The editors of Astronomy magazine selected 16-year-old Benjamin Palmer from Queensbury, New York, as the winner of Astronomy’s 2011 Youth Essay Contest. For his entry on what he loves best about astronomy, Ben will receive an all-expenses-paid trip for him and his mother to the Northeast Astronomy Forum & Telescope Show (NEAF), one of the world's premier astronomy expos.
Benjamin caught the Astronomy staff's attention with a thoughtful essay in which he showed his passion for both the hobby and the science as he explained how astronomy has touched his life. “Astronomy is revolutionary because it changes the way we think about the world and ourselves,” Benjamin writes. “It encourages me to think outside the box — the box of self, the box of finite knowledge, the box of known commodities. In the truest sense, astronomy opens up the physical world of possibility.”
Benjamin first became interested in astronomy at age 9 when he attended an open house at the Eileen Collins Observatory in Corning, New York. There, he heard two astronomy professors talk about the Big Bang and listened to an audio clip of the interstellar static produced by microwave background radiation. Soon after, he acquired his first telescope. Since then, Benjamin has spent many nights detailing his adventures at the telescope. And for the past 2 years, he has interned at Dudley Observatory in Schenectady, New York, where he’s learning astrophotography and honing his skills as an observer.
So it thrills Benjamin to be able to attend the show April 16 and 17, having wanted to do so for the past 5 years. “I’m absolutely ecstatic to be attending NEAF,” Benjamin says. “It’s really a dream come true. This will give me a unique opportunity to interact with a wide array of individuals who are dedicated to this field. I’m looking forward to attending some great workshops, exploring state-of-the-art equipment, and participating in the Solar Star Party.”
And the Solar Star Party isn’t the only exciting thing happening at NEAF’s 20th anniversary celebration. NEAF will feature special guest speakers from the science and hobby, as well as more than 130 vendors showcasing the latest telescopes and accessories. There also will be a variety of activities, from astroimaging workshops to STARLAB planetarium shows. Benjamin will definitely experience a packed few days.
“NEAF is just the type of event a young astronomy enthusiast like Benjamin should attend,” says Astronomy Editor David J. Eicher. “Astronomy is excited to provide him with this opportunity, and I hope it inspires him even more to follow his passion for exploring our universe."