(cba:news) Aloha

Jonathan Kemp jk at cbastro.org
Thu Apr 27 15:27:01 EDT 2000


Well, it's been some seven and a half years that I've been affiliated with
Columbia -- four of those as an undergraduate, seven of those being
involved with Columbia astronomy and astrophysics, and the last six years
as a member of and coordinator of the Center for Backyard Astrophysics.
So, it is with bittersweet feelings that I say goodbye to Columbia and the
Center for Backyard Astrophysics.  But, with respect to the CBA, it is
only a partial goodbye, as I will elaborate on below.

I will be leaving in June to move to the Big Island of Hawai`i.  My
girlfriend has accepted a position at Gemini North Observatory and I am
under consideration for several positions myself.

It has been a mostly positive seven and half years associated with
Columbia, certainly.  As an undergraduate astronomy major, as a research
assistant with Joe Patterson, as coordinator of his Center for Backyard
Astrophysics, as a teaching assistant and undergraduate laboratory helper,
as an observer at Columbia's MDM Observatory for more than 200 nights, as
an occasional collaborator with Jules Halpern and David Helfand, as a
general PC and web technical consultant to various persons within the
department, and as system administrator and educational/outreach
coordinator for Universe Semester, it has been a varied but always
exciting many years with Columbia.  I have seen entire graduate student
careers during my time with Columbia and have seen many of the comings and
goings within the department.

And, my six years associated with the CBA have been nothing short of
remarkable.  Having started research collaborations with Joe Patterson
after only my freshman year at Columbia, I got quickly acquainted with the
novel Center for Backyard Astrophysics (well, at that point, it was
BASEMENT astrophysics) and the amazing promise it held for worldwide,
multi-longitudinal, uninterrupted observations of periodic phenomena,
especially those in cataclysmic variable stars.  When I joined, there were
but two (TWO!) domestic stations of the CBA.  And, as naive as we were,
they were named "east" and "west".  Well, we soon added another Arizona
node and two European nodes and, before long, we had dozens of stations
across several continents, and I observed some 400 nights during my
Columbia career at professional observatories on three continents in
support of CBA and CV science.  From the web site, which I created and
developed over the past several years, to the electronic mail-based
communications infrastructure, to the implementation of a data archive, to
the preparation and submission of nearly two dozen journal articles, to
the hassles and bureaucracy of shipping occasional equipment halfway
across the world, it's been an amazing ride!

But, beyond the organizational development, it is the people behind it
that has made it most rewarding.  It is the association with this
collection of unusual souls with a passionate desire to make a scientific
contribution and contribute the technical expertise to help form the
observational base of this unusual network, based in backyards around the
world, that has made (and will continue to make!) the CBA a most rewarding
enterprise, both personally and as an amateur scientific pursuit.  In the
middle of a professional scientific institution, it is the enthusiasm,
pride, and dedication of CBAers who have often had to remind me of my own
passions for astronomical observation and scientific contribution --
things which are seemingly so clear and uncorrupted in the amateur
community, but which get lost occasionally in large institutions and
bureaucracies with nameless cogs.

However, many of you probably know my penchant for observing and
observatory operations, having observed for more than 400 nights during my
Columbia career (split primarily and nearly equally between Cerro Tololo
in Chile and MDM Observatory).  And while MDM has provided an opportunity
for me to get involved in some observatory projects, the positions for
which I am under consideration will let me more fully pursue my interests.

But, it will not be a permanent goodbye...  I will remain affiliated with
the Center for Backyard Astrophysics, continuing as CBA Hawai`i and
performing some of my current CBA duties from Hawai`i.  Also, I will
provide occasional advice to the Astronomy Programs at the Biosphere 2
Center as they continue to mature.  And, I suspect I will see some
fraction of the Columbia astro community it passes through Hilo/Waimea/
Mauna Kea as observing programs dictate.  We'll probably be living in Hilo
or somewhere along the Hamakua Coast just north of Hilo on the wet, east
side of the island.

On the wet side, but perhaps only initially.  As we get sorted out in
Hawai`i, we may start up an actual CBA observing station on Hawai`i to
bridge that mighty Pacific and find ourselves on a slightly drier piece of
real estate on the island.

For those of you affected most by my semi-departure, I am consulting with
the relevant parties regarding the transition of my duties, having started
to modularize and prepare some of them for a turnover over the past few
months.  If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to let me



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