2007 marks the 10th year for the League's Jack Horkheimer Award for Exceptional Service. This program recognizes exceptional service by youth League astronomers under age 19. Once again this year, Barry Beaman, Orville Brettman and Jim Fox, all former presidents of the Astronomical League, served as judges. Thanks to these three outstanding people for their continuing service.
This award is generously sponsored by Mr. Jack Horkheimer, the Star Gazer. The award is named in honor of Arthur P. Smith, Jr. Art Smith was president of the Astronomical League from 1964-66, and he inspired Mr. Horkheimer to become active in astronomy. The first-place winner each year is offered an all-expenses paid trip to ALCon, the League's national convention. This year, because of previous commitments, the first place winner will be unable to attend ALCon. The second-place winner will be attending ALCon instead, the first week of August, in Portland, Oregon, compliments of the Astronomical League. The first-place winner will be receiving his plaque and $1,000 check at a future meeting of his astronomy club. All finalists receive complimentary memberships in the International Dark-Sky Association .
Also, we would like to extend our special thanks to Celestron, Inc. for providing our first- place winner with one of its fine telescopes.
Please publicize this award program! There are thousands of talented young astronomers across the country who are eligible to apply for this award. For an application or general information about the 2007 competition, please contact Mr.Carroll Iorg, Vice President firstname.lastname@example.org; (816) 444-4878) or refer to the League's web page www.astroleague.org. The deadline for entries is March 31, 2008.
This year's top finishers are:
First Place: Carter Smith
Carter Smith has been an active member in his local astronomy club, the Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association. His activities with the club include serving on a committee to orient those new to the hobby with the sky and equipment, and contributing to the club's strategic planning committee. He has been a strong advocate for dark skies, receiving recognition from his club, the U.S. Public Health Service as well as the International Dark-Sky Association's southern Arizona section for his highlighting the value of dark skies with his outstanding project entered in the southern Arizona regional science and engineering fair. He has earned several of the Astronomical League's observing club certificates. Also, he has assisted David Levy with his charity star party, benefiting the Muscular Dystrophy Association.
In 2006 Carter gave a presentation at the annual International Dark-Sky Association meeting. He compared the sky quality meter to two other homemade instruments capable of assessing light pollution. He was invited to work with Dan Duriscoe, National Park scientist, and Chad Moore, national park service night sky team, Bryce Canyon National Park, to further test the "pitch black meter" and "sky quality meter" under field conditions. Mr. Moore, in his Horkheimer letter of recommendation states that "Many methods of quantifying night sky brightness exist, but their precision and accuracy under field conditions is not well documented." This comparison study was done using the method developed by the National Park Service. The study was conducted in January 2007 on three consecutive nights from downtown Las Vegas, Nevada, doing simultaneous measurements with the instruments. Carter presented these findings at the 2007 IDA annual meeting.
Carter made a most substantial and unique contribution to the sharing of the night sky with the public with his Eagle Scout Service Project completed in 2005. He organized a star party at the Arizona Schools for the Deaf and Blind. Carter recruited some of his church's members to make raised relief plaster models of various astronomical objects for the blind, and club members projected live CCD images onto a large screen for students with low vision.
Quoting from the summary of this project, "In this Eagle Project, deaf, blind and low vision kids were given an opportunity to experience astronomy. The opportunity for these populations to experience astronomy with appropriate accommodations is limited. ...To have appropriate accommodations, interpreters were provided for the deaf participants and tactile images, projections of images and Braille astronomy books were provided for blind and low vision participants. Faculty and students in special education at the University of Arizona provided training for scouts and other volunteers in furnishing accommodations to deaf and blind participants." Club members set up telescopes and conducted special activities. Boys Scouts from two troops and their parents assisted the amateur astronomers with this special activity, including the Astronomy Scavenger Hunt. Boy Scouts learned the basics of astronomy so they could "show" the students the night sky. A few specialized blind assistants and sign language interpreters facilitated communication.
Carter attends University High School in Tucson, Arizona.
Second Place: CJ Wood
CJ received his first telescope for Christmas in 2004. Since he knew about this gift in advance, CJ woke up before sunrise to view Jupiter, Mars and Venus through his new telescope. A few months before that, he became hooked on astronomy when he was visiting the home of a friend who had a telescope and was able to view the moon. He followed this up by taking a home-schooled astronomy class. He also recently became the "keeper" of a 14.5" Dobsonian telescope, compliments of another club member who wasn't using the instrument any longer.
CJ is a member of the Delmarva (Delaware) Stargazers. He has encouraged other young people to become more active in the club. He has attended many star parties in the area.
As CJ has become a more experienced observer, he has discovered that he enjoys viewing deep-sky objects more than solar system objects, particularly planetary nebulae. He has logged over 200 galaxies, 90 star clusters and 30 nebulae since May 2006, finding them all by star-hopping.
In his letter of recommendation for CJ, S. Kent Blackwell states that "he spends at least as much time under the night sky with his telescope as any member of his astronomy club. ...Not a day goes by without reading a post on the club's Yahoo Groups website indicating what he observed the night before. "
CJ's complete list of astronomy volunteer activities is extensive. He volunteers at the Baltimore Science Center and Observatory. The observatory houses an eight-inch f/15 historic Clark refracting telescope. In addition, he volunteers at the local Greensboro Library with outreach events and various outreach programs for school clubs. He has taught astronomy to several Brownie troops, enabling participants to receive their stargazer patches. He has been hired to teach astronomy at several camps this summer.
Last year, his astronomy activities were highlighted in the local newspaper, with a photo showing CJ and his three telescopes.
CJ is a sophomore at The Love Church of Maryland Homeschool in Ridgely, Maryland
Third Place: Michael vincent Hoeger
Michael was a senior this year at Prairie du Chien Senior High in Prairie du Chien Wisconsin. He has been president of his astronomy club, Starsplitters of Wyalusing, for the past two years. The club was established in 1999.
Michael has been involved in leading the recruitment of new members for the club and obtaining funding to purchase and assemble their Wyalusing State Park Observatory. Several community grants have assisted with this effort.
Michael's plans are to stay active in the club while he attends college at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he plans to study nuclear engineering.
Fourth Place: Colt Longnecker
Colt has been a member of the Sugar Creek Astronomical Society (Arkansas) for six years, and has served as secretary for four years.
He has done a substantial amount of astronomy outreach such as sharing his astronomical knowledge at public and school star parties, participating in astronomy day with other club members and helping teach a college continuing education introduction to astronomy class. Colt has also helped with outreach at Bentonville's (Arkansas) Fourth Fest, a local carnival that has incorporated solar observing and general astronomical education, with telescopes set up by the astronomy club.
Colt loves to attend star parties, such as the Nebraska Star Party, and visit observatories and planetariums. One of his favorite observatories is the Greenbush Observatory in Pittsburg, Kansas.
Colt is a home-schooled senior living in Pineville, Missouri.