Jason Kendall
William Paterson University
Amateur Astronomers Association of New York

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Introduction to Astrophysics
A Class for the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York

Astrophysics for Amateurs

Instructor: Jason Kendall

The class will be a reading class of the entire text "Astrophysics is Easy!: An Introduction for the Amateur Astronomer" by Mike Inglis. This class is an offering of the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York.


Astrophysics means the physics of astronomy. The text will cover many areas, starting with measurements in astronomy (distance, brightness, color, velocity, temperature, size, and mass) and how they are done. We will discuss classification of stars and the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram of stellar evolution (birth, life, aging, death, and remnants). We will then cover the interstellar medium and its contents (such as bright and dark nebulae and their constituents). We'll learn about Red Giants, Supenovae, Neutron Stars and Black Holes. The links above and below show the book's reviews and have its table of contents as a free preview. The text is designed with amateurs in mind, giving the essential ideas about physical processes without sifting through heavy mathematics. As such, it is a survey course of the standard, well-established processes of astrophysics. I wil be supplementing the text with lectures and internet resources.

Class Structure

The structure of the class will follow the text, with students expected to do extensive at-home reading. The class time will be dominated by discussions on the reading for the week, with me leading the discussion and providing guidance and giving probing questions. Don.t be surprised if I randomly ask people to explain a whole section. In other words, don.t just read. Study it, and be ready with questions and be ready to talk about it. Answering questions about the week.s reading is a more important use of the class.s time than any lecture I might give, so I will de-emphasize lecture in order to answer all questions and to moderate discussion of the topics in the reading. This discussion is critical to a reading course and builds new intellectual relationships. We will always start with a recap of the reading, highlighting the salient points. Students will have required reading prior to the first class. So please see the links above and below to the textbook and get it now. The text is just under 200 pages, so finishing the text in six weeks will be easy. Class size is limited to 26 students.

How Much Work Is the Class?

As this is a reading course, there will be no grading or tests. The homework will be about 30 pages of the text per week, which will require at least six to eight hours each week. Each student is also expected to use the Internet to look up unfamiliar topics and words. It.ll take work and dedication to read this entire book in six weeks. It is good to know how to skim past certain sections and know how to find things on Google. Students will be expected to actively engage each other during the course outside of the class environment. Attendees are not required to have a physics background nor an extensive mathematics background. The course is geared for both adults and advanced high school or precocious middle-school students.


Paul Michael's "The Network" Studios.
242 West 36th St, 3rd Floor, between 7th & 8th Avenues. Subway: A/C/E/1/3 to Penn Station.
Google Map


  • January 25, 6:00 PM - 9:00 PM
  • February 1, 6:00 PM - 9:00 PM
  • February 8, 6:00 PM - 9:00 PM
  • February 15, 6:00 PM - 9:00 PM
  • February 22, 6:00 PM - 9:00 PM
  • March 1, 6:00 PM - 9:00 PM

On all evenings, we will treat 6:00 to 6:30 as "Home Room", where you can mingle prior to the formal start of the class. Also, we will never formally go past 8:30, unless our discussions lead us that way. This setup is required because the studio has multiple uses, and we'll be walking in after a different class, and there may be uses of the studio after we are done. We don't want to get rushed on either side.


Purchase of the text is required of all attendees. The text is available online at Amazon and as an eBook from various vendors. Class members will be asked to help pay for the room. 18 hours of classroom time at ~$35 an hour makes the total room expense $630, which when divided up by 20 students (and one teacher) will be $32 per student. Alternate locations are being sought, if class size requires. All attendees are asked to join the Club. Non-members will be matriculated into the Club for $25 as a requirement to being in the class.

Total Expenses Per Attendee:


To assure your place and confirm registration, please contact Jason Kendall here:
jkendall {aT} Moonbeam.Net

You will be asked to provide an email address that will be used for announcements via a Google Group. Membership in the Google Group is a requirement for the class.

Supplementary Texts:

The following list are excellent books used in undergraduate classes in astrophysics. None of these are required, but I highly recommend them.

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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