Sunday, July 24, 2011

Deceased--Bill Sterne Jr.

Bill Sterne Jr.
1946 to July 18th, 2011

"Bill Sterne Jr., astronomy expert and photographer, dies at 65"


Tim Stanley

July 24th, 2011

Tulsa World

The moon was invisible to the naked eye and almost invisible through a telescope.

But sure enough, though largely obscured by dust in the atmosphere, there it was. Bill Sterne could just make it out, peering upward through the new telescope he had gotten for Christmas.

The 17-year-old would later describe the eclipse, which he witnessed on the morning of Dec. 30, 1963, from his Tulsa home, as the "darndest one he ever saw."

Lunar eclipses would always excite him that way.

A Tulsa photographer and film technician who traveled the world to watch and photograph eclipses, William Putnam "Bill" Sterne Jr. died July 18. He was 65.

A graveside service was held Friday at Floral Haven Cemetery.

It was observing the planet Mars, as it shone blood-red and brilliant from the constellation Taurus the Bull, that first attracted Bill Sterne to astronomy.

He got his first telescope when he was 10 years old.

His sister Vicki Cavenah remembers standing with Sterne in their backyard as children, tracking Sputnik, the headline-making Russian satellite, across the night sky.

Sterne had an intense interest in just about every area of science as a boy, his sister said.

"Rocks, shells, dinosaurs - the weather. For every major tornado in history, he could tell you when and where it occurred," said Cavenah, adding that she learned a lot about the natural world from her brother.

But nothing could eclipse his passion for astronomy, which he paired with a budding enthusiasm for photography.

Sterne shot his first eclipse in 1972 at Prince Edward Island, Canada. Future ones would take him and his specialized camera gear all over the world.

Recognized as an authority on eclipses, volcanoes and weather phenomena, Sterne's photos were published in many journals, magazines and textbooks.

One multiple-sequence photograph, showing a crescent moon and the planet Venus setting over the Tulsa skyline in 1988, was used for the cover of the book "Celestial Delights."

Sterne set up his equipment atop the Hillcrest Physicians Building, 12th Street and Utica Avenue, for the three-hour shoot.

A Tulsa native and Central High School graduate who held a journalism degree from the University of Tulsa, Sterne served four years in Vietnam with the Navy and then the Marines.

He was a longtime member of the Astronomy Club of Tulsa and an occasional lecturer on celestial subjects.

Bill Sterne Jr. is survived by his mother, Ruth Sterne; a sister, Vicki Cavenah, and one brother, David Sterne.

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