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David Malin

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David Malin
David Malin looking at a poster about Malin 1, a galaxy found by him
Born (1941-03-28) 28 March 1941 (age 83)
Bury, Lancashire, England
Three-colour photograph of the Horsehead Nebula taken by David Malin at the AAO

David Frederick Malin AM (born 28 March 1941) is a British-Australian astronomer and photographer. He is principally known for his spectacular colour images of astronomical objects. A galaxy is named after him, Malin 1, which he discovered in 1986 and which is the largest spiral galaxy so far discovered.


Malin was born in 1941 and raised in Heywood, Greater Manchester, in the north of England. He was trained as a chemist and originally worked as a microscopist. In 1975 he moved to Sydney to take up a job with the Anglo-Australian Observatory (AAO), now the Australian Astronomical Observatory.

Whilst working at the AAO, Malin developed several photographic processing techniques to maximise the ability to extract faint and low contrast detail from the non-linear response and high densities of photographic plates.

These techniques were initially devised to enhance the scientific return from photography, but Malin is now best known for the series of three-colour wide field images of deep space objects which have been widely published as posters and in books around the world. Most professional astronomical photographs are monochromatic; if colour pictures are required, three images are needed. During his career at the AAO, Malin made about 150 three-colour images of deep sky objects, mostly using plates taken with the 4-metre (160 in) Anglo-Australian Telescope and the 1.2-metre (47 in) UK Schmidt Telescope.

The true-colour images are assembled from three separate monochromatic photographs taken through red, green and blue filters. Each photographic plate is a special black and white emulsion designed for low light conditions and is further enhanced for low light sensitivity by baking in a nitrogen and hydrogen atmosphere. The exposure times are relatively long, varying between 5–60 minutes for each colour, depending on the luminosity of the object. The colour image is re-assembled in the darkroom, where further techniques such as unsharp masking to enhance fine detail might also be applied.

In 1986 he discovered Malin 1, a giant spiral galaxy located 1.19 billion light-years (366 Mpc) away in the constellation Coma Berenices, near the North Galactic Pole.[1] As of February 2015 it is the largest spiral galaxy so far discovered, with an approximate diameter of 650,000 light-years (200,000 pc).[2][3][4]

Since the early 1990s, silver-based astrophotography has been largely superseded by digital sensors, but many of the technical advances Malin introduced to the field have been carried over to processing astrophotography on computers.

Malin has published over 250 academic papers on the Astrophysics Data System (ADS)[5] and ten books.[6]

In 2001 he retired from the AAO to concentrate on his own business, David Malin Images, which manages his image collection along with those of related photographers.


Minor planet 4766 Malin discovered by Eleanor Helin is named after him.[16]

Selected publications[edit]

  • Malin, David (1993). A View of the Universe. Sterling Publishing Company Incorporated. ISBN 9780933346666.
  • Malin, David (1996). Night Skies: The Art of Deep Space : an Exhibition of Astronomical Photographs. British Council. ISBN 9780959586541.
  • Malin, David (1999). The Invisible Universe. Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 9780821226285.
  • Malin, David; Roucoux, Katherine (2007). Heaven & Earth (Reprinted. ed.). London: Phaidon. ISBN 978-0714847603.
  • Gendler, Robert; Christensen, Lars Lindberg; Malin, David (2011). Treasures of the Southern Sky. Springer Science & Business Media. ISBN 9781461406280.
  • Goldsmith, John M.; Malin, David (2015). The Universe, Yours to Discover: Celebrating Highlights from the First Five Years of Astronomical Imagery Presented at Astrofest, 2009 - 2014. Celestial Visions. ISBN 9780994248961.
  • Malin, David; Frew, David (2016). Hartung's Astronomical Objects For Southern Telescopes. Melbourne University Publishing. ISBN 9780522871241.


  1. ^ Bothun, G. D. (February 1997). "The Ghostliest Galaxies". Scientific American. 276 (2): 40–45. Bibcode:1997SciAm.276b..40B. doi:10.1038/scientificamerican0297-56.
  2. ^ Crosswell, Ken (22 January 2007). "Malin 1: A Bizarre Galaxy Gets Slightly Less So". KenCroswell.com.
  3. ^ Dorminey, Bruce (22 December 2013). "Astronomers Still Puzzle Over 'Low Surface Brightness' Galaxies". Forbes. Retrieved 30 December 2014.
  4. ^ Glenday, Craig, ed. (2011). Guinness World Records 2011. New York: Random House. p. 3. ISBN 978-0-440-42310-2.
  5. ^ "SAO/NASA ADS Abstract Service". adsabs.harvard.edu. Search for "Malin D.F.": Astrophysics Data System. Retrieved 13 October 2016.
  6. ^ "David+Malin" "Google Books search for author 'David Malin'". Retrieved 13 October 2016.
  7. ^ "Chrétien International Research Grants". aas.org. American Astronomical Society. Retrieved 13 October 2016.
  8. ^ "Previous Recipients of the Progress Award". psa-photo.org. Photographic Society of America. Retrieved 13 October 2016.
  9. ^ Fava, Stella. "Commonwealth Medal: For Advancement of Photographic Technology - Honour Roll". a-p-s.org.au. Australian Photographic Society. Retrieved 13 October 2016.
  10. ^ "Past Winners & Finalists (Eureka Prizes)". australianmuseum.net.au. Australian Museum. Retrieved 13 October 2016.
  11. ^ "Recipients Archives". lennartnilssonaward.se. Lennart Nilsson Award Foundation. Retrieved 1 October 2016.
  12. ^ "Honorary Degree Recipients". RMIT University. Archived from the original on 16 August 2016. Retrieved 13 October 2016.
  13. ^ "David Malin: Doctor of applied science honoris causa". RMIT University. Archived from the original (Word) on 2 November 2013. Retrieved 13 October 2016.
  14. ^ "AIC Hubble Award". aicccd.com. Advanced Imaging Conference. Retrieved 13 October 2016.
  15. ^ https://honours.pmc.gov.au/honours/awards/2003400 [bare URL]
  16. ^ (4766) Malin In: Dictionary of Minor Planet Names. Springer. 2003. doi:10.1007/978-3-540-29925-7_4672. ISBN 978-3-540-29925-7.

External links[edit]