Jon Schwartz, an award-winning space artist and dedicated astronomy outreach enthusiast, traces the roots of his cosmic fascination back to his childhood in the mid-60's. Like most children of his generation, Jon's bedtime rituals included the comforting cadence of his father's storytelling. Two particular favorites stood out: "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" and "Goodnight Moon." These nightly tales often transported Jon to a world of dreams where he could reach out and touch the celestial bodies that adorned the night sky. He couldn't help but wonder how these enigmatic luminaries found their place in the universe and why they were there.
As the years rolled on, Jon's curiosity grew like a star in the night, radiating more questions with each passing day. His father, a wellspring of wisdom, shared the belief that everything, including humanity, had its origins in the stars. To the best of his knowledge, he passed down the knowledge imparted to him by his own father.
In July 1969, the Schwartz family, along with countless others worldwide, gathered around their televisions to witness the historic moment unfold as the first humans set foot on the moon. The excitement in the room was palpable, and in that exhilarating instant, Jon turned to his parents with a heartfelt request: a telescope for his upcoming birthday. He yearned to witness the moonwalkers in action. His parents agreed, albeit with a caveat - the chances of spotting astronauts on the lunar surface were slim. However, what Jon did see was equally captivating - the moon's pockmarked surface, adorned with craters of all sizes and colossal scattered rocks. It was a world ripe for exploration.
The moon became Jon's intended destination until fate intervened. A neighbor's father, a fellow enthusiast, extended an invitation to peer through his colossal 12" telescope. When Jon glimpsed Saturn for the first time, its resplendent rings beckoning from afar, he felt as though he could reach out and touch it. It rekindled the same magical feeling he had experienced as a young boy, a sensation akin to encountering something for the very first time. From that moment on, Jon was unequivocally hooked.
In the years that followed, Jon's interest expanded to encompass model rocketry and the intricate assembly of convex and concave lenses into functional telescopes. His academic achievements became a source of pride for his parents, who rewarded him with visits to the Adler Planetarium, further nurturing his passion. However, life took an unexpected turn when the Schwartz family relocated to California, bidding farewell to cherished childhood friends and many relatives.
Outreach and A Cometary Gateway to the Stars
In 1986, Halley's Comet embarked on its journey from the distant corners of space, gradually brightening as it ventured through the inner solar system and circled the sun before gently fading into obscurity in the outer reaches of the solar system. In that moment, Jon felt a profound connection, as if bidding farewell to an old friend, leaving a pang of sadness in his heart.
His college years at California State University Northridge opened up a realm of opportunities. Jon gained access to numerous professional observatories and the campus observatory itself. He actively engaged in astronomy and arts programs, not only operating telescopes but also lending a helping hand to fellow students struggling to grasp the complexities of astronomy.
Jon Schwartz's Award-Winning Drawing of Messier 51 "The Whirlpool Galaxy"
As Jon's career blossomed, he found himself with the means to acquire the large, expensive instruments he had once only dreamt of. Joining the Ventura County Astronomical Society and the Southern California Observers Group allowed him to immerse himself in public outreach, children's groups, and elementary school star parties. Over the past two decades, Jon has remained deeply involved in various outreach organizations. He has assisted universities, represented vendors at public events, and offered breathtaking views of the cosmos through his large telescopes and live video astronomy at major star parties.
Astronomy has left an indelible mark on Jon's life, instilling in him a sense of universal responsibility. He is driven to share his awe-inspiring experiences with others, helping them recognize that they are part of something greater than themselves. For Jon, the most exciting and fulfilling aspect is witnessing the sparkle in a child's eyes when they behold Saturn for the first time. It's a profound connection to something tangible, a departure from the virtual world of screens. In an era of rapid technological advancement, Jon believes it's crucial to bridge the gap and connect with the universe through exploration and discovery. Understanding our place in the cosmos is vital to our collective human journey.