Jason Kendall
William Paterson University
Amateur Astronomers Association of New York

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Inwood Hill Park West Overlook Meadow
Saturday, September 4 Observing Report

Milky Way sighted in Manhattan?

On this Labor Day weekend, I had intended to take the 15" up to the top. The clear skies eckoned with the passing of the dud hurricane Earl, which veered out to sea, driven by a cold front coming down from Canada. Well, the wind was worrisome to me, and I did a site survey in the afternoon. I found that the hilltop still had a bare patch with a lot of loose dirt. I wasn't yet prepared to put down a couple of gallons of water to keep it down, and I didn't have a big enough tarp. So I just took the 8" up to the top.

It was a fine night. We had about 40 people come up. A lot from Brooklyn and Queens, and a few who heard about it from the High Line events. We were able to see down to 4th magnitude at the zenith, and late in the night, after about 12, I saw the faintest hint of the Milky Way. Mostly because I knew what to look for. The darkest skies were in the West, and Cygnus was overhead. It was fairly light polluted (3rd mag over The Bronx) to the East, but the gradient of sky brightness clearly dropped off going from the East up to the Zenith and then to the West. There was the faintest hint of light along the neck of Cygnus, which was at the Zenith. We could see it just slightly darker on either side of the Swan, which indicated seeing a hint of the Milky Way. This is probably the only way to see it in Manhattan. Anyway, it wasn't just me. The three people there agreed with my assessment. It was an astonishing result that I had never expected to see in the Big Apple.


On the observing front, the wind was a bit of a problem, and pushed the scope around a lot. But people persevered and loved the night. Our best apparition was actually M31, which became quite striking even in an 8". Jupiter is always a pleaser, and is great at this time, because it rewards the late-night observers. We did the standard stuff at our local star parties, because the 8" rewards the likes of M57, M27, Cor Caroli, Albireo and the like.

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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