Jason Kendall
William Paterson University
Amateur Astronomers Association of New York

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Observing report: March 17 and 18, Nights 13 and 14
March 20, 2009

So, on St. Patty's Day, I raced to the top of the hill, impromptu-style because the clouds cleared. Also, I put out a little notice to our group on Facebook and on Google groups. Knowing it was so last minute, I figured I would be up there alone. Well, not quite. As I walked up there with the 8" in a new bag, I saw a couple of slightly inebriated Poles sitting there drinking Martini and Rossi. I gamely offered them to join me at the top of the hill. About 15 minutes after I went up, passing by a couple of kids on the stairs "having a chat" they arrived.

The evening went very well. One of the men had been a fisherman on the Pacific, and remembered what the stars looked like from the deck of his vessel. The other was a building manager from 180th Street. They were good patient company. We stayed up there until after 11pm. The lights from Columbia Fields, as always, were terrible until they were turned off at 10:30. It just seems that observing in the park is almost not worth it until then. Stay tuned for updates for ventures into the park at later hours.

Anyway, we got a number of GREAT views of Saturn. I was able to easily see the shadow of the rings on the surface. I could easily see 4 bands of structure on the surface. I took my 2 guests on a standard tour of many sights, and I am REALLY liking that Meade ultra-wide eyepiece. We could easily see Titan, Iapetus, Rhea, Dione and Tethys. I will try to find Enceladus later.

However, I am finding a great desire to start taking photos. but I don't have a camera. So with the aid my my two drunken revelers, I held up my blackberry camera to the eyepiece and tried to be quite steady. I managed to get this shot through the eyepiece....

img00218.gif

yeah, I know there are two of them. But considering how difficult it is to hold that thing up to the eyepiece, it is crazy that I actually got this shot. Now I just need a decent camera. It'll be way too cool to get that rolling.

My St. Pat's revelers finished off their wine, and thanked me profusely for giving them a good 2-hour show. They walked away holding their arms up high yelling "I saw Saturn on March 17!"

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Now the 18th was a different story

We were up at Fort Tryon Park right down from the Cloisters. I nearly called it off because it was mostly cloudy. But this time, I was glad I did not. When I arrived, there was a small crowd walking my way. I held 15 people even as the clouds rolled in. All we could see was Saturn through the clouds, and Alcor and Mizar. I only took my 6" Dob because I had heard it might rain. The best part, though was the fundamental interest level.

There was a young boy, Gabriel, who really wanted to learn. So I showed him how to use the scope and to keep it centered. His mother and aunt(?) were also there, and they were quite interested. We had my next-door neighbors who gamely showed up. We also had a number of people who came up from Queens and from Brooklyn. They knew their stuff, and nicely, most of them had seen the New York Times article. They stuck around through thick and thin, and I related the fun of the previous night. Undeterred, I showed them the basics of star-watching, as they peeked in and out of the clouds.

They were a great bunch, and I hope they return tomorrow night, though it might be cloudy...



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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