Jason Kendall
William Paterson University
Amateur Astronomers Association of New York

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Night 5: solo AM comet hunt...
February 8, 2009

Well, I set the alarm for 4:30AM and got up to hunt for Comet Lulin. I trudged out the door with my Meade ETX90.

Up on my ridge, the 40 degree weather was melting the snow, and making a mess. But the rocks under Inwood Hill were not giving up Winter so easily. It was mostly covered in ice, and especially he top steep part. Nearly wiped out a couple of times.

As I set up, the nearly full moon was setting in the West, and Saturn jumped out at me, confirming that it will be a great spot to look for the comet. A bit later to let Saturn get higher in the sky would be good on the 24th might not be a bad idea.

Anyway, setting up on slightly slick ice is never that much fun, and I smelled a skunk who walked nearby. After a few strange sounds to make him wary, I was observing with ease. First off was a visit to Saturn, nearly due South in Leo. The rings are now nearly edge on, but the sky was clear enough to let me see it quite crisply. There were high clouds, but they did not affect this view that much. There was no sign of Titan hidden in the shadow of the huge planet.

Now it was time for the big job. There was significant glare in the direction of Libra, and I am sure I passed over the comet a bunch of times. Zubenelgenubi was nice in the Meade, with a good split (how can it not...). I had memorized the sky chart, figuring that even wit the ETX90, I should be able to spot this little interloper. But prowl and prowl and prowl I did to no avail.

New York City claimed the innocence of another newbie. Not me, the comet, I mean. The comet was simply not visible with this small scope. That was quite unfortunate, but it is what it is. I swung the scope over to Lyra, which did not have as much AM Bronx glare, and there was the Ring at 10th magnitude, easy to see. And M13 was overhead, and easy to find, even just by gunsighting down the short tube.

But Comet Lulin remains elusive so far. We shall see about that, though....

There is time yet to find this little hairy one. And find it we shall.

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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