Jason Kendall
William Paterson University
Amateur Astronomers Association of New York

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Observing Report
May 30, Sunday night before Memorial Day

It was a wonderful night, and I didn't get injured. Two weeks ago, when I pulled the Obsession up to the hilltop, I had it laden with about 200 pounds of stuff. Tamora helped out, but I nearly cranked out my knee with bad movements and pulling so hard. This time, I made the calls on the intertubes to all comers, and went to get the prize at the storage unit at 214th and Broadway. It's always an interesting trip to take the scope through the streets up to the park.

As I went, I saw kids on the street who could probably have used an exciting outdoor activity, just I like I needed when I was their age. But on I went, thinking how, hopefully, this outreach will reach those kids. Anyway, on I pulled.

I arrived at the park entrance a bit ahead of schedule, at 7:30, and then started my up to to the top. Laying down chalk for latecomers, I arrived at the Meadow about 20 minutes later. But the pull to the top was much better than before. Now I could do the night a bit better, and in relative ease. I waited for an amorous couple to get up out of the meadow, who were lying down among the bugs on the grass.

As sunset approached, I set up and got ready for the night. A small crowd of about 15 people arrived, and went to watch the sunset.

After it was all up and running, the evening went quite well. Combining the Obsession's 15. UC setup with a 17mm Ethos eyepiece, we had a good night. The 8mm Meade is good, too, but I need some lead shot for counterweight. The sand is not doing the trick.

Anyway, we started off with a brilliant view of Venus in a waning gibbous phase. Easily visible in our humid skies, the slight wispy clouds overhead mixed were slowly draining away. Venus was right next to a mag 6 star that jumped to our attention even as the Sun was still in the sky. The night grew, and we gazed at Saturn. The moons put on a good show, we saw Rhea, Dione, Tethys in a line, with Titan and Iapetus off to the side.

The others there saw three meteors at around 10:00 PM EST. They were prominent and appeared to be radiating from near the head of the Great Bear. Perhaps something was paying us its tribute after a billion years in space. Maybe it'll be collected somewhere, and sold on eBay.

Mars gave a good sighting, too, though its small image in the eyepiece was disappointing. Time to get that counterweight for the smaller eyepiece. We cruised all over the sky for the visitors, with Alcor and Mizar, ν Draconis, Albireo, M3, M13 (an amazing view as always with this telescope), M81 and M82, which are quite pronounced. I always try to get the Leo Triplet, but the Manhattan Borealis to the South always washes them out, which is quite unfortunate. A darker sky awaits that view.

But the highlights last night were the Ring and the Dumbbell Nebulae. Finally pulled out the Televue OIII filter, and they jumped out like an Asian Carp. Details in the ring were evident, even under the low magnification of this eyepiece. The Dumbbell was likewise a good view; its characteristic shape easily visible in the light polluted sky. Nearby M56 also came into view with that group, but not with the filter so much. The interesting thing about the filter is how it picks out certain stars. Of course, I know all about this, but it is quite fascinating to pop it on a powerful telescope and see it in action.

I am really trying to just hold my desire to begin photography in check. I have noticed interesting sky events as part of Manhattan stargazing; the skies are pretty bright, but almost like clockwork at about 10:30 PM, the skies drop in brightness visibly to all people who are there. We notice big changes in lighting as stadia go to sleep, or when there are no big events.

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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