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2016 HAL NEWS Plus Star Party and Outreach Reports

Last 2016 Public Star Party and STEM Event 11/12/2016

Between 125 and 150 guests enjoyed views of the waxing gibbous Moon through the Watson projected on the large flat screen, and HAL members' scopes targeted the Moon, Venus, the Pleiades, and a variety of galaxies and globular clusters.  A few of us even spotted a bright Iridium flare about 10 degrees above the western horizon shortly after sunset. Bob Savoy shared his model solar system, and I had my meteorite collection on display as part of HAL's participation in the 2016 Maryland STEM Festival. Lots of families attended as well as students from astronomy classes from at least 3 local colleges.  Attendance was steady throughout the evening right up until we closed up at 10:45pm.  All agreed that tonight's star party marked a stellar end to our public star party season. Thanks to all HAL members who brought out scopes and shared views and their expert knowledge.

Joel Goodman
HAL Events & Outreach Coordinator and tonight's host

Astrophoto Exhibit at Robinson Nature Center: 11/2- 12/31

COLUMBIA, MD – Howard County Department of Recreation & Parks’ Robinson Nature Center, in partnership with the Howard Astronomical League (HAL), will open a limited time astrophotography exhibit at the Nature Center from Nov. 2 to Dec. 31. The exhibit will feature images of galaxies, nebulae, moon craters, planets and more taken by high-powered telescopes. These telescopes allow a person to take pristine, compelling photos of space objects.

“We’re excited to be highlighting astrophotography pieces taken by members of one of Robinson’s many community partners. HAL, and many of its members, play an integral role in providing and augmenting astronomy programming offered at Robinson,” said Robinson Nature Center Director Stacey Yankee.

On Thursday, Nov. 17 from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m., the Nature Center and HAL will co-host an exhibit reception. The reception is free and open to the public and light refreshments will be served. HAL’s regularly scheduled monly meeting will follow the reception in the Nature Center’s auditorium.

“HAL members are excited to have the opportunity to share their astrophotography with the public through display at the Robinson Nature Center,” shared Chris Todd, HAL president. “Astrophotography, the photographic recording of astronomical images, is a hobby for a number of members of our club. We hope that sharing the images they have captured increases people’s interest and knowledge of astronomy. We are happy to partner with Robinson Nature Center as we continue to provide astronomy programming in many forms to Howard County and the broader community.”

A number of the photographers featured in the exhibit will offer their photos for sale, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting programs at the Nature Center.

To learn more about HAL, visit  

For more information about the Robinson Nature Center, visit, and for information about the Department of Recreation & Parks, visit

Oct. 8, Public Star Party at Alpha Ridge

The observatory successfully supported last night's public star party.

Weather associated with Hurricane Matthew precluded any hope of visual observation, so there were no member scopes were set up, the dome was not opened, and the Watson was not used. Instead, the back up plan was exercised, and Ten Things you Might Like to Know About the Earth's Moon was presented to the visitors who arrived at HALO. 

Jim Johnson


Hi Team,

Tonight's public event was surprisingly well attended despite overcast.

Four HAL members and 9 guests attended, with most getting a presentation about the Moon, fitting with the International Observe the Moon night.
Several potential members attended.

I arrived about 6:40pm to find the HALO already open and closed up about 9pm.

Bob Provine

Oct. 5, Ellicott City Public Library Outreach

HAL held a highly successful outreach event at the Ellicott City Library last night, Oct 5th.  Bob Savoy and Chas Rimpo set up scopes outside the library entrance to start the night while Joel Goodman gave a presentation inside the library.  A much larger crowd showed up at the end of Joel’s program so he also set up a scope to help with the traffic flow.  I expect we had at least 200 people with lots of kids viewing the Moon, Saturn, and Mars through the three scopes.

We told many people about the star party this Saturday.  Folks at this library live closer than average to Alpha Ridge so we could see an uptick this weekend.

The photo below was taken during a lull while Joel was presenting inside.  We actually had folks at the scopes who got very camera shy and scattered as soon as I pointed my phone in their direction!

Chas Rimpo

EC Outreach 10-5-16

Sept. 10, 2016 Public Star Party

We had a good turn out last night, 100 - 125 folks. The rush came early but we met them with telescopes setup on the sidewalk that were providing views of The Moon, Saturn and Mars. A little later on the guys got HALO showing some views of M57. Joel rounded things out by setting up the 16 inch Meade on the sidewalk which was also on Saturn and Mars. The weather was not the best with regard to seeing and transparency... cloud cover started out as partial and then it washed us out later.

Overall it was a very succesful night because we got a lot of views in early, the crowd left happy.


James Stack


Thanks James.  We had a good crowd inside the observatory, too.  We ended up with good views of the Moon and the Ring Nebula in spite of fighting cloud and transparency issues plus some issues with the video camera and focus.   A few folks from HCC Astro 101 were there getting answers for their homework.

Due to the sky conditions,  most folks cleared out by about 10:15 so we moved into construction prep mode and spent a little over an hour covering things in the observatory and the storage area.  This should cut down on the time we need this afternoon to ready everything for the dust and vibration to come.

Thanks also to Ken Everhart, CTA for the evening, who also doubled as Joel’s assistant on the 16” Meade. Chris Miskiewicz also brought out HAL’s 10” Meade SCT.

9/10 CTO

Sept. 3, 2016 Members Star Party

Well Garry "Can't Get Enough" Ingle had enough or at least his truck did and was not able to make it to host the star party. I filled in as host as well as CTO along with Ron Schwartz. We greeted a few potential new members who stopped in to check out he observatory. The clouds dominated the sky and after sitting alone in the dark, I called it a clouded out night. Better luck next week.

Chris Miskiewicz

August 13, 2016 Public Star Party

The star party was a big success. We had at least 80 people and around 10 telescopes setup. The crowd was pleased with the views considering the weather was not perfect, but over all it was a great night. The 16" Meade was brought out and it was a good test night for that. 

Garry Ingle

August 6, 2016 Members Star Party

CTO Report

We had a fairly successful Member's Only star party.  It started out fairly cloudy, but ended up mostly clear by midnight or so. 

Ken Everhart and I were in the observatory with the Watson telescope and things worked fairly smoothly.  We had no major issues with the setup and the system operated as expected.  As usual, we started with the Moon before moving on to M13 and M27.  Ken did the pointing and was able to locate objects easily. 

Towards the end of the evening Joel came in and wanted an attempt at locating M13 (we had moved on to M27 by then) by himself.  He performed a meridian flip and put M13 on the Malincam chip using only the hour angle and declination circles. 

Ken and I closed the observatory around midnight.  James and Gary were staying a bit longer so we left the observatory open for them so they could turn the park lights back on when they were done.

Mike Krauss “HALO star party report” Man


Last night's Members Only star party was a big success and we had a pretty good turnout. I didn't do a head count but I think we had at least 15 members and I met a few new members as well. We had a few non-members show up with their kids.

Mike Krauss was training on the Watson and James Stack was doing some testing with his new Tak and getting some great photos of a very faint 11.4 nebula in Cygnus and the Vail as well, but only test photos so I can't wait to see some stacked images.

I imaged the Ring, Dumbbell, and Fox head nebulas, and Cygnus X1 black hole.
Me and James and a new member closed up at 3am.

What a great night.........  Hoping for round two before the next public star party.

Garry Ingle

July 9, 2016 Solar Fest

Wow!  What a great event sponsored by Howard County Rec. & Parks at Alpha Ridge this evening.  At Solar Fest, over 300 kids and their parents enjoyed views of the Sun, daytime views of the moon followed by after dark views of the moon, Saturn, and Jupiter.  HAL member Colin Brinster and fellow members of the Glenelg High Astronomy Club demonstrated a gravity well, staff from Robinson Nature Center had meteorites on display, and HAL members had solar scopes set up and engaged the public. And, HAL was just one of the participants at the Festival!  Multiple vendors with some STEM connection led fun activities for the kids.  There was even a large inflatable for kids to bounce around inside.

Special thanks to Bob Savoy for his tireless efforts at his scope while simultaneously explaining the new HAL table top solar system scale model, Wayne Baggett and Marc Feuerberg for setting up solar scopes and battling sticky fingers at the eyepiece for 3 hours non-stop, Chris Todd for coming to our rescue when we were having difficulty getting the moon to show up on the flat panel TV and staying to welcome guests all night to HALO, and HAL members Bob Prokop and Steve Rifkin for sharing the skies and answering guests' questions.

A number of folks stayed around after Solar Fest concluded at 9:30 for telescope viewing and satellite and Iridium flare hunting.  We finally shut down and locked up around 10:30. All in all, a great night of outreach for HAL. The HCRP staff was already talking about next year's event. They were thrilled with the turnout and enthusiasm and especially impressed by the commitment of the HAL members to help assure the success of their event.

Joel Goodman
HAL Events & Outreach Coordinator

July 2, 2016 Members Star Party

Well the clouds rolled in and that was that for viewing. The dome crew got some training in and that was about it except for some friendly chit chatting. Better luck in two weeks when the moon is up (since it will be three days from full it should be clear). I’ll be your host again.


June 11, 2016 Public Star Party

Saturday’s Star Party at Alpha Ridge wasn’t to bad after all. Clouds where around but the clearest part of the sky was to the south along the ecliptic. I counted around 15 scopes set up and around 50 – 60 guest who were treated to views of the first quarter moon, Jupiter ,Mars and Saturn. It was nice to be out under warm weather and a breeze to key bugs away. We stayed till midnight when the clouds overtook most of the sky. Hopefully our next SP on July 2 will have good weather.


May 14, 2016 Public Star Party plus RNC Master Naturalists

​Thanks to everyone who helped out in making last night's public star party such a success.  As predicted, the clouds blew out just before sunset.  The public turned out in very large numbers (HALO is certainly proving to be a popular attraction) and were treated to good views of the Moon and Jupiter.  I met several new HAL members and saw some new telescopes being put to good use.​  Sadly, the clouds blew back in around 9:30 PM, the public departed and we packed up.  It wasn't a perfect night, but it was a lot better than most of what we've had recently.  Hopefully June will be even better.

Clear skies,

Note: Check event photos on HAL's Facebook page:

May 9, 2016 Transit of Mercury

We had a successful TOM event yesterday in spite of yet-another bad weather day here in central Maryland.  The event started with thin clouds in the east which still allowed us to see the transit start. 

There were 10 HAL members with personal solar scopes set up outside the observatory and another 3-4 HAL CTOs manning the observatory and its solar scope.  We actually use the piggy backed 120mm Orion refractor plus white light filter as the HALO solar scope rather than the Watson scope!  Normally the Orion is used as the Watson finderscope, but it is a better size for solar use than the Watson.

We had quite a few families and kids that came early on their way to school including several girl scouts. Through the rest of the day there was a steady trickle of individuals, couples, and parents bringing their kid(s).  By 9AM the clouds had completely rolled in and the HAL members set up outside had packed up and headed out.

Next Wayne, Bob Savoy, and  I set up the observatory to stream video from remote locations.  We got to see the event from places like the French Riviera, Dubai, Las Vegas, and Prescott, AZ and followed TOM all the way until its 2:45PM conclusion.  By then it had been raining for a while.

Thanks to the HAL members that helped get the word out.  Many of the attendees were visiting HALO for the first time and had never heard of HALO or HAL before seeing the TOM publicity. Quite a few stated their goal to come to the Public star party this weekend.

Rather than sending photos with this  email I direct you to yesterday’s emails on this list which included links to several posted TOM photos.  Also, check out HAL’s Facebook page for a number of additional TOM photos:

We hope to see you at this Saturday’s Public Star Party. David Stein hosts the outside event while Wayne Baggett and Paul Montanaro will be manning the Watson scope in the observatory. This Saturday HAL also welcomes the Robinson Nature Center Master Naturalists. 

Chas Rimpo
TOM CTO and Observatory Director

May 7, 2016 Members Star Party and HALO Donor Event #1

Normally the Star Party host sends out the star party report.  Unfortunately, Bob Prokop came down with a bug late last week and had to cancel.  Since almost all HAL Certified Telescope Operators (CTO) planned to be in attendance we decided we had it covered.  This was supposed to be a combination event of a members star party outside and a private star party for key HAL Donors inside the observatory.  The latter event was to thank the Teresa Palomar family and the Arium/AE firm and families. Arium/AE provided the architecture and engineering for the observatory. We had about 25 people in attendance.

Thanks to the weather forecast, the few HAL members/CTOs that set up scopes outside actually showed up in support of the private star party more so that for their own observing efforts.

While it was still light we were able to pull in good views of Jupiter for the attendees viewing pleasure.  At sunset, while clouds rolled in, Joel Goodman provided some introductory remarks and then lead a meteor demo and discussion.  Chas Rimpo then showed a PowerPoint based history of the Watson scope and Observatory from the initial construction of the scope back in the 1930s to the grand opening of the observatory.  Thanks to Chris Miskiewicz for putting together the presentation.  Near the end of this preso, the rain started and we had to close the dome. By 9:30PM everyone had left and we called it a night and yet-another rain out. 

We hope (again) for better weather this Saturday; otherwise we should consider painting the dome to resemble a mushroom!

Star Party CTO


April 16, 2016 Greenfest

We had a clear sky, little wind, and a great view of sunspot AR 2529 to share with everyone visiting solar scopes today at GreenFest. A lot of people talked about HAL and our observatory and share their interest in astronomy with us as they viewed the sun through white light and H-alpha scopes. We had at least 100 people stop by and handed out a lot of information about HAL. I want to thank James Stuby, Bob Savoy, and Chris Todd for coming out and sharing their telescopes today.

Clear Skies
Chris Miskiewicz

April 16, 2016 Public Star Party

Finally, we had nearly perfect weather for a star party last night.  With attendance swelled by people who were referred from Greenfest earlier in the day, and by a class of HCC astronomy students, we had way over a hundred visitors (maybe several hundred, I was much too busy to count but the parking lot was full and traffic was heavy).  The Moon and Jupiter were spectacular, Mercury put in an early evening appearance, and there was a very bright ISS pass that was enjoyed by all.

I didn't get to see the HALO view of the Moon because I was too busy with the line at my own scope at the time, but later in the evening the Watson scope was showing a lovely view of Jupiter using Chris Todd's webcam, and then a really nice view of M51 using the Mallincam.

We packed up and left just before midnight.  Thanks to all the HAL members who showed up to share the night sky with the public, and especially to Chris and Paul who did such an outstanding job running the observatory.

We'll have our next members-only star party on May 7, with Bob Prokop as our host.
Clear skies,

April 9, 2016 Members Star Party

This star party was snowed out.  We had quite a bit of snow falling and some of it actually stuck on the ground at Alpha Ridge.  I did get to meet three new HAL members who stopped by the observatory to say hello.  When we left around 8:30 PM, it was snowing from a clear sky, which seems impossible but I have several witnesses.  We weren't going to try to open up the observatory in the snow and it was too windy to set up outside, so we said good night to Jupiter and Orion and went home.

We'll try again next week with a public star party.  If a volcano erupts in Maryland, I'm giving up.

Clear skies,

March 19, 2016 Public Star Party

About 15-20 guests braved the snow at Alpha Ridge tonight - a few families with kids and some students and friends from an Earth and Space Sciences class at HCC.  Wayne, Mike, and I shared HALO & the Watson scope, meteorites, astrophotography, and all things astronomical until about 9PM. 

While I can't promise clear skies next month, I think I'm confident enough to guarantee that it won't be snowing. Saturday, April 9th is our next Members Only star party, and the next public event is Saturday, April 16th.  If you are a member opted in for Impromptu emails, keep an eye out for posts about evenings at Alpha Ridge and/or Carrs Mill - Lots of photon-starved folks out there.

Joel Goodman
HAL Events Coordinator (and tonight's star party host)

March 5, 2016 Members Star Party

Well, folks, let's hope the astronomy gods grace us with better weather for the rest of our star parties in 2016. I've already shut down Alpha Ridge and am leaving, so don't come out if you were planning to.

Clear skies,
Chris Todd
HAL President

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Last modified: December 31, 2016 @ 12:24 EST