Jason Kendall
William Paterson University
Amateur Astronomers Association of New York

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AAA Seminar at NYU
March 11, 2010

On March, 11, I led a group of about 30 people, many AAA members, and many students of Board Member Gerceida Jones' astronomy class on a roundabout exploration of many topics in current astronomy. But I wasn't doing all the leading. As chair of the seminar, I had a different goal. I had prepared a large amount of material, but I wanted to see where the night went. We started off talking about an extremely recent paper by a colleague of mine from graduate school, Dr. George Rhee, now at UNLV, about the origin of bulgeless dwarf galaxies. http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/arxiv/pdf/0911/0911.2237v1.pdf I played the accompanying video showing the merger of the dwarf galaxies and how supernovae halted the formation of the development of these small galaxies. After some discussion about the nature of this research and how it was carried out, the evocative video prompted the discussion of other bursting and explosive phenomena, and we veered into a discussion on the nature of Solar flares. This is exactly what I had wanted to occur. The goal of the seminar was not to be a lecture or class, but a free-form discussion on the nature of current topics. We talked about the size scales of solar flares, the history of observations, what solar flares can do, the great solar flare of 1859, and their effect on the world around us. One student started up a lively discussion about how birds or animals can detect these occurrences. It was important to bring such ideas up, because they highlight the Club's important duty to educate and inform the public about science. The ensuing discussion became quite lively, ending with a challenge to her to try to capture on video cellphones making popcorn pop. Indeed, we ranged far in our discussion. I steered the topic to a new area, Mercury, to look at pictures from the Messenger mission, and quickly we shifted focus to exoplanets and the Kepler Space Telescope. We talked about the ones that were just reported at the AAS meeting in January, as well as how fast they are being discovered. I was just on a conference call earlier in the day with NASA/JPL where the speaker was recapping the recent advances, and I shared the entire PowerPoint from that conference call with the attendees. This led to my requesting a student to bring in next time a discussion on interstellar planetary objects. Also, this led to a talk about dark matter, and whether such planets would make up dark matter. Maya Kushner will be bringing us a report next time about MACHOs and the search for large objects in the halo of our Galaxy. I then pulled up the Digital Universe from the Hayden, and we looked at our local Solar Neighborhood, and I highlighted the known exoplanets. We looked for the nearby exoplanets, and as we cruised around the 3-D data set, I issued a challenge to all in attendance and to all AAA Members. Bring a 10 minute presentation to the seminar with 10 Powerpoint slides and be ready for 5-10 minutes of questions. Send me an email, so I know what you want to bring, and I can guide you into the process. We want everyone to come and spark a lively round of discussion like we had that night!

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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