Jason Shilling Kendall: Citizen Astronomer

William Paterson University
Amateur Astronomers Association of New York

Public Lectures at the Explorers Club

The Explorers Club.
46 E. 70th Street, New York, NY 10021

The First Light of the Universe

October 24, 2016

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The universe has been expanding and changing since its birth at the Big Bang. In March of this year, the most distant, and therefore the furthest back in time, galaxy was discovered, which gives us its light from about 400 million years after the beginning of time. This discovery is likely the greatest achievement that can be done with the Hubble Space Telescope. Its successor, the James Webb Space Telescope, to be launched in late 2018 will surpass this, hopefully showing us the light of the first stars. As it stands, this discovery demands explanation: What is the expansion of the Universe? How do we know it's occurring? How can we actually make these measurements with confidence? Our ability to know how far back in time we're seeing relies on a Cosmic Distance Ladder, culminating in the calibration of the measuring sticks of space and time itself. Come see how we start from the measuring the distance between Earth and Venus using radar to perceiving the stretching of the fabric of space and time itself over the entire cosmos.

Jason Kendall is adjunct faculty at Hunter College and William Paterson University. He holds a Masters of Science in Astronomy from New Mexico State University in the field of general relativity and cosmology. He also holds a Master of Fine Arts in Theater from the University of Texas at Austin. His day job is with BGC Partners/Cantor-Fitzgerald, where he was critical in rebuilding his company following the disaster of September 11, 2001. This event changed Jason's life trajectory. Using this unique combination of talents and background, Jason has become the pre-emeninent Education and Public Outreach specialist in the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut region, giving numerous public talks on astronomy and physics. His work in EPO was an integral part of the IYA2009 effort, where he did 60 events in one year, including managing the only event in the history of NYC Parks where lights were turned off in a major park for astronomy. He's used his astronomy EPO to assist with women's safety and crime reduction in NYC Parks. As a Board member of the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York, Jason has helped thousands of New Yorkers experience the wonder of the dark night sky. On the national scale, he was a regular guest on the Weather Channel's "Wake Up with Al" and is frequently heard on FOX5 NY, WCBS, and on WNYC's "The Takeaway". His EPO work has also been the subject of three New York Times articles. His research areas are in the development of educational materials to be used for introductory astronomy coursework, with special emphasis on using actual data to demonstrate the circuitous path that science takes in its search for how Nature works.

Latest Discoveries at Pluto and Mars

February 29, 2016

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2015 heralded astonishing discoveries in the Solar System. The spacecraft New Horizons flew by Pluto, giving humanity its first pictures of the Ninth Planet. The journey was 9 years to get to Pluto, and the discoveries were beyond what anyone had expected. Jason Kendall will highlight the trip and what was found, as well as giving a bit of background to the battle over the word “planet.” Then he will take us to Mars, where Curiosity has been roaming the surface, seeking signs of past habitability of Mars. The recent confirmation of current, seasonal water flows on Mars only raises our own desire to set foot on this not-so-alien world. Through the rovers and orbiters, we see a place that is quite familiar, and that popular media as well as serious explorers hope to put feet on the ground of the red planet within the next 20 to 30 years. We’ll discuss the nature of the past conditions on Mars and how they were discovered and how humans may soon reach out and grasp the dirt of the Red Planet with their own hands.

Jason Kendall is currently adjunct faculty at William Paterson University teaching astronomy. He holds a Master of Science in Astronomy from New Mexico State University and a Master of Fine Arts in Theater from the University of Texas at Austin. This unique combination has propelled him to be one of the foremost astronomy and science popularizers in the US. As a board member of the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York since 2008, Jason has led the 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. Jason also focused on park safety due to an uptick in sexual assaults in Washington Heights and Inwood during 2011. Jason’s start in astronomy was back in the fourth grade by the encouragement of two noted astronomers, Charles Schweighauser and Bart Bok. After seeing Saturn through Charlie's telescope at Sangamon State University on a clear Illinois night, and with Bart’s encouragement and confidence, Jason studied astronomy to walk in their footsteps. This is not just a scientific journey, as Jason’s great-grandfather was a Midwestern minister who used to preach his sermons out under the dark, cloudless nights. Landy Haven always believed that getting out and experiencing the wonders of the natural world was a central part of being a complete person. Landy’s profound words under the stars continue to guide Jason in his quest to share the night sky as "We look up to look within."

Inflation, Gravitational Waves and the Big Bang

May 12, 2014

Explorers Club Website

Breaking News, Yes, the Universe Really Did Begin 13.798 Billion Years Ago This lecture will break some norms. It may be considered hard work by some - bear with us. At the Explorers Club, we go a bit higher, a bit faster, a bit deeper. We go as far as we can. If a member climbs a hitherto unclimbed mountain, we may follow, either physically or vicariously - as far as we can. Jason Kendall is returning to the club to help us follow the newest exploration of deep space and time: the recent discoveries of gravity waves. We all may not make it "to the top" but we'll follow all we can. So, grab your gear: you won't need integral calculus but you might have to tolerate an equation or two. The Big Bang has gotten a Big Boost. The recent results from the BICEP2 collaboration has shown new results that give even more support to the Big Bang. Back near the exact moment of birth of the universe, spacetime was radically curved and energetic. This created gravitational waves that have propagated through the universe since that time. The inflationary model of the Big Bang predicts a very specific shape and size of those waves, which the BICEP team claims to have seen. In this talk, we'll learn the basics about the Big Bang, and the problems with it that forced us to consider the Inflationary scenario. Then, we'll see what this scenario predicted and how it was observed. This talk will lead you on the path to see and understand the mathematics that shows how such things were derived.

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Black Holes and Gravitational Waves

February 3, 2014

The science of astronomy has always opened new doors to discovery when a new observing technology is developed. In 1609 Galileo looked to the heavens with the first telescope, beginning what we now call the Scientific Era. In 1931, Karl Jansky viewed the sky in radio waves, seeing the Sun's emission and heralding a new vision of the cosmos. During the Cold War, orbiting gamma-ray treaty-monitoring telescopes detected elusive signals from the deaths of massive stars. Now, in 2015, a new era of observation will commence. It is then that the very first gravitational wave sources will be s een by the LIGO and VIRGO gravitational wave detectors. This completely new area of observation will be able to probe the final milliseconds of colliding black holes, as space-time warps and twists under their violent death-dance. As a neutron star rotates, tiny changes in its crust cause starquakes that would make a nuclear bomb look like a firefly. Even more tantalizing, gravitational waves are thought to be produced during the first moments of the Big Bang. The first detection will open up a new field of discovery, as we listen for the sounds of the ringing universe.

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The Hubble Extreme Deep Field Survey

March 25, 2013

Like photographers assembling a portfolio of best shots, astronomers have assembled a new, improved portrait of mankind's deepest-ever view of the universe. Called the eXtreme Deep Field, or XDF, the photo was assembled by combining 10 years of NASA Hubble Space Telescope photographs taken of a patch of sky at the center of the original Hubble Ultra Deep Field. By collecting faint light over many hours of observation, it revealed thousands of galaxies, both nearby and very distant, making it the deepest image of the universe ever taken at that time. This survey, combined with cosmological studies of the supernovae and the Cosmic Microwave Background have revealed an incredible shift in humanity's understanding of the size, growth, age and fate of our cosmos. With NASA's upcoming James Webb Space Telescope, and the joint ESA/NASA Euclid mission, the study of cosmology will again make major turns in our understanding of the first galaxies and the enigmatic Dark Energy.

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Voyager: the Interstellar Mission

January 14, 2013

The Voyager Spacecraft were launched in 1977 bound for a Grand Tour of the outer Solar System. After successfully visiting all four Jovian planets, the spacecraft hurtled onward. Now, after 35 years of traveling in space, they are finally reaching the edge of the Sun's influence to travel into true interstellar space. Soon, they will sail the winds between the stars.

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Curiosity on Mars

September 17, 2012

The Mars Science Laboratory, Curiosity, landed successfully on Mars in Gale Crater on August 6th. We'll review its findings so far and relive the nail-biting ride to the surface of Mars. Its goal is to seek out signs of whether or not life could have once existed on Mars. Mars is today a cold desert, but in the distant past, the Mars Rovers Spirit and Opportunity found overwhelming evidence for liquid water on Mars' surface, with shallow oceans, now gone dry. Did life arise on Mars long ago? We'll learn about how this robotic adventurer will try to answer the question of whether we are alone in the Universe.

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