Jason Kendall
William Paterson University
Amateur Astronomers Association of New York

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Cold Winter Solstice
December 22, 2008

Well, there it was. 15 degrees and no wind chill. Clear skies, and new-fallen snow. Had to go out there. So I packed up the telescope, or more precisely, put it on my back, and trudged out into the wintry weather. I had announced it on the Google group, and most people thought it was madness. Which in a way it was. But, I needed a couple of fun pix for the upcoming paper, and I wanted to try for some celestial highlights before the New Year and the beginning of the International Year of Astronomy. Interestingly enough, on this same Winter Solstice, Pope Benedict praised all Astronomers taking part in the upcoming IYA. It is a good thing. And it is wonderful that the Vatican has one of Europe's premiere observatories. It is a good way to put all the hullabaloo behind it. Good old-fashioned Catholicism is looking more modern than any mega-church.

The evening came on, and as I set up, I decided tonight would be the night to hunt for Messier objects under the streetlights with white snow reflecting upwards. Well. That was to be interesting. When you can read a star map by such light, you need something to help you dark-adapt. And there is not very much.

Elvin came out, and now he is part of Team IAP. We are still seeking funding for the photometric equipment for the Epsilon Aurigae project. Hopefully, it'll fall in place. I really want to do this science project in the City and have as collaborators local youth and energetic amateurs. Elvin is one of them. Andre is another. There are many others, too.

Anyway, the sky brightness was too much to even see M36/37/38 in Auriga, but somehow we could see other clusters nearby. The best part was just standing out in the cold with Elvin and talking shop. The year ended with beautiful snowfall, and clear, hard skies. New York is a tough place to do it, but I am determined to get this rolling.

The schedule is planned for all the projects of next year. Now I just need that interesting combination of perseverance and good luck that marks any successful voyage.

Big efforts lead to unexpected rewards. Let's see what 100 night of going outdoors will bring.



About Jason Kendall

I am currently adjunct faculty at William Paterson University teaching astronomy. I hold a Master of Science in Astronomy from New Mexico State University. I am also a board member of the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York. Since 2008, I have led the Inwood Astronomy Project which brought over 200 events of stargazing and public astronomy outreach to upper Manhattan, including the historic Inwood Star Fest, where Inwood Hill Park lights were turned off as part of the 100 Hours of Astronomy event in IYA2009. This was the first time in New York City history when park lights were turned off for an astronomy event. I've also focused on park safety due to an uptick in sexual assaults in Washington Heights and Inwood during 2011. I've worked to make our parks safer by encouraging public use of parks at night through night-time events with Park Rangers. I have led numerous "starwatching parties" and astronomy events in New York City, New Mexico, Minnesota, New Jersey, Connecticut and Texas. I am also proud to have been part of the NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador Program from 2009 to 2012. It all started way back in the fourth grade by the encouragement of two noted astronomers, Charles Schweighauser and Bart Bok. I saw Saturn through Charlie's telescope at then Sangamon State University on a clear Illinois night, and Bart encouraged me under those stars to study hard to come visit him at Kitt Peak National Observatory. I finally did make it down there about a decade after Bart passed away, and I found the favorite spots in Tucson, Arizona, where Bart and his wife Priscilla would spend when they were not gazing at the stars. Bart and his wife were pioneers in the study of the Milky Way, and their studies of the starforming regions called Bok Globules. It's even in my family. My great-grandfather was a Midwestern minister who used to preach his sermons out under the dark, cloudless nights. He always believed that getting out and experiencing the wonders of the natural world was a central part of being human. My family has always been inspired by his words: "We look up to look within." I hope that you'll join me under the stars or at one of my talks.

Come see what's up in the sky!

Jason Kendall

We look up to look within

William Paterson University Department of Physics American Astronomical Society Astronomical Society of the Pacific Amateur Astronomers Association of New York

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