Paul D. Maley WEB PAGES 2020-07-10T13:34:42-05:00

Paul D. Maley’s WEB PAGES

Attempting to move a crocodile in the Gambia 2011

                 With Gentoo penguin pal in Antarctica 2018

In Carefree, Arizona (January 2016) with a vintage Celestron 11 telescope used for minor planet occultations         

During the pandemic: Instagram talk to 173 students in Iran on May 11, 2020 

paul d. maley, solar eclipse

My life-long interest in exploring everything of interest in the night sky (and the day sky also) has been largely focused on planning and executing expeditions to observe eclipses of the Sun as well as eclipses of stars by asteroids.  My first objects of interest were clouds and the Moon which later expanded my horizons to things that were not easily seen with the unaided eye.  Born in New York the day before a total eclipse of the Sun, I was inspired by the late Aline B. Carter, former poet laureate of Texas who taught astronomy at the Witte Museum in San Antonio, Texas in 1958.

I observe comets, space debris, asteroids, meteor showers, eclipses of the Sun and Moon, artificial earth satellites and collecting accounts of space/launch debris recoveries. My earthbound exploration travels have allowed me to visit 296 countries and territories¹ so far.  From 1969 to 2010 I worked as an aerospace contractor at the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas supporting space missions from Apollo to the International Space Station.

ASTRONOMICAL OUTREACH: In 1970 I conceived and developed a public outreach arm of the NASA JSC Astronomical Society called RING OF FIRE EXPEDITIONS which has offered astronomical tours to the general public to see solar eclipses and the Northern Lights since 1977.  More than 2,000 people have participated so far.  I have been involved in international amateur astronomical efforts to establish successful observations of minor planet occultations in Iran, Iraqi Kurdistan, and India in addition to setting up joint observation efforts with amateur astronomers in South Africa, Moldova, Bosnia-Hercegovina, and Macedonia. During the International Space Year (ISY) 1992 I established an initiative to provide viewing predictions for the Space Shuttle to planetariums in 34 countries. This initiative was approved and co-sponsored by the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space.

I have traveled to observe 76 eclipses of the Sun around the world In 2010 I founded the Clear Lake Marathon Training Trail and have completed half marathons on all 7 continents

Between 1983 and 2013 I served as Vice President for the International Occultation Timing Association (IOTA) and over the years have successfully observed 356 minor planet occultations.  In 1977 I observed the first possible satellite of an asteroid during an occultation of the minor planet 6 Hebe. Although not confirmed, it set off  the hunt for natural satellites orbiting asteroids, the first one officially being discovered in 1994 by the Galileo spacecraft.

I have published photos in publications such as Aviation Week & Space Technology and National Geographic; videos on CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, Discovery News Channel, and the Science Channel; papers in the Astrophysical Journal, Astronomical Journal and many others

¹as documented in the “Travelers Century Club” list of official countries where the criteria for a ‘country’ is defined at 



In Kosovo 2009

paul d. maley, solar eclipse

Serving as an ASCO spaceflight controller in Mission Control Center-Houston during the SKYLAB reentry mission 1978



Trip 2: participating in a race in Pyongyang, North Korea in 2015                                       Trip 1: North Korea side of DMZ 2005




      • The binary asteroid 1981CH was named 27675 Paulmaley at the September 3, 2019  5th Workshop on Binaries, Ft. Collins, Co. The primary asteroid was discovered in 1981 by L.Brozek at Klet Observatory, Czechia and the secondary was found by D.Pray and P. Pravec at Ondrejov Observatory, Czech Republic in 2017. The primary asteroid is 5 km/3.1 miles  in diameter and its satellite is estimated by light curve analysis to be around 1 km/0.62 miles in size. The asteroid makes one complete rotation in 2.966 hours and completes one revolution around the Sun in 3.6 years.

Diagram showing the position of my binary asteroid on September 21, 2019. Produced by Richard Nugent.

      Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Occultation Timing Association presented September 20, 2019.

      • Elected as Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, 1975 (nominated by Dr. Brian G. Marsden)



Paul presents a Mauritius flag flown on the Space Shuttle to Paul Berenger, Prime Minister of Mauritius during the 2004 Transit of Venus expedition there




Paul under aurora in Fairbanks, Alaska 2014


Paul and Space Shuttle astronaut Claude Nicollier at the Jalu, Libya eclipse camp 2006


Observed / videorecorded 356 occultations of stars by minor planets from 6 continents with the goals of improving asteroid size and shape information, detection of new double stars and attempting to discover new minor planet satellites.

 Prior to 1977 there was no such object in astronomical textbooks as a natural satellite of an asteroid. Paul reported an observation during an occultation of a 3.6 magnitude star in March 1977 that suggested the first possible satellite of an asteroid— a small object orbiting the asteroid (6) Hebe. Co-authoring the report with D.W. Dunham in 1978, it set off a concerted effort by amateur astronomers and professionals to observe occultations of stars by minor planets. Though this specific discovery remains unconfirmed, it was in 1994 that the Galileo spacecraft beamed back the first image of a natural satellite of the asteroid Ida, thus proving the existence of a hitherto unknown population of solar system objects (see Asteroids, edited by T. Gehrels, p. 443, 1979).

Discovered that inactive earth satellites (space debris) could have an impact on professional astronomical discoveries. Paul determined that the cause of the infamous Aries (Perseus) flasher, an object that caused a stir in the astronomical world in 1985 was caused by sunlight glinting off a piece of Russian space debris (see Astrophysical Journal, vol. 317, 1987, L39-44). Sometime later, Greek astronomers published a paper and photograph purporting to show a bright meteor impact on the non-sunlit portion of the Earth-facing Moon. Paul determined that this flash was caused by an inactive American satellite passing directly in the field of view at the time (see Icarus, vol. 90, April 2, 1991, pp. 376-377). These two events alerted the community to consider the importance of the ever increasing population of earth orbiting man-made objects.

– Originator and curator of HISTORY OF SPACE DEBRIS RECOVERIES which continues to serve as a worldwide source of information describing accounts of recovered satellite reentry pieces that have survived encounters with the Earth’s atmosphere.

– Originated the idea of training the Space Shuttle Challenger crew to observe Halley’s Comet from space in 1985. He also conducted the Halley’s Comet observation training of the astronauts on that ill fated mission.

Originated the contingency plan to cope with the possibility of a failure with the Space Shuttle deployment of the Italian-designed Tether Satellite System (TSS-1) 1996; in the event the very thin tether was to break, the only place to document this would be from Australia in the first days after deployment. NASA agreed to send me to Australia. In fact, the tether did break and Paul obtained the first video documentation of the shape and orientation of a free flying tether.

– Elected as a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1975 (nominated by Brian G. Marsden)

– Organized and led 47 community outreach worldwide solar eclipse expeditions (and observed 76 solar eclipses through June 2020) as a public outreach for the NASA Johnson Space Center Astronomical Society

– Served as Vice President of the International Occultation Timing Association (IOTA) from 1983- 2013.

– Annual contributor to the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada Handbook section on Observing Artificial Satellites

paul d. maley, solar eclipse

Using low light level image intensified video to record Perseus flasher candidates 1985

Conducted the first joint Pro-Am expedition to Taiyuan, China in 1987 to observe an annular solar eclipse from the edges of the path of annularity.

– Took the first photo of a cluster of geostationary communication satellites in one frame. See Aviation Week & Space Technology, March 3, 1986, p 73.

– Took the first photo of the reentry of a Space Shuttle orbiter. See Aviation Week & Space Technology, February 27, 1984, p 40.

paul d. maley, solar eclipse

Paul’s Shuttle reentry photo in AVIATION WEEK & SPACE TECHNOLOGY 1984

– Took the first photo of an occultation of a star by an asteroid. See Sky & Telescope, March 1980, p 261.

– Took the only photo ever taken of a complete grazing occultation process of a star by the moon. See Sky & Telescope, April 1982, p 426.

– Took the first photo of reentry of space shuttle external tank. See Aviation Week & Space Technology, April 26, 1984, p 21.

– Principal organizer of most productive expedition to map the shape of an asteroid. See Astronomy, February 1984, p 51.

– Created an initiative adopted by the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space to promote observation of the Space Shuttle and Mir station by planetariums around the world during the 1992 International Space Year. Paul computed visibility predictions of these bright space objects which were faxed by the UN to planetariums in 34 countries.

– Primary organizer of the most successful lunar grazing occultation expedition (see Sky & Telescope April,1973, p.257).

– Conducted the first use of image intensifier technology and video and recorded an outburst of the Draconid meteor shower in 1972 (see IAUC 2452).

– Developed historical markers for two important Transit of Venus observing locations; researched, discovered and was instrumental in preserving the house where Asaph Hall lived when he discovered the moons of Mars (see above DISCOVERY OF MARS SATELLITES link).

paul d. maley, solar eclipse

Paul and Lynn Palmer in Ulaan Bator, Mongolia February 1997 for the total solar eclipse

A great portion of my night life has been conducting singular earth satellite observations. This includes having documented the reentry of Cosmos 166 in 1967 from south Texas, tasked by NASA to record several re-entries of the Space Shuttle’s External Tank in conjunction with radar observation sites in Hawaii, video-recorded about 12 re-entries of the Space Shuttle itself en-route to final  landings in Florida, a number of observation projects involving space debris, and observing spacecraft from the former USSR whose missions were unannounced.

A section of the STS-77 execute package showing Paul’s video of payload deployment was uplinked to the Space Shuttle crew in 1996.

I was the youngest person ever to have an independent observing site under the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory’s Moonwatch Program in 1960 (San Antonio, Texas station 8634).  I presented papers at various International Astronautical Federation congresses on observations of Iridium spacecraft, Ariane IV rocket bodies, and other visual satellite photometry applications. In June 2000, I was invited to present a paper before the 18th Inter-agency Debris Committee describing studies of Russian Proton 4th stage ullage motors which are one source of space debris in geostationary transfer orbits.


Leading a group at the Karymskii Volcano, Kamchatka Peninsula (Russia) 1991

I utilized Global Postioning System receivers to initially survey a volcanic area in a joint cooperative expedition with the Institute of Geology and Geochemistry in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky in the Russian far east in 1991. Then through agreement with Trimble Navigation I began to use Trimble GPS receivers to establish coordinates for solar eclipse sites in the South America, Africa, Australia and Asia as well as for sites of 19th century eclipses in the USA.

paul d. maley, solar eclipse

In Star City, Russia November, 2001 during a Shuttle mission support activity, one of 9 trips to Russia

Other noteworthy activities have included observation of a 1 meter size ullage motor (NORAD catalog #20698) at an altitude of only 92 miles with the unaided eye; the Russian Mir space station from the middle of Seoul, Korea; the Mir from a cruise ship docked in Port Said, Egypt; the Mir from a moving train between Bulgaria and Romania; Iridium satellites in broad daylight from Scotland and Australia; night time Iridium flares from Iran, Crete, Turkey, France and Russia and many other places; observed three total lunar eclipses in one calendar year (1982); photo of two Russian space stations in one frame as published in NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC ; consultant to the Pakistan Upper Atmosphere and Space Administration (1988); interviewed on television stations in Gabon, Zambia, Curacao, Rodriguez Island, Japan, China and elsewhere in connection with safe eclipse observation procedures prior to solar eclipses; invited speaker on United Nations Day at the University of Miami (1993); and sighted noctilucent clouds in Finland.

In Turkish occupied Northern Cyprus 2014

Paul has also led astronoomical expeditions to Venezuela, Mexico and Sudan to attempt to improve the lunar polar diameter; undertaken expeditions on his own to India, Greece, Moldova, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Iraq, Abu Dhabi, Japan, South Africa, Turkey, Macedonia, Cuba, Indonesia, Taiwan, Guyana, Australia, Lord Howe Island, Brazil,  Australia, Kuwait, Tanzania, and France to observe occultations of stars by asteroids; observed four sunlit passes of the Space Shuttle from the tip of South America in one night; instructed Shuttle crew members of the ill-fated Challenger on how to observe Halley’s Comet in 1985.

paul d. maley, solar eclipse

Paul (left) and Teacher-in-Space backup astronaut Barbara Morgan (center) presenting a mission description on NASA TV, just prior to the ill-fated Challenger mission in 1986.

In addition: sighted a simultaneous aurora and naked eye comet from a commercial flight over the Pacific Ocean in 1997; payload integration engineer for the Midcourse Space Experiment satellite MSX, whose Delta rocket tank reentered and pieces of which were recovered in central Texas; organized and led expeditions to observe grazing occultations of stars by the moon and solar eclipses where Shuttle astronauts have also been observers; published popular articles on how to successfully observe occultations, earth satellites and eclipses in journals in the USA, China, France and Italy; presented lectures on astronomical topics in Singapore, Spain, Poland, Denmark, India, Japan, Peru, Mexico, Belgium, Jordan, South Africa, Australia, France, England, Canada, Guatemala, El Salvador, Japan, and India. One of his most prized possessions is a letter from the late astronomer Carl Sagan requesting a copy of one of Paul’s technical papers.

I have received funding for just a few projects from the Federation of American Scientists, National Geographic Society and NASA, but the majority of my expeditions have been conducted with my own resources. One of my more exotic assignments was to await the launch of a rocket with an expendable tether system while staying at a Club Med hotel in Manzanillo, Mexico. Another was the 1995 Shuttle mission of the Italian Tethered Satellite System where I obtained low light video of the free flying tether (from Cairns, Australia) which was unexpectedly severed from the Shuttle soon after its deployment.

paul d. maley, solar eclipse

Paul with a jaguar in the Peruvian Amazon, 1991

My videos of satellites and meteors have been used to demonstrate educational aspects of observation and have been shown on the Discovery Channel, Chinese television, The Learning Channel, ABC and CBS News, in England, Belgium and Germany, as well as having been appended to post-Shuttle mission flight footage by NASA.

On March 26, 2016 the Japanese Hitomi (ASTRO-H) X-ray satellite suffered a failure. I was the first to get detailed video documenting two large pieces rotating ‘out of control’ which signaled the complete failure of the $270 Million mission. In the photo below note the series of equally spaced flashes in the upper left quadrant.

A flashing piece of the Hitomi spacecraft passes through Orion on March 29, 2016 after experiencing a catastrophic event. P. Maley photo.

I have had a long interest in meteor shower observation, witnessed a dramatic return of the 1966 Leonid Meteor Storm during undergraduate school years in south Texas, and then a brief outburst from the Draconid Shower in 1972 when I first used an electronic image intensifier and video. I was also a real-time eyewitness to the explosion of the manned Apollo 13 command module while it was on its way to the Moon and, created the ephemeris so that it could be tracked that night from the NASA Johnson Space Center.  I have participated in projects ranging from space art to research on the nature of the famous Marfa lights seen in west Texas.

On the Science Channel (2018)

On the personal side, I have enjoyed climbing and photographing active volcanoes (Hawaii, Aeolian Islands, Costa Rica, Russia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand, Mexico, USA, Guatemala, Sicily, Peru, Japan). I have raised basset hounds and participated in automobile rallies. While many of my endeavors have been successful, others have not.  I have had a frustrating and unproductive comet hunting project begun in 1973 enhanced with the purchase of 25 x 150 Fujinon binoculars in Japan in 1980. It is a life-long goal to discover a comet.

In the meantime, I have been a continual contributer to STARSCAN, the publication of the NASA Johnson Space Center Astronomical Society. I have jogged in Kuwait, Chile, Oman, Barbados, Sri Lanka, Japan,  Macao, Dubai, Turkey and dozens of other countries (see separate RUNNING PAGE) and completed half marathons on all seven continents.

paul d. maley, solar eclipse

Paul (right) with his sister and mother in a 1961 photo at the Aline Carter observatory in San Antonio, Texas

Oldest surviving photo taken in San Antonio, Texas 1954

With the Transit of Mercury team in Bolivia in May 2016 at the start of the infamous Death Road 56km northeast of La Paz. The road was  cut into the side of the Cordillera Oriental Mountain chain in the 1930s by Paraguayan prisoners during the Chaco War.

paul d. maley, solar eclipse

Paul served in the NASA Johnson Space Center Flight Director Office for a number of years and appears in this team photo 1989

In Tbilisi, Georgia in 2011

During my many mostly uneventful travels I narrowly missed a bomb attack at the Intercontinental Hotel in Paris, being shot at in the Sudan while passing through a darkened roadblack at night, traveled to Afghanistan, Iraq, and Kashmir without security and a few other places as in the image below from Yemen taken in 1994.

paul d. maley, solar eclipse                                                                                                                                                           In Yemen 1994


Since 1994 I have had several wonderful cats; however, Lucy K, an American short hair cat was the one who made the most impact on me. She lived from 2006 to May 24, 2020 and is now buried in our backyard in Carefree, Arizona safe from predators.












In order to remember her I provide the photo above right showing her profile with respect to the constellation of Leo. This constellation can be seen in spring after sunset providing a constant reminder of her when I look up at the night sky.  If you only knew how much joy she brought to us during her 14 years of life, you would truly be amazed. She deserves to be memorialized as Lucy in the Sky with diamonds.


A few photos from the numerous trips I took to new places.

In Chisinau, Moldova in 2010

Entering Serbia 2009

Srinigar, Kashmir 2007

paul d. maley, solar eclipse

With lowland gorillas in Uganda, January 2010

In the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, January 2015 the day before an annular solar eclipse

In Turkmenistan 2012

In Iraq with military guard at occultation site 2011

Plaque given to me by Azhy Chato Hassan in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan 2011 commemorating my successful minor planet occultation expedition there.

In the Bengazhi, Libya weather office (2005) working on understanding the prospects for observing the 2006 solar eclipse there

In Tiraspol, Transntstria 2010

In Damascus, Syria 1993

In Ajman 2013

At Kabul, Afghanistan airport 2007

In Baku, Azerbaijan 2011

paul d. maley, solar eclipse

  Claiming a small piece of Antarctica for Texas in March 2012

On a trip to Antarctica (Palmer Peninsula), I planted a flag laying ‘claim’ to that portion of Antarctica for the state of Texas. Since that part of Antarctica has been claimed by Argentina, Britain and Chile and none of these claims carries any legitimate legal weight, my claim should carry equal weight.

I have conducted many international astronomical outreach efforts in an effort to export interest in eclipses of stars by asteroids.  Amongst them are expeditions to Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Canada, India, South Africa, Taiwan and other countries to encourage local amateur astronomers in this endeavor.

With a 16-inch telescope at Clanwilliam, South Africa, May 2017 on an expedition to image the Trans Neptunian Object (TNO) 2014 MU69. T.Blank photo.

December 2016 with Indian Jyotirvidya Parisanstha (JVP) astronomy team for an occultation of a star by the asteroid Kalliope east of Pune, India. Photo at a gas station along the route. This expedition was successful.


In Jeddah, Saudi Arabia May 2015 training the university team to record the occultation of Regulus by the asteroid Dagmar. This expedition was successful.


In Shaqlawa, Kurdistan April 2011 working with local amateur astronomers and the military for the occultation of a star by the asteroid Peraga. This expedition was successful.

paul d. maley, solar eclipse

Paul and Hasan Al Hariri (Dubai Astronomy Group) meet in Dubai, January 2013 for outreach to prepare for the March 3 Watsonia asteroid occultation and to discuss the annular solar eclipse December 2019.

Baalbek, Lebanon 1995

In Dili, East Timor 2014

In Palestine May 18, 2017