For the past several years I've represented Sky & Telescope at the annual convention of the Astronomical League. This year's ALCon, hosted by the Rose City Astronomers (a great club), took place recently in Portland, Oregon. The League has a long history of recognizing and rewarding talented amateur astronomers, and for me one of the conference's highlights is being able to meet the winners of its annual youth awards.
This year, the League presented its National Young Astronomer Award (NYAA) to Naomi Pequette, a bright and extremely hard-working member of the Denver Astronomical Society. I don't know how she found time to dedicate so much effort to the club's outreach activities and to the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, where she volunteers. But she did — and still managed to conduct research on the protoplanetary disks in the Orion Nebula. The Denver club was relieved to learn that Naomi will still be nearby when she starts college (at the University of Denver) this fall. Read more about Naomi's astronomical adventures on the League's website.
It must have been especially tough for League Veep Carroll Iorg and his judges to choose the winner of this year's Jack Horkheimer Award. Sponsored by the widely seen stargazer himself, this award recognizes teens who've made outstanding contributions to their astronomy clubs. First-place winner Carter Smith couldn't attend ALCon, though I'd met him previously at a meeting of the International Dark-Sky Association. But second-place winner C. J. Wood was there. Congrats both of them, and to runners up Michael Vincent Hoeger and Colt Longnecker as well.
As rich as our community is with dedicated adults who share their love of the night sky with passion and drive, we need more — far more — young skygazers in our midst. So if you know an up-and-coming high-school-age amateur, encourage him or her to apply for one of the League's youth awards. The deadline for next year's NYAA is January 31st, and for the Horkheimer award it's March 31st.