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November 2, 2008
Well Hallow'een came and went. It was an excellent evening in our Inwood Hill Park. I set up at about 6:00 PM in the soccer field down by where Bruce Kamiat used to do the gig. The Inwood Haunted Forest was in full swing, and the sun was setting. Happily, Rich Rosenberg, President of the AAA was there with his binoculars, and another local astronomer, Andre Stevens, with a 5" Newtonian on a GEM. I had trucked down the old 6" Dob, and we saw just above the trees our old friend Jupiter. Then the fun began.
Over the course of the next 4 hours, we had at least 100 people drop by. I passed out numerous posters, postcards, and of course Milky Way bars. The ghouls, princesses, spider-men, angels and zombies all impatiently waited for their turn to take a peek at the big planet. Even fellow AMNH Explainer and Tour Guide Lary Furtch showed up to lend a hand.
Only three of the moons were in view, Io was in Jupiter's shadow, and returned only after Jupiter had set behind the trees. There was one very sad goblin who had been waiting for her chance, so instead I gave her a great picture of Saturn from the Hubble Space Telescope.
After the 50 or so people to look at Jupiter had had their chance, now it was time to get cracking. The next best thing that was easy to find and interpret was Albireo. While not as dramatic as the great Jupiter, it was amazing to set it up with finding the star in the sky, pointing out that most star do not appear to have color to the naked eye, and that Albireo looked like one star. With the good setup, we were able to show 40 or so people this double. We even got some good "Wow!" and "Cool" responses just for this one beautiful pair.
As the evening would down, and the younger goblins went home, Andre had found the Pleiades hanging over the Columbia football field. And Rich was showing off various items with his binoculars. I took the time to focus on H and ? Persei, that famous double-cluster. It always jumps right out at with my wide-field lens.
Well, 10PM rounded about, and it was time to bid goodnight. Andre was great in his Obi-Wan costume, while Rich and I just were bundled up against the oncoming Fall cool air. In all, it was a great night of outreach and learning. So many wonderful new friends with many languages.
Next up is the Inwood Nature Center's Star Trek. We'll be up on top of the hill on that cold end-of-November night.
About Jason Kendall
I hold a Master of Science in Astronomy from New Mexico State University and am currently adjunct faculty at William Paterson University teaching astronomy. 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!
The Inwood Astronomy Project is thankful for the support of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, the New York Public Library, the International Year of Astronomy and the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York
We look up to look within