Michael A. Stecker


Alson Wong, M.D.
Rancho Cucamonga, California

Contact information

Growing up in Southern California, I became interested in space and astronomy at an early age. My father worked for North American Aviation (later known as North American Rockwell, Rockwell International, and now as Boeing North American) which gave me the opportunity to learn more about the Apollo program in the late '60s and early '70s. In primary and secondary school I read all I could about astronomy and space exploration.

My first observing instrument was a pair of 7x35 Bushnell binoculars which I received as a gift. The images weren't very sharp and were quite astigmatic, but it was enough to get me started on objects like the Moon, M31, the Pleiades, and Hyades. I bought my first telescope, an Edmund Astroscan, during my second year of college at the University of California, Irvine in 1982-83. This scope was a nice instrument for learning how to find and observe objects through a telescope. With the Astroscan, I was able to find and observe nearly all of the Messier objects.

During the fall quarter of 1983, I took a course at UCI in observational astronomy taught by Dr. Wallace Tucker, who was then splitting his time between UCI and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. The next quarter I became a teaching assistant for the course, which gave me unlimited access to the school's observatory, which contained a C-14, C-8, and C-5. In 1985 I attended my first big star party, the Riverside Telescope Makers Conference near Big Bear, California. After graduating magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences, I started medical school at UCI. The time demands of medical school left me little time for observing. While doing my residency in pediatrics at UCLA Medical Center, I bought my second telescope, a 10" Coulter Odyssey. My first opportunity to use this scope under a really dark sky was at the 1991 Texas Star Party, where I was astounded at how clear and dark the skies were. It was at the 1991 TSP where Barbara Wilson and Steve O'Meara made the first visual observations of a gravitational lens through an amateur telescope. I happened to walk past Barbara's scope just as Steve was stepping down from the ladder, but I was having so much fun looking through my new scope and through Brian Skiff's 6" Astro-Physics refractor that I didn't stop to take a look (one of my biggest astronomical regrets).

In 1993 I started my current job with the Southern California Permanente Medical Group, and in 1995 I saw my first total solar eclipse on a cruise in the South China Sea. In 1997, as Comet Hale-Bopp became increasingly prominent, I started piggyback astrophotography and began to observe with the Riverside Astronomical Society, which I joined later that year. In 1998, I began taking prime focus film shots with my C-9.25, and in 2002 I started CCD imaging with an ST-10XME. In the past few years I have traveled to solar eclipses in Turkey (1999), Zambia (2001), Australia (2002), Antarctica (2003), Egypt (2006), China (2008, 2009), French Polynesia (2010) and Australia 2012.

Areas of interest
Deep sky CCD imaging, solar eclipse observing and imaging
2012 Australia total solar eclipse

Astrophotography publications
Images from Science (image of total solar eclipse on June 21, 2001):

2001 solar eclipse image also published in the third edition of the book
 Totality: Eclipses of the Sun, written by Mark Littman, Fred Espenak, and Ken Willcox, on page 4.

Sky & Telescope
February 2004: p. 120,  total solar eclipse on November 23, 2003
NGC 6939 and 6946 published on page 62 of the August, 2012 issue of Sky & Telescope
Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada
August and October, 2006  issues

Observing site
Goat Mountain Astronomical Research Station, Landers, CA:

Astronomical Equipment
A Vixen 102-ED refractor is attached to the LX200R
Paramount ME attached to a 48-inch metal pier
ST-10XME and STL-11000M CCD


Alson traveled to Chile in November 2003 before flying over Antarctica for a solar eclipse. While in northern Chile he visited three major observatories: the Very Large Telescope on Paranal, the Inter-American Observatory on Cerro Tololo, and the Gemini South Observatory on Cerro Pachon. He also spent an evening observing at Mamalluca Observatory near La Serena, and did some sightseeing in Southern Chile including Torres Del Paine National Park.


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