

The Stars as Viewed from the International Space Station. from AJRCLIPS on Vimeo.

Timelapse videos depicting the stars from low earth orbit, as viewed from the International Space Station. Images edited using Adobe Lightroom with some cropping to make the stars the focal point of each shot, and with manipulation of the contrast to bring out the stars a bit more.

The video plays best if you let it load a bit first.

Music: “Truck out There” by London PM.
Buy the Track here:

Editing by Alex Rivest

First sequence star-trails processed using StarStaX:

Timelapses and images courtesy: The Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth. The Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, NASA Johnson Space Center. One of NASA’s best outreach programs, in my opinion.

A very big thanks to NASA astronaut Don Pettit (@astro_Pettit) for taking most of these images.

Dedicated to those who dream of exploring the solar system, and those who are sharing their experiences while doing it.


This is astronaut Don Pettit.  Don’s got a whole bunch of cameras on board the International Space Station, or at least he did on missions Expeditions 30 and Expedition 31 to the ISS.

Don took a whole bunch of awesome photos that were turned into one cool time lapse video, but given a crazy Tron-like twist.  Watch this, it’s well worth a few minutes:

ISS Startrails – TRONized from Christoph Malin on Vimeo.

Now this guy, this is Christoph Malin, he is responsible for the video above.  He’s also awesome.

From the video:

Do you remember 1982’s “TRON” movie? The plot: A computer programmer (epic: Jeff Bridges) is digitized inside the software world of a mainframe computer, where he interacts with various programs in his attempt to get back out. I loved the light cycle races and strange solar wind ships…

Back in the real word the ISS is in a way one of these solar ships, constantly rotating around us. A tiny white spot, as it can be seen racing over the sky from time to time, when illuminated by the sunset (and sunrise ;).

This Video was achived by “stacking” image sequences provided by NASA from the Crew at International Space Station (see These “stacks” create the Star Trails, but furthermore make interesting patterns visible. For example lightning corridors within clouds, but they also show occasional satellite tracks (or Iridium Flashes) as well as meteors – patterns that interrupt the main Star Trails, and thus are immediately visible.

The many oversaturated hot pixels in some of the scenes are the inevitable result of ultrahigh ISO settings the Nikon D3s in ISS-use are pushed to for keeping exposure times short by all means (owed to the dramatic speed the ISS travels). As there are no dark frames or RAW data currently available, hot pixels are not easy to remove.

After the initial stacking, all images have been sequenced with Apple Motion and the Video cut and edited with Final Cut Pro X. Stacking done with StarStaX, get it here:

This Video would also not have been possible without that great minimal soundtrack “Eileen” by Lee Rosevere ( that totally nailed the mood, as well as a short clip of “Window #3″ by Two Bicycles ( VIMEO MUSIC STORE ROCKS!

All sequences and images courtesy “The Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth”, Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, NASA Johnson Space Center,
Closing sequence © Christoph Malin / / filmed at Cerro Paranal.

Thanks a lot to my favourite bad Astronomer, Phil Plait at BadAstronomy for first posting the film ( and many many thanks to Vimeo for the Staff Pick!

A truckload of thanks go out to NASA astronaut Don Pettit ( and his colleagues for taking these images, and making films like this one reality!

Finally, please also be aware of the growing issue of light pollution ( one can see in many of these scenes! Support IDA ( on their challenge to preserve the night sky for us and our children, on reducing energy waste! And don’t forget, it is your tax money that lights up the sky!

Oh, and visit my friends at the UNESCO Project TWAN ( for some of the coolest nightsky images and videos on our planet! One people, one sky!

Always believe in your dreams and make it possible!

All the best,
Christoph Malin

PS: At about 1:42 you see Comet “Lovejoy” rising…

PS2: Be sure to check out my other Movies:

“Astronomer’s Paradise”, – featured on National Geographic
“The Island – Teaser”, – featured on NG
“Urban Mountain Sky”, – featured on Discovery Channel
“Black Hole Sun”,, featured on NG!/christophmalin

Indeed. I love the world, humans are awesome.

Thanks to PetaPixel for the Don Pettit photo!

Misnomer Majestica: Fire Rainbows

So-called Fire Rainbows actually have nothing to do with fire or rainbows, however they are absolutely awesome! The correct nomenclature for this optical phenomenon is circumhorizontal arc (circumhorizon arc and lower symmetric 46° plate arc are also accepted). A multi-colored halo (spanning from the red wavelengths at the top to the indigo like a rainbow) that runs parallel to the horizon occurs when the sun’s height in the sky is more than 58° above the horizon and its light passes through a cirrus cloud or haze consisting of ice crystals. These ice crystals must be hexagonal and plate-shaped, facing parallel to the ground. When light enters the top of the ice crystal through its vertical side face, and exits bending through the lower horizontal face, it separates like a prism.

While the circumhorizontal arcs are indeed arcs, they frequently only appear in small sections of wispy cirrus clouds where the ice crystals are properly aligned, which leads to the misnomer “fire rainbow”. Here’s a small gallery of this spectacular optical phenomenon:

Hate to Bust Your Cheops, But the Planetary Alignment Thing is Bullsh*t

Have you seen this thing lately?

There are so many things wrong with this that I cannot even start to name them — but Discover Magazine’s Blog did, and it sounds like this:

…and not to mention, their post is called Planetary Alignment Pyramid Scheme.  BAAAHAHAHA!

Check out Discover Magazine’s retort to this crazy image that just about everyone on the internet passed around recently.  Hilarious!