Howard County, Maryland
HAL Observing Sites
All HAL Star Parties are held in locations which are smoke free by law. Help us protect our ability to use these sites by not smoking. Thanks.
The Howard Astronomical League holds regularly scheduled star parties at Alpha Ridge Park from March through November. Impromptu viewing sessions can occur at any time and are communicated via the e-mail group. These impromptu events are often held at Carrs Mill Park, but not always.
For events on the HAL calendar, the Host will have a copy of the County permit, but for informal get togethers at least one attending keyholder will need a copy of the special use permit. The permit can be downloaded from our Documents Page, and must be accompanied by a current HAL membership card to be valid. In addition, a key is needed to open the gate at either site. The number of available keys is limited -- members who are interested in being placed on the key waiting list should contact the HAL Treasurer (hal_treasurer at howardastro dot org). A $50 deposit is required when the key is delivered.
NOTE: New feature below. Clicking on the Map links for either site now does more than just showing a map of the Park area. It also allows you to enter your starting address and then print out custom turn-by-turn directions.
Alpha Ridge Park (Map)11699 Old Frederick Rd
Marriottsville, MD 21104
Coordinates (at gate off Old Frederick Rd [Route 99])
Lat: 39° 19' 15" North
Long: 76° 54' 46" West
Public and Member's Only star parties and occasional special events are held at Alpha Ridge Park at sundown. The date changes monthly to coincide with the best lunar viewing so please check the calendar for the next date. Alpha Ridge Park has normal park facilities such as paved parking areas and portable toilets. Warning: there are steel posts in the parking area that can't be seen unless your headlights are on.
Both public and member's only events are posted on the public "Howardastro" Yahoogroup. Whether the event is open to the public or to member's only is communicated on that Yahoogroup. We ask non-members to respect the member's only events. During public events HAL members are often busy all evening allowing guests to use their equipment. The member's only events allow HAL members the "quiet time" needed for private observing.
Iridium Flares, Satellites, etc. visible at Alpha Ridge Park.
Carrs Mill Park (Map)
15900 Carrs Mill Rd
Coordinates (at gate off Carrs Mill Rd)
This site is used solely for Member's Only Impromptu star parties. These events are communicated on a Member's Only Opt-in e-mail list. This is a small location and there just isn't enough room for non-HAL members.
Carrs Mill Park is a dark site (dark for this area), but is somewhat rustic. There are no "facilities" of any kind, and the parking area is gravel rather than pavement. Also, smoking or open flames are not allowed, no exceptions. (The Carrs Mill Park property includes a few methane ground vents that are potentially hazardous in the presence of open flames.)
The entrance to Carrs Mill Park is not well marked. We have included some photos of Carrs Mill Park, including the entrance, that will help you locate it if you are coming out for the first time.
Iridium Flares, Satellites, etc. visible at Carrs Mill Park
Piney Mountain (More Info)
For those who wish to observe at a darker sky site less than 2 hours drive from Columbia, click on the "More Info" link above.Note: this is not an official HAL observing site but it does come highly recommended by HAL members.
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