Dr. John Vallerga is an astrophysicist at the Space Sciences Laboratory, University of California, Berkeley. He specializes in the development of sensitive photon imaging detectors for astronomical telescopes, both in space and on the ground. He did his undergraduate work at Berkeley in Physics and received his Ph.D. in Astrophysics from M.I.T. in 1982. He has participated in many NASA astronomy missions, including the Extreme Ultraviolet Explorer, Cosmic Origins Spectrograph on the Hubble Space Telescope, the Far Ultraviolet Explorer, ALICE on the New Horizons Spacecraft to Pluto, the Chandra X-ray Observatory, the Galaxy Evolution Explorer and many more. Recently, he has been awarded a multi-year grant by NASA to develop 100x100mm microchannel plate detector systems for the next generation of UV space telescopes.
Dr. Vallerga, in collaboration with the artist Liliane Lijn, developed Solar Beacon an art installation atop the two towers of the Golden Gate Bridge, in celebration of its 75th anniversary in 2012 (http://solarbeacon.org/?page_id=20). The beacons used remotely programmed mirrors to beam the Sun’s light to observers throughout the Bay Area and appeared to them as two very bright lights that could be seen as far as Mt. Diablo during the day. A similar installation, Sunstar, is currently on top of Mt. Wilson in Southern California, and uses prisms instead of mirrors to beam colored light to distant observers across the L.A basin.