Canis Majoris, the “Big Dog” with open cluster galaxy M41 at its heart and the brilliant star, Sirius, pointing the way, is the appropriate constellation to watch for as we contemplate the loss of our friend and fellow Space Tweep, Colin Greenhalgh; known to us all as @OriginalColin on Twitter.

Colin lost his battle with a difficult illness on January 24, 2012 in Durham, UK. As the realization of his untimely passing spread through the Twitter community, it’s become wonderfully obvious that he was truly loved by so many and especially by his fellow Space Tweeps. Second only to his devotion to and love of dogs, especially rescued dogs, Colin returned the favor, and loved us back!

Growing up in England ensured that Colin was exposed to astronomy and related subjects at a very early age. Amateur astronomy and a working knowledge of the stars and constellations remains to this day an enviable element in British education, and that exposure nurtured an early love of all things “Space” in the young Colin. As many US tweeps have learned in their interaction with so many UK tweeps, this love of “looking up” instilled in youth, lasts a lifetime.

Before the end of the Space Shuttle Program, Colin, like the rest of us, participated enthusiastically in the excitement and electricity of following the launches and landings of the Space Shuttle in real time, with the Space Tweep Community (on at least two or more continents) through Twitter, and frequently through @SpaceFlightNow. But his love of space, fascination with space flight and knowledge of astronomy were not all that made Colin a likely member of the Space Tweeps. Colin was an all-round science geek! From Star Trek to Star Wars to “Apollo 13” to anything associated with NASA, or its counterpart the ESA; from the SDO and its warnings of oncoming CME’s and their spectacular aurora; to a deep love for and profound respect for those lucky enough to leave this planet and return to it he loved it all. That was Colin’s way.

It took the modern miracle of Twitter, and the community of tweeps who coalesced around the US Space Program and NASA, together with the tireless leadership of Jen Scheer (@flyingjenny) to bring forth the “Space Tweep Society.” It took about 5 minutes for Colin to sign up!

A charming story, shared by Colin’s beloved younger sister Ros, explains how an early adventure sealed the deal: Ros writes “ . . . I take enormous comfort knowing how much he loved the ‘company’ of his tweet friends and I was delighted when he went to London to meet some of them as this was a ‘big’ journey for him as he had very little money and rarely traveled. He couldn’t stop talking about it when he returned home. His love of Space started when he became friends with an American boy called Randy at the age of 14 (when he was visiting his Aunt in Seaham where we lived). Randy’s family invited him to Michigan for a holiday which included a trip to Florida and subsequent visit to the Space Centre. From that point on he was forever ‘hooked’ :) ” I think we can see that joy on Colin’s face in this photo!

One of Colin’s biggest thrills occurred this past year, when he traveled to London and met with @Craftlass, @SpaceKate, @leslieberg @herrea and @flyingjenny at The Lyric Pub. He’d traveled 270 miles south by train and, but for his lack of wings, could have flown back to Durham on his own!

His experience was memorialized by Jen’s presentation of treasured NASA patches and, of course, Space Tweep Society patches of which he was so proud! His tweet accompanying this picture was “You can’t just buy these. You have to be given them!” And he was.

Colin’s interests were so much deeper and broader than can be given proper due here. He was, first and foremost completely in love with “his” dogs! For reasons which no one can fail to understand, Colin was the trusted walker and care provider for dogs belonging to others, whether they were simply unable to spare the time, or away from Durham for days or weeks. There was almost nothing in his life that pleased him so much as to be out walking with them through the beautiful area of fields and streams not far from his home.

As you can see from the images above and the sunset following, even though he underplayed it, Colin had a talent and an eye for photography; a gift from his late father of whom he was very proud. His dad was a professional photographer and, in the days before the digital camera came along, film needed development. When he was old enough, Colin helped his dad in the darkroom and once mentioned that the experience drew him to the study of chemistry. That education eventually took him to Durham University, where he was a long time technician in the Chemistry Department.

Colin’s heart, his intelligence, his talent for snarky British humor, his progressive passions, his sheer charm – even his cranky “arse” moodiness made him so dear to so many of us. 54 years and change was not enough!

Next time you’re out and it’s clear, look up and find Canis Majoris. Colin is likely up there somewhere with his Big Dog.
~~~

Your grateful friend,
Maren (@OregonMJW)