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HAL NEWS plus Recent Star Party and Outreach Reports

Last Public Star Party of 2015 - 11/20/2015

We had a great crowd of people come out last night, my count was at 50 by 9 PM, who all enjoyed glimpses of the moon and some stars, including the summer triangle setting in the West. However, the clouds ruled most of the night even with member's and a perspective member's scope at the ready for any clear patches. The observatory proved to be a great meeting place and having the binoculars setup outside for the public was a great addition to hands on astronomy for our guests. We ended the night with a clearing providing a view of Orion and winter viewing to come.

Chris Miskiewicz

Cub Scouts / Stem Event at Alpha Ridge Park November 14, 2015

This afternoon, about 100 Cub Scouts from all over Howard County just getting started in scouting enjoyed white light and H-alpha views of the Sun as well as tours of HALO as part of a rocket launch/ STEM activity day in the park.

Many parents said they'll spread the word and will be out next Saturday for our final public star party of 2015. Displayed meteorites and chatted with a few parents about light pollution. Fun afternoon of outreach -


Members Star Party November 7, 2015

It's 7:30pm on Saturday. At Alpha Ridge, there is a solid cloud cover. Chris M and Chas have completed their maintenance tasks at HALO. We're closing up Alpha Ridge. Skies will probably clear up as a result.


Public Star Party, Oct. 24, 2015

Well we were pretty much clouded out at this evening's public star party, but that did not discourage a decent showing of the public. There were about 10 members and 35 visitors. The observatory and the Watson were a big hit and there were plenty of questions. In preparing for the cloudy evening, we had a presentation on Astronomy in general that lasted about 30 minutes. All-in-all a good evening. Thank you to all who attended and hopefully we will have better sky conditions for the up coming members only star party.

Mike "star party report" Man



Evening Under the Stars, Oct 21, 2015

The HAL outreach event this evening at the Central Branch of the Howard County Library was a huge success. There were dozens of library patrons who stopped to look through our telescopes and pick up business cards and HALO cards and said they'd come to the star party Saturday night. Many thanks to the six other HAL members (Steve Jaworiwsky, Mike Pittard, James Stack, David Stein, James Stuby, and James Tillman) who showed up with their scopes and delighted the crowd.

Bob Savoy

October 10, 2015 Member's Star Party

HAL’s star party attendee’s last night were surprised at the sparse attendance given the nearly perfect dark skies at Alpha Ridge especially after the run of poor weather we’ve had recently.  We had about 8 members that brought scopes and perhaps a dozen attendees in all.  The Milky Way was visible from horizon to horizon for much of the evening.

One CTO test was given in the observatory.  (Congratulations to Chris Todd who aced the test.)  Most all the attending members brought their own scopes and we pulled out the loaner Dob for use by the few that didn’t.  Therefore, we really didn’t “run” the observatory last night other than to give a couple of tours.  We had one new member family that attended and one non-member family visiting from out of town.

We will have our next to last 2015 public star party at Alpha Ridge Park on Oct. 24th.  Mike Krauss hosts.  I believe the Cub Scout visit that got rained out last month is due to happen.  On that date in 2014 the observatory’s block walls were about 60% complete.  We’ve come a long way!


September 27, 2015 Super Moon Lunar Eclipse

There are two measures of success for star parties: 1) The size of attendance 2) The ability to see things in the sky.  Given that, the quality of the sky was a solid D- (or maybe F+) but I’d have to give the crowd an A+!  We had 50-60 enthusiastic attendees a few of whom set up scopes outside the observatory.  Bob Savoy started out the evening using models he brought of the earth and moon to explain why the lunar eclipse occurs.

Then we waited a while since, with the occasional early glimpses of the moon, it was obviously too low in the sky to see through HALO’s Watson telescope.  We were also prepared to stream the eclipse over the Internet from an assortment of 3rd party sites.  Unfortunately, these sites were not scheduled to start streaming for a while yet so we chatted with the visitors and discussed the observatory and the history of the Watson telescope.

Just about the time the external sites were ready to start streaming, the moon began to pop through the clouds for short periods.  We were able to periodically show a live view through the HALO’s Watson telescope until the eclipse was about 50% along, then the clouds thickened up and the moon vanished for the duration.  By this time all the public eclipse streaming sites were packed and we couldn’t obtain a feed.  Then we found that we could connect via the Night Skies Network and get great views from a place called RC Observatory in Western Oklahoma.  This took us to total eclipse and many people watched and took cell phone photos of the screen until about 10:30.  At that time the Night Sky Network server crashed.  It was rebooted and back on-line within 15-20 minutes but by that time most everyone had left.  The few that remained hung in there until about 11:30 at which time Bob Savoy and I closed up for the night.

All in all everyone had a great time and made the best of things.  We’ll try again at the next Super Moon Eclipse in 2033!

Chas Rimpo and Bob Savoy


September 26. 2015 Public Star Party

I had a great turn out for a cloudy night. The observatory was a big hit and I hosted over 60 guests who were treated with a tour of the building and some hazy views of the moon using the 8" HAL dob early in the evening. The clouds eventually settled in and our guests called it an early night with hopes of clear skies in the near future. Thanks to Andy Vogel for stopping in to help answer some questions. 

Chris MIskiewicz

September 21, 2015 Robinson Nature Center - Solar Viewing for 4th Anniversary Open House

Yesterday afternoon, HAL supported the Robinson Nature Center's 4th Anniversary Open House, from 12:00 Noon to 5:00 PM. The skies cleared by about 1:00, so Bob Dutilly, Phil Whitebloom, and I provided solar viewing for dozens of the several hundred guests while Joel Goodman displayed and talked about his collection of meteorites. The sunspots and solar flares produced lots of "Wows" from children and adults alike. Many thanks to Bob, Phil, and Joel for helping with HAL outreach.

Bob Savoy
Events Coordinator 

September 19, 2015 Sky Scanning

Last night, HAL supported our first Recreation & Parks programming at HALO entitled "Sky Scanning".  Naturalists from Robinson Nature Center took one-half of the 40 paying guests on a guided solar system walk while Mike Krauss and Bob Savoy treated the other half to views of the waxing crescent Moon through the Watson scope as well as a tour of the autumn night sky.  Thank you to Mike for producing a great powerpoint to support his talk. Hopefully, we can archive your presentation to be tweaked for use at future events. 

After both groups came through the observatory, guests mingled around the plaza for views through the eyepiece and a chance to handle and discuss meteorites.    Thank you also to Gerald Elgert for sharing telescopic views for all who stopped by.

All in all, a great celebration of International Observe the Moon Night and a successful first community partner event.


August 22, 2015 Public Star Party

Last night's public star party was a great success. We had over 100 plus people show up and a lot of new comers to astronomy. The main targets were the moon and Saturn, I was also showing visitors M27 the dumbbell nebula. Lots of OOOO's and Wow's.

The HALO Flat screen was also a great success showing live views of the moon.

I also was able to use a visitor's iPhone on my Ioptron smart phone adapter and get them some moon pix's and video and pix's of Saturn in my 10", That was very cool.  
Hoping for clear skies for next month's HALO events.   

Garry Ingle, Jr.

August 15, 2015 Members Star Party

Last nights members only star party was a big success. We had at least 10 scopes set up as well as some CTO training going on.  Skies were clear and seeing was OK, but not the best. We had some really good views of the Swan Nebula - better than anticipated, M15 /M13/M92  were very nice, and M27 and M51 looked pretty good. The ISS pass and The Perseids Meteor Shower was very good, Three of us were left and closed up at 2am.

Clear Skies
Garry Ingle Jr

July 19, 2015 Members Star Party

Well it wasn’t too good tonight after all. The clouds just parted enough to view Venus above the crescent moon setting. We could see a few stars but the four scopes that were setup had little else to view. The real excitement was inside the dome where Wayne,Chas and Mike K were setting up the camera on The Watson scope. They started with finding and focusing on a bright target and Arcturus was right in view. As stated by Wayne they found M3 and M57, no moon shot but deep sky images were taken tonight. Looks like we’re on our way to ironing out the kinks in getting telescope & camera operational for our public Grand Opening event coming up on Saturday July 25. See you all then..

Eddie Crawford

May 30, 2015 Public Star Party

Last night’s public star party was an amazing event.  After a week of iffy long range forecasts, the weather ended up very nice.  It stayed warm and humid all the way through with a light breeze which kept things comfortable and kept the dew at bay.  There were a few clouds but they kept moving so that, if something you wanted to view was obscured, it was visible again just a few minutes.

The Cub Scouts turned out and asked a lot of questions in order to help earn their astronomy pins.  We also had a good turn-out from West Friendship Elementary.  Someone also mentioned later that students from another school were also in attendance.  With all those people moving around, it was difficult getting an accurate attendance number.  It was somewhere in the 65-75 range with kids making up slightly over half. There were between 15-20 telescopes set up so that no one had to wait in line for very long.

Many keyholders and dome committee members were in attendance and stayed afterwards into the wee hours of the morning working on and testing the telescope in preparation for the June 27th Grand Opening of HALO (Howard Astronomical League Observatory).  We hope to see many of you there.

Chas Rimpo

May 27, 2015 Library Outreach

The event tonight at the Central Branch of the library was a huge success! Many thanks to David Stein and Ernie Wright for bringing their scopes and entertaining the crowd with explanations and views of the Moon and Jupiter. There were probably 3 to 4 dozen people and we heard lots of “Wow” and “That’s really cool” exclamations. The skies cleared from about 7:30 until about 9:30 when we left. Then it began to cloud up and dew began to form. It was fun and exciting.


May 16, 2015 Members Star Party

Tonight's star party was clouded out again.  I think I'm going to propose "Central Maryland Cloud Monitoring Station" as the name of the new observatory.

On the bright side, Chris Miskiewicz came out to do some observatory work, so I got a chance to see for myself the amazing progress that's been made just since the last cloudy sky party.  Well worth the trip to Alpha Ridge!

Clear skies,

April 25, 2015 Public Star Party

Well, we were clouded out last night.  It was nice to see Marc, Sam, Chris and Joel and get a chance to look at the amazing progress of our observatory.  It won't be long now!

Our next star party is Members Only and will be on May 16.  I'll be hosting again, hopefully with better weather.
Clear skies,

April 18, 2015 HAL at Greenfest

Click here

April 18, 2015 Members Star Party

Well, despite the weather forecasts predicting clear skies, we basically got clouded out. There were about seven HAL members and two guests who showed up, and five scopes were actually set up. We did get views of Jupiter and Venus, and some people saw the ISS pass, but that was really all that was visible.

Since we had some strong backs at the park, we reconfigured the scaffolding in the observatory (we really need to decide on a name!) and we installed the mount on the pier. The declination axis was NOT installed. So, we're another small step closer to getting this thing done!

Thanks to all who showed up. Hopefully next week's Public Star Party will have better weather.


March 28, 2015 Public Star Party

Greetings everyone,

Well, the weather forecasters were wrong once again, only this time things worked out in our favor for the star party.  The clouds departed Alpha Ridge about 7:30, and, to paraphrase an old cowboy song, “the skies were not cloudy all night”. 

About 10 – 12 telescopes and about 25 – 30 visitors showed up, a number of whom were first time partiers or students from Howard Community College who were there to earn extra credit for one of their science classes.  Among the objects observed were the Moon, Jupiter, the Orion Nebula, and comet Lovejoy. 

The party broke up about 10:30, mostly because of the cold, but all in all it was a good observing night.  Many thanks to all who participated.

Steve J

March 21, 2015 Members Star Party

The first star party of 2015 was a success. We had 4 or 5 members show up with equipment and a few other members show up to say hello and check out the observatory as well as 2 or 3 guests. Chris M. gave a quick tour of the observatory early in the evening. While the evening was not cloud free, there was plenty of open sky and some periods were almost completely cloudless. Best of all, the temperature was 45f instead of 5f! Thanks to everyone who showed up and I hope to see you all next weekend for our first public star party of 2015.

Mike "a good night under the stars" Man

Joel Goodman Presented with "MOVA Award"

At HAL's February general meeting Chris Todd presents HAL Observatory Director Joel Goodman with an astronomical MOVA globe with custom
etched base as a token of HAL's appreciation for the hurculean effort Joel as made to get HAL's observatory built over the past 10+ years.
Thanks Joel!

HAL's Exciting 2015 Star Party Season

HAL's 2015 star party schedule is now posted on the star parties page and on the HAL Calendar. Once the observatory is open this spring the schedule
may change but it will most likely be to add more dates.


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Last modified: November 27, 2015 @ 18:39 EST