Jason Kendall
William Paterson University
Amateur Astronomers Association of New York

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Wednesday night...
June 17, 2009

So far the prediction is for clouds tonight. If we do go out, we are scheduled to be at Fort Tryon Park by the Cloisters.

Thanks to Carla Zanoni for directing some traffic this way. When I first approached the NYC Parks people about this project, they were excited about the possibility of people using the Parks at night responsibly. Even Commissioner Castro mentioned to me during the Inwood Star Fest that he thought this was a great way to get people to help "Take Back The Parks."

It is not a stated goal of the International Year of Astronomy to help with urban renewal and quality of life issues, for obvious reasons. But as I stated in papers to the professional astronomical community at the American Astronomical Society conferences in June 2008 and January 2009, there is no way to avoid it. In fact, urban astronomers have a peculiar obligation to help their communities help keep their parks safe for use after dark.

Astronomers help the community understand the value of beautiful night skies and help to build family and community involvement with science and education. These things are not possible if you have dealers and muggers in your midst. Our families want their children growing up not in fear, and not being proud to have "lived through all that stuff", they want their kids to grow up to be successful and intelligent contributors to their families, their neighborhoods and to their societies. There is no better entry point for citizenship than through science education, and there is no better starting point for science education than Astronomy. But appreciation of this science and all the natural wonders it encompasses (which are so easily appreciated without understanding astrophysics) is not possible if the location and groundwork are denied.

We need to attend the meetings with our councilmembers and our political figures. We need to assure that our parks are safe for our families.

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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