Jason Shilling Kendall: Citizen Astronomer

William Paterson University
Amateur Astronomers Association of New York

William Paterson University

Jason Kendall is adjunct instructor of Astronomy at William Paterson University.

Jason is teaching one section of General Astronomy in the Fall of 2018:

Online Class

CRN: 10912, PHYS 1700-80, Online lectures and lab.

Required Materials

This is the best and most exciting science class at William Paterson University. Not only do you get to learn about the most amazing things you can ever learn, but you also get to learn how to use a telescope and see the heavens first-hand. Section 80 will feature a new approach that will involve an extended lab component and different versions of the assignments. This section will feature the actual use of real telescopes and Hubble Space Telescope data. You will schedule time on telescopes worldwide and make observations. I have been teaching astronomy at WPU since 2011, and section 80 will feature all the normal knowledge of an online class, but the assignments and labs will be completely about real telescope usage and real data manipulation.

Online Lecture Videos

Basic Draft of the Outline
  1. You will be using the remote observatory www.iTelescope.net to pilot actual telescopes to take images, reduce data, take data on nebulae and variable stars.
  2. You will be downloading and installing software such as GIMP, FITS Liberator, Stellarium, Microsoft Excel, Hubble Legacy Archive, Google Docs, DropBox, AAVSO Light Curve Generators and others. You must also be able to video-record your desktop and be able to upload such videos to your personal channel on Youtube for review. You must be able to download and install applications on your computer.
  3. iPads, Surfaces, and NetBooks/Chromebooks will NOT work for these applications. You must have a desktop computer (Mac or PC only) that you have full access to install applications from various third-party websites. This PC or Mac must have the latest patches for its OS version. Again, you CANNOT do this course with only a mobile phone-like device or tablet.
  4. The lecture component will be Youtube videos starting with this channel: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLyu4Fovbph6dNY-eRXbsOmLamss0RPyLh By the start of the semester, there will be many more videos for you to watch on this channel. The content will be a standard intro course with some digressions into interesting topics and areas.
  5. You will be tested weekly on specific video content using Skype conference calls. You must be able to download and run Skype on your PC or mobile device. The sessions for testing will be twice a week in the evenings on T/Th. The verbal exams will be live on the conference call.
  6. There will be only one comprehensive written exam, the Final, which must be proctored either on campus or at a school or public library. Scheduling that proctored exam will be up to you.
  7. There will be no need to purchase a textbook.
  8. It is fully expected that all students in Section 80 will be highly responsive to emails (within 12-24 hours) to all class messages.
  9. There is a requirement to go on your own to an actual observatory operated by an astronomy club or university for credit.
This is an initial draft outline of the course, and by late August, there will be a full syllabus on the WPU Physics website. You may receive emails about this section as the Summer progresses no matter which section of the astronomy course you end up choosing. If you have any questions, please contact me, or contact the Department Chair, Dr. Song Chung.

The Big Bang

The Planck mission team showed that the Cosmic Microwave Background tells us that the universe is 13.82 billion years old. Space is expanding at an exponetial rate due to Dark Energy. All the elements in the universe were formed in the first four minutes of existence.

Black Holes

What's a black hole? There's a big black hole at the center of the Milky Way. UCLA under Andrea Gerz has imaged this area. Hubble finds that the nearest quasar is powered by a double black hole. NASA's NUSTAR X-ray telescope sees big black holes everywhere. Other news from NASA about black holes. And a stellar-mass black hole: Cygnus X-1.


An Earth-like planet around a sun-like star. The first Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of its star. Way too cool. The Kepler Space Telescope team has found four planets in the habitable zones of their stars, and thousands of planets around other stars. 1030 confirmed planets around other stars.


Ancient habitable locations on Mars: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2013-181 and http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/news/whatsnew/index.cfm?FuseAction=ShowNews&NewsID=1438

Laboratory Activities

We do many lab activities in this class. Click here for resources for the activities.


There are only 13 sessions. Be in class. It's really important. Read the syllabus.

William Paterson University Department of Physics American Astronomical Society Amateur Astronomers Association of New York Astronomical Society of the Pacific