Jason Kendall
William Paterson University
Amateur Astronomers Association of New York

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AAA Lecture at the AMNH Kaufmann Hall
March 5, 2010

In the Footsteps of the Master: Discovering the Contributions of Galileo
John S. Gianforte, owner/director of the Blue Sky Observatory in Durham, New Hampshire

A Trip Down Memory Lane

Sometimes, the greatest stories in life are found by leaving one's home and venturing to far-off lands. John Gianforte, owner/director of the Blue Sky Observatory in Durham, New Hampshire, spoke on March 5 at the AMNH's Kaufmann Theater about his trip to Italy to learn about Galileo Galilei by trodding on the very paths that he took 400 years ago. The evening began with a related song by Donna Stearns and the Big Bangers, "Up Up Up in the Sky", which sings about Galileo and star-crossed lovers and spirituality. It was a perfect beginning to the evening. John walked us through a history of Galileo, giving the classic tale of his triumphs and woes, his luck and his missteps. John described the Father of Science as a deeply spiritual man, possessing a difficult family situation, with a dependent extended family, and daughters who never married. But John's greatest tale was his own travelogue. He admonished all in the astronomers in the crowd that while the glories of the night sky may be wondrous, they should take their spouses to Italy. John turned to the pictures from his travels to Venice, to show us the view from the tower that Galileo used to sell his first telescope to the Venetian Senate. He showed us photographs of the pulpit at the University of Padua that Galileo stood on to give his lectures; challenging his colleagues with aggressive and innovative thinking. John pointed out that moving back to Venice from Padua was not only an increase in salary, for which Galileo had a bloodhound's nose for opportunity, but that the nightlife, culture and food was spectacular, with Galileo's well-known appetite for it all. Using the beauty of the City that Galileo called home, John seemed to be showing yet another story; that of the love between himself and his wife. With the photos of her beaming back at John holding a wine glass with the green behind her clearly made their trip to retrace Galileo's steps all the more wondrous. John pointed out the front door of Galileo's home in Padua at the University where he taught, and noted that across the street was an archway through to a courtyard. He said the place had not changed for over 400 years, and that he expected to see Galileo dart from one building to the next under that archway, his head down muttering in thought. The real treat came as he described his departure from Italy. John saw an old woman who beckoned to them from across a street. They had to catch a plane, so on they moved. But he wondered if that woman had a room to rent, as is customary there, or whether she had a restaurant nearby with home-grown foods. He snapped a photo of the old woman in red, leaning like a woman of much younger years on a stone wall, never to know the mysterious and friendly intent of her beckoning. Galileo loved his Italy for so many reasons, that even through his house arrest, he could still see his daughter's convent, and could still make wine in his yard, and publish groundbreaking books on physics. Galileo taught the world not just about science, but about how to live a good and full life.

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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