Jason Shilling Kendall: Citizen Astronomer

William Paterson University
Amateur Astronomers Association of New York
Hunter College

Public Lectures at Other Locations


The Big Bang: How We Know the Universe is 13,800,000,000 Years Old

  • March 20, 2016
  • A Public Lecture at the Astronomical Society of Greenwich

The Big Bang happened 13.7 billion years ago. It does not address how life arose, but does tell us an amazing story about the rest of the creation of the universe. This story is still being written today thanks to new evidence revealed by various missions, such as COBE, WMAP and Planck in particular. On Sunday, March 26, Jason Kendall, will talk on “The Big Bang: How We Know the Universe is 13.67 Billion Years Old.” Kendall, Adjunct faculty, Physics and Astronomy William Paterson University, will discuss the findings of the Planck Mission, which is a European Space Agency mission with significant participation from NASA. The Mission has provided to this date the best knowledge of the early moments of cosmic history, exploring the tiny variations in the universe’s oldest light, i.e., the Cosmic Microwave Background created more than 13 billion years. The mission has refined estimates of the size, mass, age, composition, geometry, and fate of the universe – whether it will collapse in on itself, or expand forever.


Stargazing at the Jay Heritage Center

  • June 25, 2016
  • A public night for the whole family at the Jay Heritage Center in Rye, NY for a cookout and stargazing event.


Life in the Universe: An Overview

  • July 9, 2016
  • A Public Lecture at the LeHigh Valley Amateur Astronomers Association. http://lvaas.org/


Gravitational Waves

  • March 20, 2016
  • A Public Lecture at the Astronomical Society of Greenwich

Join me as I discuss the latest news from the world of gravitational waves, and the recent discovery by the LIGO team. All these questions, and many more will be answered by Jason Kendall of William Paterson University.


Public Talk

  • March 9, 2016
  • A Public Lecture at the North Jersey Astronomy Group


Public Talk

  • February 19, 2016
  • A Public Lecture at the Sperry Observatory


Intro to Astronomy Class at the Wayne YMCA

  • A Public Lecture series at the Wayne YMCA
  • Wayne YMCA, 1 Pike Drive, Wayne, NJ, 07470

Mars has intrigued us for thousands of years, but in the past two decades, it's become a familiar place. With rovers and orbiters around the Red Planet, we've learned more about it than any other planet other than Earth. Mars once had an enormous ocean, a thick atmosphere, and places where life could have taken hold. NASA's journey to Mars is the search for whether life arose long ago on a planet other than Earth. If so, the implications are profound. Come learn what's been discovered so far.


Much Ado about Mars

  • January 27, 2015
  • A Public Lecture at the Morningside Retirement Community
  • 100 La Salle Street, New York, NY

Mars has intrigued us for thousands of years, but in the past two decades, it's become a familiar place. With rovers and orbiters around the Red Planet, we've learned more about it than any other planet other than Earth. Mars once had an enormous ocean, a thick atmosphere, and places where life could have taken hold. NASA's journey to Mars is the search for whether life arose long ago on a planet other than Earth. If so, the implications are profound. Come learn what's been discovered so far.


Much Ado about Mars

  • January 23, 2015
  • A Public Lecture at the Four Seasons at Great Notch
  • 650 Valley Road, Clifton, NJ 07013

Mars has intrigued us for thousands of years, but in the past two decades, it's become a familiar place. With rovers and orbiters around the Red Planet, we've learned more about it than any other planet other than Earth. Mars once had an enormous ocean, a thick atmosphere, and places where life could have taken hold. NASA's journey to Mars is the search for whether life arose long ago on a planet other than Earth. If so, the implications are profound. Come learn what's been discovered so far.


The Science Behind the Movies.

  • November 7, 2015
  • A Public Lecture at the Wayne Public Library
  • Vally Road, Wayne, NJ, 07470

"The Martian", "Interstellar" and "Star Wars" are all big movies that feature living on other planets, falling into black holes, galactic civilizations and faster-than-light travel. Come learn more about the science behind these movies. This is a program for young adults.


The Solar System

  • October 24, 2015
  • A Public Lecture at the Wayne YMCA
  • Wayne YMCA, 1 Pike Drive, Wayne, NJ, 07470

Our Solar System is filled with wonders of worlds hot and cold, big and little, each with amazing features that stagger us with their wildness. Come learn more about it! Sutable for all ages.


Galileo and the History of Astronomy

  • October 17, 2015
  • A Public Lecture at the Four Seasons at Great Notch
  • 650 Valley Road, Clifton, NJ 07013

In 1609, Galileo Galilei looked up at the heavens with a new invention: the telescope. What he saw and how he interpreted it began the modern scientific world. Without his work, humor, arrogance and sacrifice, our world would still be shrouded in mystical darkness.


The Big Bang: How it all Began

  • May 9, 2015
  • A Public Lecture at the Four Seasons at Great Notch
  • 650 Valley Road, Clifton, NJ 07013

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 seen 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. Now with the latest results from the BICEP2 collaboration, there is tantalizing evidence that these primordial gravitational waves have been detected and that their detection leads researchers to think that the Inflationary epoch really did happen in the first moments after the Big Bang. This lecture session will go over the elements of the Big Bang, and focus on the inflationary paradigm.


Exploring the Solar System

  • March 15, 2015
  • A Public Lecture at the Wayne YMCA
  • Wayne YMCA, 1 Pike Drive, Wayne, NJ, 07470

Join William Paterson University's Astronomy Liaison Jason Kendall as he talks about the latest news in our solar neighborhood. From Rosetta's Philae landing on a comet, to Curiosity on Mars, to Dawn arriving at Ceres to New Horizon's upcoming encounter with Pluto, our exploration of the Solar System is at its zenith! Come learn about what's new about practically every planet, including some really far away orbiting other stars. After this whirlwind tour, we'll go outside and look up in the sky with telescopes to see Jupiter high in the sky, as well as other celestial wonders. The talk and event is suitable for ages 10 and up.

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Pluto and the Arrival of New Horizons

In 1930, Clyde Tombaugh found a tiny moving speck in the inky blackness. He had finally found Percival Lowell's Planet X, but he could not have known the trouble and joy that this pint-sized ball of ice would cause back here on Earth. Always seen as the oddball planet, but loved for it anyway by children worldwide, Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Mike Brown essentially brought about its very public downfall to "dwarf planet" status. Only 1500 miles wide, this tiny world is soon to have a visitor, the New Horizons spacecraft, thus beginning the exploration of the most remote sector of the Solar System. Come learn about this wonderful "planet" and how it will tell us about our own origins. After (or before) this 30-minute talk on this most disrespected of planets, there will be music and artwork created right there. It's an experience not to be missed! Specifically, I'll be joined (and likely surpassed!) by artist Nadia Roden. She lives in New York where she was named "The Ice Princess" by Oprah Winfrey. She has appeared on the Martha Stewart Show and in Food & Wine magazine and Vogue Entertaining amongst others. Nadia was nominated for a Gourmand Award for her book Granita Magic (published May 2003). Nadia started serving ice lollies from a cart in Bryant Park and on the High Line in New York in 2011, where she created a sensation. Food & Wine magazine featured them as the hottest new trend.


The Big Bang: How it all Began

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 seen 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. Now with the latest results from the BICEP2 collaboration, there is tantalizing evidence that these primordial gravitational waves have been detected and that their detection leads researchers to think that the Inflationary epoch really did happen in the first moments after the Big Bang. This lecture session will go over the elements of the Big Bang, and focus on the inflationary paradigm.


Perseid Meteor Shower Preview

  • August 11, 2013
  • A Public Lecture at the Wayne YMCA.
  • Wayne YMCA, 1 Pike Drive, Wayne, NJ, 07470

WPU Astronomy Professor Jason Kendall will lead you through this cosmic event, and tell you what to look for in the sky. Prof. Kendall will give a short 45-minute demonstration on comets, asteroids and meteors, and then we'll go outside to look at the skies with a telescope. But the real fun comes after sundown and well into the night. August 11 is the peak of this most famous meteor shower. Bring your binoculars, and get ready to scan the skies! Perhaps you'll see a fireball!


The Big Bang: Latest Results from Planck

The Big Bang happened 13.7 billion years ago. It heralded the origin of our universe, and gave rise to everything and everyone. Instead of just learning stories and myths about how it all started, we live in the era of "precision cosmology." We know the age of the universe better than we know the age of the dinosaur bones in the Museum of Natural history. Join Jason Kendall, adjunct faculty of Physics and Astronomy at William Paterson University, on a trip through space and time as he discusses the Planck Mission: the most advanced mission to investigate the Cosmic Microwave Background. This is the light from the beginning of the universe, just reaching us now. It gives us a "baby picture" of the cosmos. How was this light formed? Why is the universe expanding? What made the elements in our universe? Do we really think that the universe had an inflationary epoch? Is there an edge to the Universe? If the universe is expanding, what's it expanding into? If the universe has a baby picture, do we have baby pictures of galaxies? What needed to happen such that our Milky Way, our Sun and our Earth could form, thus allowing life to arise on Earth? The Big Bang does not address how life arose, but it does tell us an amazing story about the rest of Creation that is far stranger than anyone could have imagined. This story is still being written, and the adventurers in this drama piece together this mystery with the hard-won evidence unearthed by COBE, WMAP and Planck. Like an unfinished symphony, we'll hear how the story of the Universe's origin goes so far.

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Curiosity: Seeking Habitable Locations on Mars

The Mars Science Laboratory, Curiosity, landed successfully on Mars in Gale Crater on August 6th 2012. We'll review its findings so far and relive the nail-biting ride to the surface of Mars. Its goal is to determine whether or not Mars once could have supported life. 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, with the water now hidden deep in the rocks. Did life arise on Mars long ago? We'll learn about how this robotic adventurer is trying to help us answer the most important question of all: did our Solar system host life arise on two planets?

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Curiosity: Seeking Habitable Locations on Mars

  • February 25, 2013
  • A Public Lecture for the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.
  • The Cooper Union, New York, New York
  • 41 Cooper Square, on the corner of 3rd avenue and 7th street.

The Mars Science Laboratory, Curiosity, landed successfully on Mars in Gale Crater on August 6th 2012. We'll review its findings so far and relive the nail-biting ride to the surface of Mars. Its goal is to determine whether or not Mars once could have supported life. 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, with the water now hidden deep in the rocks. Did life arise on Mars long ago? We'll learn about how this robotic adventurer is trying to help us answer the most important question of all: did our Solar system host life arise on two planets?

Facebook event page


Curiosity: Seeking Habitable Locations on Mars

The Mars Science Laboratory, Curiosity, landed successfully on Mars in Gale Crater on August 6th 2012. We'll review its findings so far and relive the nail-biting ride to the surface of Mars. Its goal is to determine whether or not Mars once could have supported life. 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, with the water now hidden deep in the rocks. Did life arise on Mars long ago? We'll learn about how this robotic adventurer is trying to help us answer the most important question of all: did our Solar system host life arise on two planets?

Facebook event page


Kepler Space Telescope and MSL Curiosity: Seeking New Planets and Life on Mars.

Join us out on Long Island for the library's Family Astronomy Day. It's a celebration of learning and sharing centered around a neighborhood library. I'll be giving two talks that day, each highlighting current exploration and discovery. Other Worlds, Other Homes; On the Quest for Exoplanets. NASA's Kepler Space Telescope has spent the last 3 years seeking out Earth-like planets around far away Sun-like stars. Not only has it confirmed 21 planets in its view, but has released a list of 1,235 other candidates. As this remarkable mission continues, it is revolutionizing our understanding of stars and how planets form in our galaxy. It's even just found a planet orbiting two stars! Come learn more and see how you can help the Kepler team at home! Curiosity: The Next Mission to Mars. NASA's next big mission to Mars, the Mars Science Laboratory, christened "Curiosity" blasts off in Thanksgiving of this year. Its goal is to seek out signs of past life 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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Vesta Fiesta! Dawn Arrives at Vesta

  • August 5, 2011
  • A Free Public Lecture at NYSKies Astronomy Inc., McBurney Hall, 125 West 14th Street in Manhattan.

The spacecraft Dawn has finally arrived at the asteroid Vesta after a four year interplanetary trek. Propelled with the lightest of touches by its revolutionary ion thrusters, Dawn slowly matched its velocity to match the minor planet Vesta, the second largest asteroid in the asteroid belt. Dawn seeks to study this ancient body and learn its secrets. Vesta's surface is as old as the Solar System and hasn't changed much since then (except for one big impact that spans most of the Southern pole), so Dawn seeks to learn the composition of the oldest bodies, and helps us to find clues about the origin of the Solar System. We have meteorites from Vesta (I'll bring one!) but they are changed by landing on Earth. Dawn will see the real thing and will take us on a journey back in time to the dawn of the Solar System. In addition, songwriter Donna Stearns has composed a special song for the Vesta Fiesta, which she and Tony Imgrund will perform at the event!

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Total Eclipse of the Moon

  • December 21, 2010
  • Aboard Royal Caribbean's vessel Voyager of the Seas
  • Map of Eclipse

While on a cruise through the Caribbean on The Voyager of the Seas, I had the wonderful opportunity to see a total lunar eclipse. My parents and my wife and I went on the cruise for a weeklong Christmas vacation, and this was the capper to it all. I worked with the cruise staff to make sure that the event would be possible, and they happily printed up a bunch of photocopies for me to distribute around the ship. The Captain also made mention of it in his noon address over the loudspeakers as did the Cruise Director after the big show in the main La Scala theater. That night, I organized a short discussion in the ship's library at 11:30 PM. For many, this was too late a night, given that we were pulling into Cozumel, Mexico at 7AM, and some had paid for excursions off-boat. But, judging by the later chats at dinner tables the next day, the lunar eclipse was the best event bar none. At the library, I discussed the history of eclipses, and the methods by which the ancient Greek astronomer Eratosthenes determined the diameter of the Earth to within 15%. When we went up to the 11th deck to get outside, unfortunately, the ship's external lights had to all be lit, so the deck was quite bright. And worse, we had passed under a cloud bank, and the Moon was only just peeking out at odd moments. It looked as if we would only see it in bits. But that was not daunting the bunch down in the hot tubs. The bars were still open, and they were partying it up, hooting about the eclipse from their steamy vantage point. Then we noticed it: the big hole in the clouds to the South; right in the ship's path. The vessel was traveling Southeast to get to Cozumel, and we were moving out from under a huge layer of sucker-hole-clouds which just let us glimpse the Moon in her full glory. The clouds were low and thick, as they are in the Caribbean. They are normally only about 1-2 thousand feet up, with nothing beyond, unless you're in a low pressure system or in a high pressure system. The winds picked up, and about 70 people had come up from below to look at the eclipse. While the clouds were frustrating, we saw that holes steadily marching toward us. With all the people up there, the suspense was building, and people were getting excited. The Moon was being sneaky with the clouds, and it was now a race to see whether we would see the first contact, or whether it would have to wait for the clouds. With Canopus shining brightly in the Southwest, I could tell that it would be a great night to watch from here on out. The crowd watched intently as the shadow passed across the Moon. When before there was a lot of chatter up to the event, now that it had started, there was a calm that pervaded it. I guess I was the one instigating much of the chatting, as I went around and answered questions from people. There were a number of kids who were up on deck, away from their parents. They cornered me with a lot of questions. One kid in particular was very interested, and I do hope that he keeps up his interest. he asked about everything from how stars worked to the nature of light to space travel. Such a fertile mind will hopefully go far and contribute much. When totality occurred, the stars leapt out. The Moon had a gorgeous faint red glow to it. There was a distinct gradient across the Moon showing the depth of the umbra to the South side of the Moon. The color was not a fire-engine red, bun rather a deep red, almost rust-colored. It seemed to lie exactly as an L2 on the Danjon scale the entire time during the eclipse. The slowly changing ship's direction, combined with the near zenithal location made judging its position from a prone position a bit difficult. But the stars. The stars simply exploded during the eclipse, with magnitude 5 stars easily visible, even under the ship's deck lights. Simply covering them with your hand was enough to make the night sky truly dark. The Hyades were easily visible, as was the fuzziness of the Orion Nebula. Numerous double-stars were visible, and the band of the Milky Way was the only thing lost by the ship's lights, as it was overhead. Of the 70 or so people up on the top deck, most stayed only until full eclipse occurred. The drama of the approaching eclipse with the waxing umbral eclipse was dramatic, with a loud cheer, especially from the drunken revelers in the hot tub below, as the last penumbral brightness winked out to the full umbral eclipse. It was striking to see the sky visibly darken during this event. The high-school kids who met each other onboard were all under-dressed for the unexpectedly cool night. My wife bundled herself up in a Russian mink hat, and my mother was wrapped up completely from head to toe. My father and I braved the 50 degree evening with light jackets. As totality continued, we found and named constellations. I had originally thought to bring my Galileoscope on the cruise, but getting a gun-case through TSA did not appeal to me, neither did trying to keep it from getting roughed up and we went. So, it was naked-eye observing the whole night. I did have a digital camera, that is showing its age, that barely was able to take the pictures of the Moon in eclipse. There were a number of people taking photos all over the deck, and I am sure they will show up somewhere. Most startling of all, was a young woman, not even out of high school, who talked about what she was learning in class. She came from Bolivia, spoke perfect English, and asked me to continually pronounce various constellation and star names, because her teachers had not given her the English pronunciations. Then she casually mentioned that in her 10th grade science class, they learned about the HR Diagram. That piqued my interest again, and I felt woe for our gadget-addicted youth, who can barely sit down without checking their iphones. It's not like most kids get such educations, but it was completely surprising to hear of even one. It would be highly interesting to meet her teacher, who clearly inspired her to learn. After more than two hours now of being up on the top deck, we could see the end of totality approaching. By this time, we were down to fewer than ten people. We were all up on the topmost deck, on lounge chairs. In just a few hours, these lounge chairs would be warmed by the Sun, and smelling of pina coladas and sunscreen. But for now, we basked in the nighttime glory quietly unfolding above us. As the ship approached Cozumel, Mexico, and we could see its lights in the distance, and even though dawn was two hours away, the first rays of the Sun seemed to burst as the Moon began its trek into the penumbra. The end of totality was brighter than I had expected, and heralded the end of the evening. There were only four of us up on the upper deck by that time, my parents having long since trundled off to bed, coddled to sleep with the wondrous sights and the slow rolling of the vessel. Donna and I descended from the deck, leaving an excited man at the top, who had let his fiancee sleep in their cabin while he took in the spectacle. He waved us goodbye, and we took one last glance up, at the Moon that was now halfway out of the umbra, with the comparatively bright penumbral light casting our shadows on the dimmed deck lights. Donna and I descended into the ship, where we found an unlocked piano in a main lobby area on the promenade. There, late in the evening to an audience of only me, she played Love Story. As her playing echoed around the empty bars and staircases, we remembered what my Uncle Travis had said at our wedding, that marriage is a story of love, and that we should write well. Donna looked at me and said that tonight, we added a new chapter to our love, with the gorgeous sight of the opalescent Moon in sanguine eclipse.

Voyager of the Seas | Pictures from the cruise on Facebook, including pictures of the eclipse from a little camera on an unsteady boat.


EPOXI: NASA's Mission to Comet Hartley 2

  • November 4, 2010
  • Borough of Manhattan Community College

NASA's EPOXI Mission will encounter Comet Hartley 2 on November 4 at 10:00 AM EST, only the fifth comet to be visited by a spacecraft. We'll be joining Professor Shana Tribiano in her class at 5:30 PM on Thursday evening at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, in her Introductory Astronomy class. Seating is limited, so please RSVP with me prior to arrival, so we know how many people to expect. It may be standing room only to hear the latest results for this important mission! We'll talk about what happened earlier in the day during the encounter at 10AM EST. The event lasts from 5:30 PM to 7:00 PM. We'll look at the images that were downloaded TODAY, and talk about the mission itself, comets in general, and how comets tell us about the origin of our Solar System. And most exciting of all, I built an actual comet model for the talk.


Star Party with Dr. Michio Kaku

  • April 19, 2010
  • Discovery Channel filming for Michou Kaku's "Physics of the Impossible"

I was contacted by producers of Discovery Channel to put together a star party on a midtown Manhattan rooftop. They were filming an episode of Michou Kaku's "Physics of the Impossible" and wanted an interesting backdrop. I made calls out to the Amateur Astronomers Association and other astronomy clubs and to numerous individuals throughout the community who had telescopes.

See pictures from the event


LCROSS Impacts the Moon!

This event was an early-morning event to watch the live impact of LCROSS on the south pole of the Moon. While the event itself in real time was a bit of a downer, since no plume was seen, there was a bit of explaining to do to the FOX5 reporter who had shown up for it. Photos by Rich Herrera.


Kepler Space Telescope: The Search is On for Earth-Sized Planets

  • July 10, 2009
  • Columbia University Astronomy Department Public Outreach Summer Series

The quest to find planets around others stars has intrigued and beguiled people for centuries. Do they exist? Can they support life? How do we find them? Can we get there from here? The Kepler Space Telescope, launched on March 6 is the first NASA space telescope solely designed to hunt for Earth-like planets around other stars. This telescope will answer the most burning question about how common Earth-like planets are around Sun-like stars. The KST will conclusively answer whether or not our Earth is just one face in the crowd or is truly alone in our Galaxy. I gave a lecture at Columbia University's Astronomy Department Public Outreach Summer Series. For more information and the location of Pupin Hall, visit http://outreach.astro.columbia.edu/.


Historic Inwood Star Fest

  • April 3, 2009
  • Inwood Hill Park

Full Coverage

This Was the First Time in New York City History that a Park's Lights Were Darkened for Astronomy. Thanks to everyone who showed and braved the rain and the clouds. In spite of the bad weather we had 50 people at the entrance at 8pm, and about 30 more people walked through during the evening. The skies cleared in patches at 10:00 PM for about 20 minutes. We were able to see Saturn quite well through the scopes, as well as great Moon images. Thanks to the Parks, everyone who showed and the intrepid amateurs who braved quite a night with their equipment.

New York Times by Jeremy Smerd


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