Jason Kendall
William Paterson University
Amateur Astronomers Association of New York

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January 21 Observing: We Are ON! Night 1 of 100.
January 20, 2009

The tally begins: we got 7 tonight. Also, one woman who recognized me from the paper, and about 20 walk-by's who didn't know what we were doing...

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We had a nice night out, even with clouds rolling in at 8. But for a brief shining 10 minutes or so, the clouds parted, and the glories were revealed. With Orion in the East we could see sigma Orionis, a fourth magnitude star, clearly. We could also see in that direction c Ori, the 4.5 mag. star in the sword. You see, New York skies can actualy show you things. We had a small group, and most people were walk-bys, and I gave away about 6 calendars out of my hoped for 10. In all, we had two Columbia grad students (hey you two, send me your names, and we'll grab beer at the Kilt!), one intrepid dog walker (Pamela walking Launcelot), a high schooler trying to get home to do finals, a passerby who just couldn't believe what we were doing, a man with computer problems tagging along with an area amateur astrophotographer Howard.

Howard was amazing. He had brought with him two pairs of binoculars on a mount and an astroscan. He was visibly disappointed at the fact that we stayed under the streetlights, but that was the only way we could actually show anything off to anyone. I explained to him the need to do the public outreach, but he remained stoic, not wanting to say just how much he wanted to scramble up that hill. But, he was especially hardy, and I do owe him a beer and a trek to the Top of the Hill, where we can do some serious observing. I will shift some of the nights to be deliberate hilltop nights.

If those clouds had not come in, we would have gone to the top of the hill with our little band. As it stood, we had a good time with Gamma Andromeda, M42, and as always our favorite Double Cluster of Perseus.

But the best is the clear reaction we were getting from the neighbors. I panicked the high schooler by asking him what his finals were in. As he rattled off the litany, it was clear that he would rather be out in the cold with us. As it stood, I handed him a calendar and said "This is yours." "You mean? I can have this?" "Yup, it's yours." "Sweet!" It was a quick gift for taking the time to peer through the scopes at just the right moment. Not many people give away cool thingies just because. I hope he can come back again. I need more helpers for the Fall!

Charles was out with Howard doing a bit of learning. Howard was fixing his computer, and Charles wanted to learn more about the stars. I did a bit of a core dump at him unleashing a bit-torrent about the stars and the clusters and how far away things are and the brightnesses and the cloud types and so on. He looked a bit dizzy from it, but said "I want to learn more about this, that's why I am here."

In all, we had just a few people, but the park was surprisingly populated for a 21-degree Wednesday night. People just gotta get out of their tiny apartments. It is true.

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From earlier in the day...

The Clear Sky Clock hints that TONIGHT will be good for observing. We will meet at Inwood Hill Park entrance at Isham and Seaman Streets. We will be seeing whatever we can up in the sky. As an extra added bonus, for the hardy souls that come on out, I will have 2009 IYA Calendars for the first 10 people. So come on out at about 8:00 until 10:00 PM, Wednesday night.

Links:
Clear Sky Clock:
http://cleardarksky.com/c/NYCNYkey.html



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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