Jason Kendall
William Paterson University
Amateur Astronomers Association of New York

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August 3: Observing Report: Night 41 of 100

Yesterday's LCROSS Lunar Party on the first was not enough for me. I had heard that the Wesleyan Impact should be visible if I just stayed out late enough and watch Jupiter pretty close. So, Monday the 3rd, I made the wild statement that I go out late on my Facebook account that I would go out at 11:30 PM to try to take in the Dark Impact. Alas, though, I overslept my nap after taking my lovely wife Donna out for a victory dinner for her concert that closed on Sunday at the Midtown International Theater Festival. (In that concert, incidentally, she had her singers perform the IYA Official Song .Up Up Up in the Sky. that she wrote.) In any event, a long day at work combined with a glass or two of wine, and I found myself waking up at 12:30 rather than 11:30. Not to be daunted, even by the few rings of the phone that I never heard due to my slumber, Donna and I ventured out to the baseball diamonds to see the rising Jupiter.

I was immediately rewarded by the best seeing of the Summer. After all the rain, and all the clouds, I just wanted to see it pretty well. I was EXTREMELY happy with going out there. The Moon, while low in the sky, did make for a good target. No one else showed up, so it was me and the telescope. Donna saw the Moon and Jupiter and then moved back to bed. Far too late for her. But out I stayed until 4:00 AM on a Monday night. Knowing I had to be at work by 10, I was limited only by my patience. And it paid off in spades.

Not only could I see Jupiter, but the Celestron 8. Nextstar SE coupled with a Meade 5000 UWA 8.8mm made it all jump out. The skies stayed amazingly steady, and the park was amazingly quiet. Almost no one venturing out that night. (Monday nights might just be the best nights..) It started with the Io just touching Jupiter's limb. With this setup, I could make out the disks of all four moons, as well as the 45 Cap in the field, ready to be occulted. As I watched, I noticed the Great Red Spot was coming around the limb. I knew I had a good night on my hands. I knew then, also, that I would not see the Wesleyan Impact, since it appears on the other side of the GRS. I went seeking around.

I saw Uranus and a bright blue disk. I saw Mars as a red crescent. The stars of the Perseus double cluster leaped out, and I wished I had some AAVOS charts to take measurements. Neptune was a faint blue dot. But most interesting of the fuzzies, was taking a peek at M31, the Andromeda Galaxy. As the dawn approached and the Moon set, I noticed the nebulosity from M31 overwhelm the sky brightness. Nothing distinct, but you could tell it was there by just going off it a bit, and seeing the sky background change.

In all, it was an entrancing evening. I watched the Red Spot come around the limb and then across the meridian. I could easily see variations in the bands, and my young guest, who hung with me for two hours, my only company besides Donna, could see something that might have been smaller white oval storm features. I saw the kinks and secondary bands, as well as the boundary between the Red Spot and the band, and its central peak contrast. It was truly amazing to see such variation so clearly. The evening was well worth the slightly wiped-out result at work the next day. That is why I have a French press on the desk and espresso-ground beans.

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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