My Announcement Upon Winning Two Astronomical League Prizes and a Trip to New Mexico

    I am extremely honored (and still incredibly shocked) to have received two awards from the Astronomical League, a national organization of amateur astronomical societies: the first is the Horkheimer/Smith Award, the league's highest award for service, which comes with a $1,750 cash prize; the second is the Horkheimer/Parker Award, the highest youth imaging honor, which comes with a $1,000 cash prize. I will have an all-expenses-paid-for trip to New Mexico in late July to accept my awards.
    I am the first person in the history of the Astronomical League to win these two youth awards in the same year, and the third person to win two awards overall.
    I earned the Horkheimer/Smith Award, the youth service award, for my leadership and project work at the Milwaukee Astronomical Society (I am the youngest keyholder and board member in the history of the club; I also helped set up two imaging trains in our flagship computerized observatories, with the help of Paul Borchardt) and my work with founding and developing the Menomonee Falls High School Astronomy Club (which now has almost forty members and which recently went on a field trip to Yerkes Observatory).
    I earned the Horkheimer/Parker Award, the youth astrophotography prize, for my image of Melotte 15, a portion of the Heart Nebula, taken with the Milwaukee Astronomical Society's flagship telescope, nicknamed "G-scope;" G-scope is a 14" Celestron EdgeHD Schmidt Cassegrain telescope, which is connected to a ZWO ASI6200MM camera, seven Chroma filters (LRGBHSO), a ZWO ASI183MM guide camera, a MoonLite Focuser, and a plethora of other accessories. I took the image during the wee hours of the mornings of November and December (often at 11 PM - 3 AM, in the sub-freezing weather).
    I have to thank Matt Ryno for (1) introducing me to the awards, (2) helping me with filling out the paperwork for the nomination, and (3) writing the nomination paper that ended up getting me the award. He has, too, played an instrumental role in the club's recent success, and he has also taken on many significant roles (more than me) in the past few months - he is now a board member, the secretary, and the membership chair of the club.
    And a last thank you to all of you who were instrumental in this award. The Milwaukee Astronomical Society, first and foremost, is the reason I won the two awards; without it, I would have never become so indulged in astronomy (nor would the MFHS Astronomy Club even exist!), and I never would have been introduced to so many incredible people and so many grand astronomical opportunities! I must thank a list of people for this one, my brothers and sisters!
    Thank you, Jeff Kraehnke, for teaching me the imaging telescope that would serve as a gateway to the second award! I remember when you helped me, on a call at midnight, by fixing a mistake I made with the pulley on the G-scope slit the first night I used that telescope!
    Thank you, Agnes Keszler and Tamas Kriska, for teaching me G-scope and helping me fix that mistake I made on that first night! You two also taught me how to work with the imaging train, especially while we had all those issues getting the equipment to work properly!
    Thank you, Gene Hanson, for being the first one to email me after I joined the club! Your insight into the club's history and your work with amateur astronomy has always inspired me (and you knew my grandfather!). I am so grateful for all the things we have done for the club since I joined!
    Thank you, Gabe Shaughnessy, for singlehandedly altering my career path with your past area of research - you inspired me to pursue theoretical astrophysics or even particle physics, rather than planetary astronomy. You also inspired me to skip AP Calculus AB and go straight to BC (the second year of AP Calculus at MFHS), which certainly worked out very well! The Redcat 51 I got from you is still my go-to telescope, and I hope to use it this weekend at White Mound.
    Thank you, Jill Roberts, for opening the observatory up for me on that subzero night in January 2021! You inspired me to ask Paul to break the bylaws to make me a keyholder, which, too, worked out very well! Congratulations on becoming the first female President of MAS since World War II and presiding over an organization whose President, Vice President, and Treasurer (every elected position but the Secretary and the Observatory Director) are now all women.
    Thank you, Lee Keith, for all those inspiring moments at the observatory and beyond! I will never forget the night we went out to White Mound County Park, all the way out in Western Wisconsin, to see the "northern lights" (really just to stargaze). The cows mooed indefatigably, but we still got to see galaxies from 225 million light-years away, and I got to use my new telescope (Redcat 51 that Gabe Shaughnessy sold to me) to get my first successful picture of the Andromeda Galaxy (link) and of the Pleiades (link). Hopefully, it'll be clear enough this weekend for another stargazing trip!
    One last thank you to Paul Borchardt for all the astronomy experiences we have had! You were the one to approve my original keyholder request and give me my keys to the observatory; you were the one who helped set up the imaging trains in September and October; and you were the one who had all those interesting stories about growing up with the observatory in the '60s and '70s.
    I have already said thank you to Matt Ryno, but I must repeat my thanks for all you have done to bring this opportunity to me!
    An additional thank you to John Asztalos, Russ Blankenburg, Arun Hegde, Chad Andrist, Dennis Roscoe, and all the other members of this club who have helped me earn this award!
    My grandfather, Bill Collins, was the President of MAS from 1969 to 1973. He was the inspiration for my joining the club, and he was among the many inspirations that created my passion for astronomy. He and the belief that I am his reincarnation are the focal points of my common application college essay.
    Mom, Auntie Jill, I am sure your father would be not only proud but ecstatic, to see this. His reincarnation lives on, making history and continuing his legacy.
    As I said in the draft of my college essay, "Perhaps that is why I love looking up at the night sky: I can see not only the past, as we normally see in the stars, but I can see my future - I can see the person I am becoming, through the mirror of my grandfather."


  1. Tyler M. Hutchison won two youth awards in 2018. Check out this link

    1. I just found that out, actually! I believe they mean of the particular awards (we did not win the same). I was only repeating what was sent to me in the awards email.


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