The editors of Astronomy magazine have selected 12-year-old Jenna Elliott from Sanford, North Carolina, as the winner of Astronomy’s 2012 Youth Essay Contest. For her entry on what she loves best about astronomy, Jenna will receive an all-expenses-paid trip for her and her father to the Northeast Astronomy Forum & Telescope Show (NEAF), one of the world's premier astronomy expos.
Jenna caught the Astronomy staff's attention with a touching essay about how much it means to her to share the night sky with another astronomy enthusiast in her family, her father, Jim Elliott. “I love to look up at the skies and see the magic of our universe unfold,” she wrote. “One of the things that is even more magical is the bond shared between [my dad and I] because of astronomy. My dad has shown me things no one in the world could replicate.”
Although Jenna’s first observing memories are from when she was 5 years old, her father says he’s been showing her the night sky since before she can remember. Now one of her favorite pastimes is learning to identify the various craters and maria on the Moon with Jim. “He looks on his map of the Moon and finds something in the eyepiece,” Jenna says. “Then he gives me one minute to find on the map what I am looking at in the eyepiece. It’s so much fun.”
Jim and Jenna have wanted to attend NEAF together for the past few years, so Jenna was thrilled about winning this trip for both her and her father. And they’ll have plenty of astronomy excitement waiting for them April 28 and 29. NEAF will feature special guest speakers representing the science and hobby, as well as more than 140 vendors showcasing the latest telescopes and accessories. The expo also will feature variety of activities, from astroimaging workshops and STARLAB planetarium shows to special workshops for kids and a solar star party. It will be a jam-packed few days for Jenna and Jim.
“NEAF is just the type of event a young astronomy enthusiast like Jenna should attend, and it’s great she can share it with another observer in her family,” says Astronomy Editor David J. Eicher. “Astronomy is excited to provide Jenna with this opportunity, and I hope it inspires her to continue sharing the night sky with her father and others as she grows up.”