The Sky is Literally the Limit as Washington College Students Learn Astrophotography


Students look up at the night sky at the River and Field Campus at Washington College. Photo credit: Brian Palmer.

In a dimly lit classroom at Washington College, students are examining a photo of the night sky that Brian Palmer has just brought up on a big screen. Everyone’s faces are aglow in the weird projected light.

“There are three streaks here in the sky,” says Palmer, director of Digital Media Services, which oversees IDEAWORKS, a multimedia resource for students. “Do you know what they are?”

Planes, answers one student, and he’s right, at least partly. When Palmer zooms in on one of the streaks, the repetitive blips of white, green, and red stitched across the sky reveal the navigation lights of a plane that the camera’s open shutter captured. But when Palmer zooms in on the other two, the colors and patterns definitely aren’t coming from something that took off from planet Earth. They are meteors, scorching a luminous furrow across the black field of space.

The Milky Way, as seen at the River and Field Campus at Washington College. Photo credit: Brian Palmer.

“Why is the color different?” asks Charlie Kehm, chair of the Department of Physics and a physics and environmental science and studies professor. “It’s in the ice, or the minerals. Potentially different materials burn in different colors.” The stars, too, have different colors, he says, and when Palmer zooms in some more, what were once little white dots become clear individuals of blue, red, yellow. “Oh, yeah!” says another student.

The night sky, always wondrous, starts to reveal its mysteries in this collaboration between Kehm and Palmer, who introduce students in Kehm’s beginning level astronomy class to astrophotography. The students and teachers spent several hours one night this fall at the College’s River and Field Campus (RAFC), using cameras and gear provided by Digital Media Services, shooting the night sky. Tonight, they’re in a lab learning how to use Camera Raw and Photoshop to process their images and, while doing so, get a closer look at the objects of their class’s study.

“It was the first time I had ever seen so many stars in one place,” says sophomore Kate Voynow, an American studies major and history minor, who’s taking the class because she’s always been intrigued by astronomy, and it fulfilled a distribution requirement. “It was surreal. There was something really magical about it.”

The Andromeda galaxy, shot during the astrophotography lab at the River and Field Campus at Washington College. Credit Brian Palmer.

The class surveys the universe, starting with Earth and moving through space and time to galactic clusters, supernovae, and black holes. Kehm says this is the second time that he and Palmer have collaborated to bring the art of photography into the science of astronomy.

“For students, this is one of the most enjoyable experiences of the semester,” Kehm says. “Most students already have an affinity for photography. Very quickly Brian can bring them up to speed in the use of SLR cameras and techniques for night photography. The lab gives us an opportunity to spend some time with the night sky, view constellations, observe the Milky Way, and sometimes see some planets. We even get to see some evidence of stellar colors in our long-duration exposures.”

Indeed, as the students processed their images back on campus, they found galaxies—including Andromeda, a swirl of gauzy white—meteors, and star clusters as they tweaked color, contrast, clarity, and other options to create scientifically publishable photos— what Kehm calls “an honest portrayal of the sky”—as well as versions that pushed into art photography.

“What I like most about the lab is the way it inspires the students,” he says. “There’s something about that pursuit of the aesthetic and the immersion under the starry sky that activates imagination and gets students excited about the subject. And even after doing this for many, many years, I’m still in awe every time I go out.”

For Voynow, who says she’s “not that good at STEM,” the class has been fun, if challenging at times. But the astrophotography lab and the night sky at RAFC were a revelation.

“As a history student, it’s kind of interesting because we learn about societies and we learn about the rise and fall of empires or how the United States began, all the things you learn about in history classes,” she says. “This is like Big History. Uber History. It’s fun to look at it that way. ‘Now, let’s look at the history of everything.’ And it kind of makes what I’m learning, it puts it into perspective. Look at all this fighting, look at all this war. What’s the point? It’s not Big History. The universe is so big, and how small we are compared to it. I take comfort in that. There’s something nice about it.”

The night sky at the River and Field Campus, photographed and processed by students Kate Voynow and Madi Shenk.

Kehm says RAFC “offers some of the darkest skies in the region, and it’s only minutes from campus. It is an absolutely fantastic resource for us. One of my long-term goals is to develop a permanent observing platform at the River and Field Campus, which would make it easier for us to use telescopes more routinely at the site. The property offers a lot of promise for astronomy at the College. We’re only starting to realize that potential.”

Palmer says the lab is fun for him because it lets him teach students how to use cameras and technologies supplied by IDEAWORKS that help them imagine new possibilities for their work.

“I love to see the students light up when they explore the power of these newly acquired skills,” he says. “Whether it be centered around discovery, expression, or problem solving, I think programming we can offer the students through IDEAWORKS is truly a unique and valuable addition to their undergraduate experience.”


“Run Like the Dickens 5K” Dec. 3


Main Street Chestertown invites runners to sprint through the historic district during the “Run Like the Dickens 5K” on Sunday morning, Dec 3.  The race will start at 8 a.m. at the intersection of Cross and High Streets as the final event of the Dickens of a Christmas Weekend organized by Main Street Chestertown. Costumes are encouraged but not required.

The race will take runners on a new route through charming downtown Chestertown. In keeping with the theme of Dickens’ Christmas Carol, the course makes a lap through the historic Chester Cemetery, where participants might well spy a Christmas ghost or two from Dickens beloved novella.

There also will be a Dickens Dash for the Tiny Tim set—children age 12 and under—at 9 a.m., starting on High Street near Court Street (Lawyers Row).

Proceeds from the race will be donated to the Kent County Community Food Bank. Advance registration is $30.  Race Day registration is $35.  To register go to  Race day registration opens at 7 a.m. at High and Cross Streets.

The race will start at the intersection of High and Cross Streets and proceed up High Street to the cemetery, continue onto the rail trail, cut through the parking lot at Stepne Station and do one lap up and back to historic Stepne Farm, across to Wilmer Park, exiting onto Water Street and back to High Street to finish in front of the White Swan Inn.  The course will be clearly marked, with police directing traffic for safety and will have water stops at the start/finish and at the halfway point. Residents are encouraged to be out on the sidewalks along the route to cheer on the runners and help Main Street Chestertown create a fun and festive new holiday tradition.

TCR Event Management group has verified the course and is timing and scoring the event.  There will be awards for men and women for various age categories.

Basic Information:

Chestertown Run Like the Dickens 5K

Sunday, December 3, at 8 a.m.

Through Downtown Chestertown

Registration 7 a.m. at High and Court Streets

Dickens Dash for Kids 12 and under

9 a.m., High and Court Streets

Benefitting: Main Street Chestertown

Click here to register.

 Price:  $30, Race Day $35

The “Dickens of a Christmas” weekend is made possible largely through the support of our local sponsors, including our top level “Scrooge” sponsors: The Kent County Arts Council, The Peoples Bank/FAM&M, Cross Street Realtors, Radcliffe Corporate Services, and Price Rentals.  Other sponsors include “Marley” level donor Kent School, five “Fezziwig” sponsors (Chesapeake Bank & Trust, Chester River Packet/Occasions Catering, Mimi’s Closet, and Todd’s Body Shop), and“Cratchit” level sponsors that include Gillespie & Son, Pam Duke Law, Dixon, LaMotte Company, Bad Alfred’s Distillery, David A. Bramble Inc., and Gunther McClary Real Estate.

Celebrating National Home Care Month


Chester River Home Care staff

During November, the home care and hospice community honor the millions of nurses, home care aides, therapists, and social workers who make a difference for the patients and families they serve. These caregivers play a central role in our health care system and in homes across the nation. To recognize their efforts, the National Association for Home Care & Hospice celebrates November as Home Care and Hospice Month.

Joining the celebrfation  are members of the UM Chester River Home Care (UM CRHC) team, outside their headquarters on the campus of UM Shore Medical Center at Chestertown. The team includes nurses, aides, access representatives, social workers and physical, occupational and speech therapists. According to Trish Focht, manager, in the past year, CRHC staff members have tallied more than 97,600 miles driven in Kent and Queen Anne’s County to and from 12,179 in-home care visits to 853 patients. CRHC’s most recent overall patient satisfaction rating is 93%, well above the state and national averages of 81% and 84%, respectively. 

Shown in the photo are: (front row) Brooke Smith, Jenny Paul, Kim Price and Jen Wade; (middle row) Katie Davis, Sarah Hopkins, Jen Walters, Brianna Simms, Mary Lynn Price, Melissa Maule and Trish Focht, manager; (back row) Barb Cole, Alexa Jester, Karen Conley, Kristin Dickerson, Frances Rodney, Chris Kirby, Amanda Sutton, Kiara Henry, Sarah Reynolds, Melissa Myers, Lucinda Wakefield, Brooke Maier and Andrea Alduino.

Illustrated Lecture: “Beyond Stereotypes: War, Warriors, and the Creative Arts”



WarFront/HomeFront with new Kent Arts Building in background

The public is invited to an Illustrated Lecture this coming Sunday, November 19, 2017 at 2 p.m. at the Kent County Arts Council Gallery, 101 Spring Avenue, Chestertown, Maryland.

“Beyond Stereotypes: War, Warriors, and the Creative Arts” will be presented by Tara Tappert, Founder and Principal of The Arts & The Military; and, Michael D. Fay, Retired Combat Artist and Founder of The Joe Bonham Project.  Both work with wounded veterans to help foster healing through artistic expression.  The works displayed show war through the eyes of those who lived it – and are still living with war’s impact.

Main Art Gallery in new Kent Arts Building

Tara Tappert, Art Consultant and founder of ThemArts and the Military

Tara Tappert, Founder & Director, The Arts & The Military ( is an Award-winning scholar, researcher, writer, curator, collections manager, archivist/librarian, editor, graduate-level teacher, academic adviser, and tutor for cultural, educational, and business institutions, and for private individuals and families. Her scholarship is focused in 20th c. American craft – particularly as a rehabilitation tool for war trauma and in late 19th and early 20th c. American art and culture– particularly portraiture, biography, women and art, family history, and genealogy. She is also a noted scholar of the portraitist Cecilia Beaux.

Michael D. Fay, artist and founder of WarFront/HomeFront & Joe Bonham Project

Michael D. Fay, Founder, The Joe Bonham Project, first served in the Marines from 1975 to 1978 as an infantry man attaining the rank of sergeant. He left the service to pursue a college degree and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Art Education from the Pennsylvania State University in 1982. He then re-enlisted in the Marines in December 1983 and served on active duty until September 1993. During this ten-year period he served in the Presidential Helicopter Squadron under President Ronald Reagan, and participated in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, Eastern Exit, and Provide Promise campaigns. Seven years later, he enlisted  into the Marine Corps Reserve in January 2000 in order to fill the billet of combat artist with the Field History Department supporting the Historical Division of the Marine Corps.

As an official Marine Corps combat artist, Fay has been mobilized for four extended periods, and has served two tours each in Afghanistan and Iraq. Fay’s paintings and drawings made during these deployments demonstrate how combat looks and feels in a very personal and immediate way. The focus of these works is the human face of war. In images of ordinary people conducting routine business in difficult and unfamiliar circumstances, he reminds us of individual sacrifice and heroism.

Drawings of soldiers in the WarFront/HomeFront Exhibit currently at the Kent County Arts Council Arts Building through Dec. 3.





Giving Thanks by Nancy Mugele


My favorite day of the year is Thanksgiving. One of the many reasons I love Thanksgiving is because the actual name of the holiday signifies its importance. Amidst the busyness of each day, and the craziness of the world we live in, it is heartwarming and joyful to pause and acknowledge the gratitude we have for the simple pleasures in our lives.

Although the Thanksgiving holiday comes but once a year, I believe that on each and every day we can give thanks for something in our lives that makes us smile, teaches us something and keeps us young.

This week I spent several days at Princeton attending the Head Mistresses of the East annual conference. Despite the name, which makes me think of head witches, I had an inspiring few days focused on values-based leadership in times of seismic change. I am so grateful to have been able to attend. It was wonderful to renew old friendships, share stories, and meet new friends – all like-minded independent school educators who care deeply about how best to prepare students for a world in which the jobs they may hold one day have not yet been invented. In the U.S. there are currently 1.4 million unfilled jobs in the tech sector. Thus, teaching computer science is a must. We also learned from business leaders that we need to help our students learn the soft skills that employers need to find to create effective work teams.

Employers want to hire people with principled values, courage, empathy and resilience. Schools must intentionally help students find their unique human gifts, foster risk taking and failure, while also producing active listeners. The conference affirmed many of the values we teach at Kent School and is helping me frame my thoughts about a true liberal arts education combined with the social and emotional learning needed to work on global teams in the economy of the future.

My daughter and I were just talking about working in teams last weekend. We had a mother-daughter day in Baltimore (don’t tell her Nashville sister). Jenna is part of a team at UnderArmour and loves her job. She is an integral part of a highly functioning team and as an athlete herself, she thrives on the success of her entire team. Being a team member requires good listening skills, negotiating skills, optimism, and creativity to solve complex problems.

Like working or learning on teams, cooking Thanksgiving dinner is a team effort at our house. I love to cook this dinner, but all five of us have a responsibility, and each must do her or his part to ensure the success of our celebration. Jim is the turkey carver, Jenna is the baker, Kelsy enjoys preparing vegetables, and James keeps the day-long fire going in the fireplace. Most importantly for me, we all have to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade together and see Mr. and Mrs. Claus enter Herald Square before we can even begin cooking!

Writer William Arthur Ward wrote: “Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.” I am truly grateful for every day of teaching and learning at Kent School and my role brings me great joy. I also believe is it so important for a school to instill gratitude and joy in its students.

As I look ahead to Thanksgiving next week, I am filled with gratitude and excitement. I cannot wait to have a full nest and I know our house will be filled with laughter, love, and laundry. I am sure there will be plenty of wine and all of our traditional Thanksgiving foods, and, the best part is, there are no gifts. Thanksgiving comes and goes so quickly but I will savor each and every noisy moment.

Jim and I are deeply grateful for our family, the Kent School community and the Chestertown community. And, as you gather next week to share your harvest dinner with loved ones and friends, I wish for you a day filled with warmth, love and joy – and lots of pumpkin pie!

Nancy Mugele is the Head of School at Kent School in Chestertown and a member of the Board of Horizons of Kent and Queen Anne’s.

An Open Letter to Rep. Andy Harris Regarding His Vote on the Income Tax Bill


Dear Dr. Harris,

I understand that reasonable people can disagree about the merits of reducing corporate taxes.   And, as a non-economist, I suppose that you can be forgiven for buying into the illogic of supporting deficit spending as a stimulus at a time when we are already at full employment and business profits are high.  But, please help me understand how, as a doctor, you can fail to understand the irreparable harm caused by refusing to allow people with serious and expensive illnesses, often well in excess of the 10% threshold, to deduct those medical expenses from their income tax.

Yes, we all recognize that most people rarely have such high medical expenses and the average person will be better off without having to itemize their medical bills but just because such illnesses are rare makes them none-the-less painful and expensive to the patient.  What precisely would be the harm done by allowing people burdened by such illnesses to deduct their health care costs?  Now compare that to the harm done to the elderly and the most seriously ill among us by your thoughtless vote.  Physician do no harm!


David Foster

Christ Church of Easton Host Annapolis Chamber Ensemble and Two Pianists


Woobin Park

The Christ Church Concert Series in Easton continues its 2017-18 season Sunday, Nov. 19 4 p.m. featuring the Annapolis Chamber Players.  The ensemble includes some of the finest musicians in the Baltimore-Washington area.  Known for their eclectic programs ranging from the 18th through the 21st centuries, the ensemble specializes in mixed chamber music for winds, strings, and piano, a flexible instrumentation that offers a variety of musical colors and styles.

While all six of the ensemble’s members have gathered an impressive cache of honors and distinctions, its two pianists, each a world-class talent, will perform on Sunday’s concert. Woobin Park made her Carnegie Hall debut in 2010 to critical acclaim. The New York Concert Review raved, “Park gave a brilliant performance, handling the virtuosity with beautiful sense of style…” She has appeared throughout the United States and South Korea in solo and chamber recitals as well as solo performances with orchestra. Park has performed in venues including Carnegie Hall and Steinway Hall in New York, Strathmore Hall in Washington, and Elizabeth Horowitz Performing Arts Center in Maryland. Her live performances have been nationally broadcast. Woobin has earned prizes in several competitions including the Los Angeles Liszt International Piano Competition, where she was also awarded “Best Performance of the Required Work.” On Sunday, Park will perform Carl Frühling’s Trio for Clarinet, Violoncello and Piano, Op. 40 with clarinetist and ensemble director, Phyllis Richardson and cellist Dorotea Racz.  In addition to her performing career and masterclasses throughout the country, Park serves on the piano faculty at Washington College.

Stefan Petrov

American-Bulgarian pianist Stefan Petrov, whose arresting interpretations and broad musical versatility have captivated audiences across Europe, North America and the Caribbean, will perform Johannes Brahms’ Trio in E-flat Major for Piano, Violin and French, Op. 40 along with violinist Kristen Bakkegard and hornist, Heidi Brown. Petrov has appeared in Steinway Hall (New York, NY), Steinway Series at the Smithsonian Museum, the Bulgarian National Palace of Culture and others. He partners frequently with Israeli-American cellist Amit Peled in recitals across the U.S., while also serving as head of the collaborative piano department at the prestigious Heifetz International Music

Sunday’s concert is partially funded by a grant from the Talbot County Arts Council and the Maryland State Arts Council.  Doors open at 3:30 p.m.  A freewill offering will be received to support this and upcoming concerts.  Christ Church is located at 111 S. Harrison Street in downtown Easton. For information call 410-822-2677 or click here.

Family Support Groups Now Available in Queen Anne’s & Kent Counties


National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) sponsors Family Support Groups

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has recently started Family Support Groups in Queen Anne’s and Kent Counties.  These groups are peer-led groups for family members, caregivers, and loved ones of individuals living with mental illness. Support group members gain insight from the challenges and successes of other group members facing similar circumstances.

Family members or friends of someone with mental illness find from the support group that they are not alone and that they can find the support they need from the group.  The family support group is unique because it follows a structured model, ensuring everyone the opportunity to be heard and to get information and the support that they need. The support groups are free, confidential, and led by people who have loved ones with mental illness.

By sharing your experiences to a group in a safe and confidential setting, you gain hope and develop supportive relationships.  The group encourages empathy, productive discussion and a sense of community.  Members benefit through others’ experiences, discover inner strengths, and learn how to identify and use local resources.

One group member said, “The most beneficial thing for me to learn was that I am not alone.  I found the NAMI Family Support Group at the time I really needed it!”

NAMI offers its Family Support Program the first and third Monday of the month in Centreville and the first and third Tuesday of the month in Chestertown from 7 pm – 8:30 pm.  For more information contact:  443-480-0565 or email to









“Gratitude and Grace” This Sunday at Unitarian Church


Reverend Susan Carlson Browning, Unitarian Universalists of the Chester River, in Chestertown

On Sunday, Nov 19, 10 a.m., Rev. Sue Browning will give a sermon entitled”Gratitude and Grace” to the Unitarian Universalists of the Chester River,  914 Gateway Dr., Chestertown. In this harvest season we take time to say thank you for the abundance around us. Join us for an intergenerational Unitarian Universalist Bread Communion service where we’ll reflect on the grace underlying our gratitude as together we’ll set a table and share in the harvest. The service will include a Child Dedication service welcoming an infant into community.    

Childcare will be available during the service.  All are welcome! For more information, call 410-778-3440 or visit the website.