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HAL - About Us

HAL's Current Officers, Committee Chairs, and ALCor

HAL's Presidential History

The purposes of the Corporation are exclusively charitable, educational and nonprofit as defined under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended (or any corresponding provisions of any future United States Internal Revenue Law or Regulations thereunder, hereinafter collectively referred to as the Internal Revenue Code) as follows:

(A) To promote and encourage science education, particularly in the area of astronomy;
(B) To educate the public while furthering our own education in space sciences;
(C) To build and maintain an observatory and library for the use of amateur astronomers;
(D) To undertake other projects, programs and activities consistent with Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, as the need to do so presents itself in the opinion of the Board of Directors.

HAL History

In 1988, several prominent members of the Baltimore Astronomical Society (BAS), led by Jacqueline Zeun, formed an organization called the Friends of the Baltimore Astronomical Society (FOBAS). It was formed in order to receive, restore, and create a home for a beautiful 12" Newtonian telescope donated from the Estate of Paul S. Watson. FOBAS began the telescope's restoration work and raised money to establish an observatory for it. Then, for to a variety of issues, FOBAS and the restoration project stalled until 1999.  At that time, FOBAS and the BAS conducted a vote and decided to discontinue FOBAS as an organization and gift the Watson telescope and cash assets ($2,144) to help start a new club. Founding members - Dana Gelabert-Boltersdorf, Michael Hall, ZoAnn Lapinsky Macon, Mary Kay Sigaty, and Malcolm Willette formed the Howard Astronomical League as non-profit corporation on December 5, 1999.

The Early Years

Soon after formation, HAL's leaders established a relationship with the Howard County Department of Recreation & Parks and obtained permission to utilize Carrs Mill and Alpha Ridge Parks for astronomical viewing.  During this time HAL also began an ambitious public star party and public outreach program and conducted countless educational and astronomical viewing events for local schools, libraries, scout troops, and the public at Large. HAL now has an agreement in place with the Department of Recreation and Parks allowing our meetings to be held at the Robinson Nature Center. In exchange, HAL conducts several astronomy outreach events at the Robinson Nature Center.

In March 2003, HAL obtained IRS 501(c)(3) status, thereby making donations to HAL deductible from income taxes under most circumstances.

Howard Astronomical League Observatory (HALO) at Alpha Ridge Park

A nearly 30 year effort to refurbish and build a home for the 12" Watson telescope reached culmination on July 25, 2015 with the grand opening of the HAL Observatory at Alpha Ridge. In addition to HAL's regular public star parties that have been held at Alpha Ridge Park for many years, this new observatory is the showcase for HAL's future public outreach efforts.

2018 Observatory Update

During the first couple of years in operation, HAL's Certified Telescope Operators, quickly realized that the Watson telescope, while a thing of beauty, is difficult to operate and lacking key features available in newer telescopes. These issues made it a less than optimal choice to fulfill HAL's total mission in building HALO.

At the start of 2018 HAL's Board of Directors formed a new Telescope Committee tasked with looking at options and costs to replace the Watson. During this process, long-time HAL members Leona and David Illig came forward with an offer to donate their Takahaski 6" Refractor, a fully computerized Astro-Physics mount, and a high-end SBIG monochrome camera with filter wheel. These components are installed and had their public introduction on June 16, 2018.

These new components make it easier to display the vast wonders of the Universe during HAL's public star parties and will also allow its broader use by HAL members.

The Watson telescope is currently in storage. However, the plan is to showcase it inside the observatory. This project should be completed in time for the 2020 star party season.

Back to the Future

HAL has grown to ~275 members since its founding in 1999.  Membership numbers are increasing and the club continues to conduct an active star party and public outreach program. Our monthly meetings have evolved to include a variety of member presentations and guest speakers from leading professional astronomy organizations in the Baltimore-Washington area; yet meetings are still appropriate for amateur astronomers at all levels.

Our history is not yet fully written. There are many exciting chapters ahead. Come and join us - either at our monthly meetings or our public star parties - and help us write those next wonderful chapters in Maryland amateur astronomy.

HAL Officers/Positions 2024

Current HAL Officers

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Last modified: January 24, 2024 @ 15:23 EST