Jason Shilling Kendall: Citizen Astronomer

William Paterson University
Amateur Astronomers Association of New York
Hunter College

Public Lectures at William Paterson University as Astronomy Liaison Coordinator

300 Pompton Road, Wayne, NJ

In addition to being faculty in the Department of Physics, I serve the WPU greater community by providing public events to the Wayne, NJ area.


Searching for Life Out There in the Universe

October 10, 2015
William Paterson University, Science Hall East, Room 2064.

Come out for a great evening of stargazing fun with William Paterson University. Then, we'll have a public lecture on the search for life in the universe. Prof. Jason Kendall of WPU's Physics Department will talk about astronomers' search for life on other planets, including Mars, Titan, Enceladus and beyond! Following the talk, we'll take a walk out to the Wightman Football Field to go stargazing. You'll be able to see stars and nebulae through a telescope! If it's clear, it'll be third-quarter Moon, giving us a wonderful view of the wonders of the sky. The telescopes will be operated by Prof. Kendall's Introduction to Astronomy class. They've been working hard all semester learning the skies and and are ready to be your Star Ambassadors. In the event of a cloudy or rainy night, we'll follow the lecture with a 45-minute movie. Please also make sure to call the hotline, because the stargazing event will be changed to a movie in the event of clouds or rain. Local area amateur astronomers are invited to bring their telescopes. Kids and families are welcome. This event is hosted by the faculty of the Physics Department of William Paterson University.

Throughout time, mankind has looked into the heavens and wondered if we were alone in the universe. Now, we are starting to take the first steps to understanding whether or not our wildest dreams are true. Whether it's flowing water on Mars, or salty jets on Enceladus, or even potential methane-based life on cold Titan, evidence is just now beginning to come in. The SETI team continually searches for signals from space, and the Kepler Space Telescope has found evidence for thousands of Earth-sized worlds, with the first potential Earth-2.0 found this year. It's an exciting time to search for E.T.!

NYC Physics and Astronomy Meetup | New York Brainiacs | Facebook WPU Astronomy Club


Black Holes and Time Warps

March 28, 2015
William Paterson University, Science Hall East, Room 2064.

Come out for a great evening of stargazing fun with William Paterson University. We start with a public lecture on black holes and warped spacetime. Prof. Jason Kendall of WPU's Physics Department will talk about what it's like at the boundary of the universe, where time stops and space is infinitely curved. We'll look at how we know these crazy things actually exist. Following the talk, we'll take a walk out to the Wightman Football Field to go stargazing. You'll be able to see stars and nebulae through a telescope! If it's clear, it'll be a moonless night, giving us the best opportunity to see what the skies can offer. The telescopes will be operated by Prof. Kendall's Introduction to Astronomy class. They've been working hard all semester learning the skies and and are ready to be your Star Ambassadors. In the event of a cloudy or rainy night, we'll follow the lecture with a 45-minute movie. Please also make sure to call the hotline, because the stargazing event will be changed to a movie in the event of clouds or rain. Local area amateur astronomers are invited to bring their telescopes. Kids and families are welcome. This event is hosted by the faculty of the Physics Department of William Paterson University.

NYC Physics and Astronomy Meetup | New York Brainiacs | Facebook IAP | Facebook WPU Astronomy Club


The Battle for (Planet) Pluto

A special Homecoming event at William Paterson University
September 20, 2014
William Paterson University, Science Hall East, Room 2064.

Come out for a great evening of stargazing fun with William Paterson University. We start with a public lecture on Pluto, the demoted dwarf planet. Prof. Jason Kendall of WPU's Physics Department will talk about why astronomers demoted the outermost planet, and what's in store in 2015 when a spacecraft flies by it. Following the talk, there will be a raffle with some great astronomy prizes. Then, we'll take a walk out to the Wightman Football Field to go stargazing. You'll be able to see stars and nebulae through a telescope! If it's clear, it'll be a moonless night, giving us the best opportunity to see what the skies can offer. The telescopes will be operated by Prof. Kendall's Introduction to Astronomy class. They've been working hard all semester learning the skies and and are ready to be your Star Ambassadors. In the event of a cloudy or rainy night, we'll follow the lecture with a 45-minute movie. Please also make sure to call the hotline, because the stargazing event will be changed to a movie in the event of clouds or rain. Local area amateur astronomers are invited to bring their telescopes. Kids and families are welcome. This event is hosted by the faculty of the Physics Department of William Paterson University.

The Battle for (Planet) Pluto
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.

Event webpage at WPU | Facebook Event | NYC Physics and Astronomy Meetup | New York Brainiacs


Life in the Universe

September 28, 2013
William Paterson University, Science Hall West.

We live in an amazing time where we are just beginning to explore our Solar System, hunting for signs of past life on other worlds. We'll look at Curiosity, currently roving Mars, and looking for signs of past habitable places. We'll look at Jupiter, and the possibility for life under the ice of this enomrmous moon. We'll go to Saturn, and investigate two of its moons, Enceladus and Titan, both of which dare us to imagine life on their surfaces. We'll also look at the Kepler Mission, the spacecraft that found 2700 planets around other stars. Is there life out there? We don't know. But we now have the ability to leave behind science fiction and learn science fact.

WPU Astronomy Club Facebook event page | IAP Facebook event page


The Real Big Bang Theory - How the Universe Began

April 25, 2013
William Paterson University, University Commons, Room 168 AB

"Join Professor Jason Kendall as he describes the evidence for the Big Bang and details the recent results from the Planck Mission, which has rediscovered the influence of Dark Energy and the acceleration of the Cosmos. We'll learn about the Cosmic Microwave Background, the origin of atoms, the size of the universe. Afterwards, if it is clear, we'll go outside with telescopes to look at Jupiter and the Moon. If ever you wanted a Bazinga, this is the night!"

Facebook Event Page


Night on Mars: Curiosity Landing Party

August 5, 2012, 6:00 PM until 3:00 AM EST.
William Paterson University, Science Hall East 2063

The Mars Science Laboratory, Curiosity, will land on Mars at 1:30 AM EST on August 6th. Come on out to Wayne, New Jersey to celebrate and learn in style! Hosted by NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador Jason Kendall and the Department of Physics at William Paterson University, we'll have a public talk about the search for life on Mars. We'll also do fun hands-on activities, such as building Mars landers, walking through a human orrery, looking through spectroscopes, and possibly stargazing with the University's telescopes. As the evening goes on, we'll also watch "Roving Mars" the iMax movie about the little Mars rovers that could, and just before the live NASA coverage, we'll watch the 1953 "War of the Worlds". Bring your PJ's. We'll serve the pizza. It's all free and open to the public, at Science Hall East on the campus of William Paterson University. NASA's next big mission to Mars, the Mars Science Laboratory, christened "Curiosity" blasted off in Thanksgiving of 2011. 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.

Schedule of Events

  • 6:00 PM: Greeting and NASA News Conference Broadcast Live.
  • 7:00 PM: Public talk on Mars Exploration and the Search for Life with Curiosity by Jason Kendall.
  • 8:00 PM: Performance of the official song of the International Year of Astronomy, Up Up Up in the Sky by award-winning composer Donna Stearns. Sung by Megan Marod.
  • 8:05 PM: Andrew Kessler, author of Martian Summer: Robot Arms, Space Cowboys, and My 90 Days with the Phoenix Mars Mission, will chat about his experiences and be on hand for signing.
  • 8:30 - 9:30 PM: Activities for adults and kids. We'll need some Adjuncts and energized Intro students or Juniors/Seniors or Physics Minors to participate. Stargazing if it is clear out on the football field. We'll use the telescopes in the Lab or have amateur astronomers show up and provide equipment. Indoors: Physics demonstrations and hands-on activities, suitable for kids and adults.
  • 9:40 PM: Public showing of Roving Mars. The story of Spirit and Opportunity.
  • 10:30 PM: Public showing of War of the Worlds 1953 version. (90 mins)
  • Midnight: Begin NASA coverage begins the EDL.
  • 1:30 AM: Time of Entry, Descent and Landing, covered LIVE!
  • 2:15 AM: NASA Post-Landing Press conference: LIVE.

Post-Mortem Write-up

On Sunday, August 5, 2012. we had about 150 people show up to the event at William Paterson University. Among the WPU notables attending were University Trustee Dr. Henry J. Pruitt, Jr., and the Director of External Relations, Patrick Dedeo. The event was publicized using all major social media, and by WPU's public relations department. As a result, the 130 attendees were a good cross-section of interested New-Jerseyians and New Yorkers. We had expected that most 10 or so people would stay the entire evening past the EDL event. But, approximately 90 people stayed through the EDL, including many children. There were at least 5 or 6 kids under 12 who stayed through it, including one little girl, no older than 8 who stayed up. She kept thanking me over and over after it was done. The look of wonder on her face as the adults were so excited about this was precious. I think we made a young new scientist, and her mother could not have been happier. The sense of pride in her daughter was palpable. I gave a talk about Curiosity after the 6PM press conference, from which I received a lot of lively questions. It was a mix of amateur astronomers from the area, high schoolers (one from Haverford who just showed up and insisted that she help out), college students from WPU, area families and former and upcoming students in my classes. After my chat at 7-8 pm, Andrew Kessler gave a talk about his experiences with the Phoenix mission. From 9pm to 10pm, I showed the video "Roving Mars" in a few classrooms. In other classrooms, I had a former student show 3-D Mars images, and everyone used their 3-D Curiosity glasses. I then showed "War of the Worlds" (1953) version in two classrooms at 10 pm, and switched over to the NASA coverage at 11:30. The University also catered the event with coffee, donuts, 30 pizzas and soft drinks. Also, we had set up spectroscopes in the lab, and there were a few very precocious kids who wanted to learn about light and spectrae. The lab manager and I led them through how they work at an atomic level. The kids were excited, and mom was happy that I wasn't treating them like kids. They were getting ready for college, and doing quite well. During EDL, one young boy kept asking "Is it there yet?" at each statement by the JPL team. He was so excited that he couldn't believe it was happening. I then went into a little spiel about the distance to Mars, and the light-travel time. Every major event in EDL was met with rounds of applause. At the time of landing, we all burst into applause, and watched with rapt attention as the first images came down. The tall and the sum, was that the university was happy, the community was happy. Below are images from the event. Alvaro Gonzales, who was part of the Spanish contingent of ESA, was in town. His team helped build some of the weather instruments on Curiosity.

Legacy Event URLs: Campus event | Facebook Event | Pictures by Alvaro Gonzales


Curiosity: The Mars Science Laboratory: Seeking Life on Mars

April 28, 2012
William Paterson University, Science Hall East 2063

The Department of Physics at William Paterson University will host a major star party that night on the football field, if it is clear. If it's cloudy, I'll be giving a talk about Curiosity, showing the movie of EDL and driving around Gale Crater, its destination. 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.


Wild Universe! Black Holes and Gamma-Ray Bursts, Quasars and Neutron Stars!

October 6, 2011
William Paterson University, Science Hall East 2063
Stargazing at 7:30 PM in the field near Camp Veritans South of William Paterson U.

Our night sky looks peaceful, placid and wondrous, but scientists and astronomers have recently discovered jut how amazingly violent the Universe can be. There are cataclysmic explosions and extreme environments beyond our imaginations. The Chandra X-Ray Telescope, The Hubble Space Telescope, and the Fermi Gamma Ray Telescope all give us pictures of the most violent places in the Cosmos. Come see what happens to when stuff falls in a Black Hole. Learn how supernova explosions create super-dense stars. And see beacons of light so bright that they can be seen literally across the entire Universe. Come join us for a safe view of these wild corners of the sky. That night, if it is clear, Jason will also bring out a telescope to show you the Moon and stars. It's right around International Observe The Moon Night, so come on out and take in our nearest celestial neighbor. 7:30 PM to 10:30PM at Camp Veritans' field on the South side of William Paterson University.


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