NOVAC Public Meeting, 9/10/23, 7:30pm EDT

Join NOVAC as we welcome Dr. Alphonse Sterling, solar astrophysicist from NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Alabama.  Dr. Sterling is an experienced solar eclipse photographer and will share the tricks of his trade as we prep for the eclipses in Oct 2023 and in Apr 2024.

This NOVAC meeting will be held both in-person at George Mason University as well as live-streamed via Google Meet.  Dr. Sterling will be speaking to us virtually from his home in Alabama, but you are welcome to join us as we gather at GMU and watch the talk from there.  Here is information for both ways to connect.

Note: Cover image courtesy of NOVAC member Charles Bradshaw.

In Person Option:

Meet at George Mason University, Exploratory Hall, Room 3301.  Check GMU web site for nearby parking options.  Some lots or garages do charge for parking.  Room will be open as early as 6:45pm.

Virtual Option: Join using Google Meet

Video call link:
Or dial: ‪(US) +1 484-430-1468‬ PIN: ‪486 839 001‬#
More phone numbers:

Presentation Details:

Talk Title: Solar Eclipse Photography and the Science of the Sun


I have traveled to see eleven total solar eclipses, beginning with one in Walla Walla, Washington, in 1979.  I decided to take pictures of them beginning in 2006; that changed everything(!), as — for better or worse — the focus was then on getting “the shot” instead of seeing the eclipse.  During this presentation I will discuss my experiences, both positive and negative, with those attempts.  My best success was during the 2017 eclipse, the most recent total solar eclipse to cross the US.  I will introduce my equipment and techniques employed for that and other eclipses.  While astrophotography is one of my hobbies, my “day job” is studying the Sun, and so I will also present a brief overview of the science of the Sun and discuss some of the science that we can learn from solar eclipses.


Alphonse Sterling was born in Fresno, CA, and majored in physics as an undergraduate at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).  In part because he wanted to experience non-California weather(!), he attended graduate school at the University of New Hampshirein Durham, NH, where he obtained his PhD in physics in theoretical studies of the Sun’s atmosphere.  He subsequently held a postdoctoral position at the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), and that was followed by a second postdoctoral position at Kyoto University, Japan.  Following that he was employed for NRL (in the group of Dr. George Doschek) as a resident scientist in Japan, where he worked with the Yohkoh satellite (which was a Sun-observing satellite jointly operated by Japan, the US, and the UK).  Later, for several years he worked for NASA’s Marshall Spaceflight Center (MSFC), both at MSFC’s location in Huntsville, AL, and in Japan for the Hinode satellite mission, a Yohkoh follow-up mission operated jointly by Japan, the US, the UK, and other nations.  Since 2013 he has worked full time as a solar astrophysicist at MSFC in Huntsville.


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