HAL NEWS Plus Star Party and Outreach Reports
Dec 26, 2018 Impromptu
We had a very nice night Wednesday night, with seven of us observing from Alpha Ridge Park. Joel worked with the Illig scope, investigating the pointing problems and getting a few images of M42, while the rest of us did our own things. It was a bit cold, but it was pretty clear and there was little wind. There was some engineering work going on by a couple of people, and some nice visual observing. A highlight of the evening was a nice view of comet 46/P Wirtanen in northern Auriga through Phil Whitebloom's refractor -- it was my first view of the
object, so I appreciated the effort from Richard Orr to locate it for us.
I was alone by midnight, but I continued my imaging and finally got away at about 3:45am. Attached is a tripod-shot of HALO with Canis Major, Orion, the Hyades, and the Pleiades. Hopefully we will get clear skies again soon.
Happy New Year!
Dec 18, 2018 Impromptu
I opened the gates at 7:30 pm. No other parties arrived. One party contacted me by phone to say they couldn't make it at approx 8:51pm. Thus, I was the only participant.
Skies were super clear and humidity and dew were not a problem. I could observe Comet Wirtanen with unaided eye and conducted guided DSLR photography of the comet. The moon was so bright that the ground was quite illuminated and interfered with obtaining any quality comet images. Thanks to Mr. Illig's Facebook posting I was able confirm that the comet, as seen on my images, was in fact behind a star! Thank you Mr. Illig!
With no other parties arriving and my storage card filled up, I packed up and locked the gate at 10:45 pm. For me it was an awesome night.
December 8, 2018 Impromptu
Six people participated in this impromptu, including myself. Weather temperatures were mild at 41 degrees between 7:45 pm and 10:00 pm. Low clouds rolled in early on then by 9 pm skies were covered with thin to moderate low level clouds and high, wispy clouds. Several people decided not to fight the clouds and packed up. Then the around 10 pm the temperatures began to plummet and the skies cleared. By the time I left for home it was 18 degrees and clear skies.
Richard Ren was the first to locate Comet Wirtanen and was able to collect quite a bit of data on the ellusive comet. Jessica Dickens imaged Mars and beautiful Neptune with her telescope, I spotted the Comet with binoculars and was able to reposition my camera for wide field photography and Joel Goodman operated the Illig Scope for further glimpses of Comet Wirtanen and other various targets.
I handed the impromptu to Joel at approximately 1:10 AM as he was imaging on the Illig scope.
Thank you to everyone who showed up and the cold hardy souls who stayed for the clear skies that eventually did show up.
December 1, 2018 Public Star Party
Despite the rain, tonight’s Public Star Party was a huge success! We had about 75 people visit us in the observatory between 4:30 when we opened to about 8:00 when we finally closed up shop. David Stein showed lots of video shorts on the TV and explained about different types of telescopes assisted by Dale Ghent. I showed the 4 models of the Solar System (size scale, orbital distance scale, orbital speed scale, and position around the Sun). Guests included a Cub Scout Pack, an 8th grade homeschool class, and students from HCC. This was a wonderful way to end the Public Star Party season.
Bob Savoy, Host
November 11, 2018 Impromptu Star Party
4 of us showed up at Carrs Mill this Sunday night.. The skies were cloud free and the seeing was good. My personal goals for the evening were to observe Uranus, Neptune, and the asteroid Juno, and I managed to see all three. Ended the night with my first look for the season at M42, the Great Nebula in Orion. Had to leave earlier than I wanted to (around 10:30) when all my lenses quite suddenly froze over. Couldn't see a thing after that.
All in all, a wonderful night out.
November 10, 2018 Public Star Party
Last night’s star party was excellent despite the cold. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky over the entire event from 5-11PM!
I had the 16” Meade out showing the Moon and Saturn early, then Mars, and later the Pleiades. Several other members had their scopes pointed to these objects as well as a variety of DSOs giving the ~75 attendees plenty to look out. Wayne gave an excellent astronomy talk to a Cub Scout Pack that attended.
Ken Everhart and Jim Johnson had the Illig scope on the move for the entire evening showing attendees dozens of objects. Ken captured most of the observations to disk over the course of the evening and plans to do s8 ome post processing. Perhaps we’ll see a few of those images at this Thursday’s HAL meeting.
The scope and the new ASI video camera did a remarkable job and the Dome worked well, too. Last year we had a problem with the Dome’s shutter sticking when it wasn’t quite as cold as last night. There was no sign of the issue this time. Also, the small oil-filled radiator placed under the flat panel did the job and kept it working perfectly even with the temperature in the observatory down to where it had failed to work properly in past years.
HAL also enjoyed a visit from former member Michael Chesnes and his wife. He was one of several HAL members instrumental in the original Watson telescope refurbishment. (https://www.howardastro.org/watson/watson.php)
The last Public Star Party of 2018 is coming up on Dec. 1st. It can’t be any colder than last night, can it? Hopefully, the skies are as clear.
Outside Star Party Host
We accomplished quite a bit during last night’s Public Star Party. While entertaining approximately, 75 guests, we slewed the scope toward 24 objects. Many of these objects were selected by the public as we were able to respond to requests like “Can we see an edge-on galaxy?” and “Are there any other planetary nebula we can see?”
Chas, Jim and I opened the doors to the public at 4:30pm providing views of the moon before the sun had set. As the sky dimmed, we were able to show progressively fainter objects.
Here is a list of the evening’s observing targets:
M71 – Open Cluster in Vulpecula
M15 - Globular Cluster in Pegasus
M31 and M32 – The Andromeda Galaxy
NGC 1275 and The Perseus Cluster of Galaxies
M33 – The Triangulum Galaxy
NGC 891 – Edge-On Galaxy in Andromeda
Comet 64P Swift-Gehrels
NGC 7331 and The Deer Lick Galaxy Group in Pegasus
Stephan’s Quintet in Pegasus
NGC 1499 – The California Nebula in Perseus
NGC 1300 – Galaxy in Eridanus
M77 – Seyfert Galaxy in Cetus
NGC 253 – The Sculpture Galaxy
M1 – The Crab Nebula
NGC 6960 – The Veil Nebula
M27 – The Dumbbell Nebula
M57 – The Ring Nebula
Comet 46P Wirtanen
M42 and M43 – The Orion Nebula
Sharpless 279 – The Running Man Nebula
Barnard 33 – The Horsehead Nebula
M78 – Reflection Nebula in Orion.
With the exception of Comet 46P-Warten, all objects were successfully observed. NGC 891, The Deer Lick group and The Sculpture Galaxy offered surprisingly good views. Of course, tried and true objects like M31 and The Dumbbell looked spectacular on the screen. Yes, on the screen, we could see The Veil, The Horsehead and The California Nebula!
Although we saved imagery for a number of these objects, I unfortunately captured files in the .PNG/RAW8 format that SharpCap had previously been set. Consequently, the files were not saved in color, and I have been unable to find a suitable Debayer routine to colorize the images.
Nevertheless, I attach a few images to underscore the capability of the system. Without calibration frames, there is little more I can do to make the images more appealing. However, considering this represents my first use of SharpCap and my first experience initializing the Illig scope on my own, I think the results are fine. We were there to host a public star party, not to acquire images for our own purposes.
We closed up at 10:45 pm.
November 3, 2018 Members Star Party
We had a wonderful members star party last night. The skies were clear and the winds were calm and it wasn't too cold yet. We had at least a dozen scopes going outside plus our 16" Meade was set up and the Illig scope was working great in the observatory, where about ten of us gathered. I was inside the observatory most of the night, we viewed many targets including the globular cluster M15, the Andromeda Galaxy (M31), the Ring Nebula (M57), Uranus (we saw several moons), Neptune (again, with moons), the NGC 1275 galaxy cluster (Wayne, I hope I got that catalog number right?) and the edge-on spiral NGC 891. Wayne and I closed up the observatory about 11:45 and left a few intrepid members going outside (Ken was kind enough to volunteer to stay late with them).
Agreed. It seems forever since we'd enjoyed conditions as good as last night's. I took one last look at Saturn before it went behind the Sun till next year, then spent the time before the skies got really dark observing Mars. Even this late after opposition, I could still make out the polar ice cap and some dark mottling on its disk. Then it was on to Neptune. I had a small line at my scope at one point of people who had never seen that planet before. After a while, I just leaned back and enjoyed the naked eye view of the glorious Milky Way overhead. Ended the night with one of my favorite double stars, Struve 2398 in Draco.
October 20, 2018 Public Star Party & Int'l Observe the Moon Night
Tonight’s Star Party, celebrating International Observe The Moon Day, was a rousing success thanks to relatively clear skies and 8 or 9 member telescopes. We had about a hundred attendees - who obviously enjoyed themselves. The Moon was pretty bright (at about 80%) but we also offered views of Mars and Saturn. Joel Goodman brought out the Meade and also showed the Moon, Mars and Saturn as well as M13. The observatory was a huge hit. David Stein and Ken Everhart moved the Illig telescope effortlessly between the Moon, Mars, Saturn, M13, Andromeda, the Ring nebula, and the Dumbbell nebula.
Many of us set up early (around 6:00-6:15) because the Moon was quite clear and some visitors arrived early. But around 9:15 the clouds rolled in fast and we became aware the it would soon rain. So we closed up quickly and were gone by about 9:40, just as the rain started.
Thanks again to the members who helped make this a successful evening.
Bob Savoy, host
Bob did a great job at describing the events of last night. I thought I would go into a little more detail about events under the dome.
The Illig scope performed splendidly as we moved between objects dodging the obstructing clouds.
We saved 31 images of M13 and a nearby galaxy and a single .AVI video of an area of The Moon cropped to 1024X768 and did some rudimentary processing of the imagery with Registax 6 and Deep Sky Stacker.
As mentioned, the weather quickly deteriorated. Thankfully, Chris Miskiewicz informed us of impending rain. We had the dome and The Illig secure in under 10 minutes.
I got that best of all outreach rewards last night - a young man, looking through my scope at the Moon, was absolutely overcome by the sight. He kept saying "Oh, wow! Oh, wow! Oh, wow!" and told me he had never seen the Moon through a telescope before.
Sample of Observatory Photos:
October 18, 2018 Impromptu
After our meeting last night, three of us went out to get some practice time in the observatory. We got there about 9:30. It was a beautiful clear night and not as cold as I had feared. Two intrepid observers, Joe and Jessica, came out to join us. Ken and Joel had to get up in the morning so we locked up the observatory around 11:00. Jessica finished up her search for Uranus and left about 11:30 and I sadly said good night to the stars and locked up the park and went home. I wish we could have that weather more often!
October 6, 2018 Members Only Star Party
Despite the promise of a few hours of clear skies, the sky remained 100% overcast.
No other members attended.
I did not open HALO and left at 7:18 pm after confirming with park personnel that they would be locking the restrooms and front gate.
September 30, 2018 Impromptu, CM
Eight people showed up in all, including two first timers. The skies started out mostly clear, with Saturn and Mars showing themselves off well. Jupiter mostly remained hidden by clouds. There were intermittent clouds all evening long, but the skies were never without enough clear areas to find at least something to look at. You just had to be open minded!
Personally, my best view of the night was the globular cluster M92 in Hercules. Beautiful!
The sky started to cloud over completely at about 9:30, and we all packed up and left. All in all, I heard no complaints. We all got a healthy dose of photons.
September 29, 2018 Impromptu, AR
We had a great evening at Alpha Ridge last night. The sky was clear and the temperature was cool and pleasant, although for those who set up outside there was a lot of dew. I was inside the observatory where there was not any dew, but I think we had about a dozen people come out. During the evening, using the Illig scope we took images of the Ring Nebula (M57) (30 minutes), NGC7331 (Deer Lick Group and Stephens' Quintet) (60 minutes) and NGC6946 (Fireworks Galaxy) (60 minutes). For those interested in astrophotography, all the data is available for download at:
along with Dark and Bias frames (sorry no Flats). I'd love to see what pictures folks can get out of this data and also compare notes on how they did it. I'm a total novice, but I hope to have time this afternoon to try some picture-making myself using Deep Sky Stacker. If I do I'll post my pictures here, and I hope other people will post their own results too.
September 15, 2018 Public Star Party
Well last night was cloudy with some clear spots around but that didn't stop our dome operators. Mike & Dave had the scope running with images of the moon,mars,saturn and M27 when the clouds parted. I saw at least fifty cars in the parking lot with all the action centered around the dome. Around 10pm when almost everyone had departed it cleared up, hardly any clouds anywhere. Mike & Dave tried different setting to see what produced better results on the screen of M27. Lets hope for clear skies on our next star party,
August 23, 2018 Impromptu
We had a very nice impromptu last night at Alpha Ridge. We had seven scopes going (not counting the work that Jim and Chas were doing on HALO) and about a dozen members came out to enjoy the beautiful night. Personally, I enjoyed seeing Europa and then Io move in front of Jupiter, along with beautiful views of the Moon, Saturn and Mars. Everyone packed up and left by 11:00 PM, so I locked up and left hoping that this is just the first of many great nights to come this fall.
August 11, 2018 Public Star Party
We had a surprisingly good star party last night. There were enough breaks in the clouds to let us observe all of the bright planets and a handful of deep sky objects. Jim and Chas worked the observatory, and Bob Savoy did his solar system talk using the model. Paul Bird and I had scopes set up outside for the 50 or so guests; we both always had lines.
The evening started with an unusual observation. In bright twilight I saw a bright star high in the south, and I couldn't immediately identify it. I swung my scope over to it and had trouble getting a good focus, until I realized it was a weather balloon, with it's instrument package swinging wildly below it. I showed it to everyone who was standing around, and we watched it until it got lost in the clouds.
Also, while Jim was getting the Illig scope up and going about 20 minutes before sunset, we were able to easily see Venus from inside the dome, with the scope being a good pointer. We shared that experience with the handful of guests who had already arrived.
Anyway, we had a successful outreach event in spite of the weather forecast. Hopefully the next star parties will be even better.
July 28, 2018 Impromptu Star Party & Star-B-Q
We had a very nice impromptu star party last night at Alpha Ridge. There were about a dozen scopes going and we had good views of Jupiter, Saturn and Venus at sunset, and eventually the Moon and Mars came up as well.
Early in the evening the Celestial Searchers were around and we had an impromptu "public" star party with lots of children and family members looking through our scopes and sharing their excitement.
As it got fully dark, it became a more usual impromptu with a lot of quiet astronomy going on. The clouds finally rolled in just before midnight, and Wayne was kind enough to volunteer to lock up for me.
It was great to see so many new and longtime HAL members again!
A HUGE thank you to all the HAL members who graciously showed off the planets to the attendees of our rescheduled Celestial Searchers Star-B-Q last night. Both kids and parents were delighted and couldn’t stop chattering about the telescopes and seeing planets up close.
Celestial Searchers today - HAL members tomorrow.
July 21, 2018 Public Star Party
Members and Guests,
Last night’s star party was a complete wash out. It was pouring rain the whole time, but I opened the observatory to cover the unlikely event that someone might stop by.
One gentleman stuck his head in the door and I gave him my elevator speech on HAL and the observatory, and he left within two minutes. Other than two ladies who were looking for something that might have happened at Alpha Ridge earlier in the day, that was it.
Big thanks to Joel Goodman, Chuck Cynamon, Ken Everhart, and Paul Bird who came out – I certainly enjoyed their company and conversation.
I locked up and left in the rain at 9:55 pm.
July 14, 2018 HCR&P Annual Solarfest
What a night! 200 youngsters plus their parents enjoyed a multitude of STEM related activities at SolarFest. Moon rocks, meteorites, solar scopes, and the project manager of JWST were all represented. David Stein shared live views from an H-alpha scope in Chile on HALO’s flat screen.. Thanx to HAL members David Stein, Wayne Baggett, and Forest Arnold for their time and patience tonight. The event is supposed to be over in 10 minutes, but folks are still lined up at Wayne’s scope craving views of Venus and Jupiter.
HALO Observatory Director
July 8, 2018 Members Impromptu Star Party
We had a really nice impromptu star party at Alpha Ridge last night. I thought the weather was every bit as good as Saturday night. There was a good turnout for a weeknight of maybe a dozen members with perhaps six scopes in use (counting Joel's use of the observatory). Personally, I was easily able to see the Jupiter shadow transit with a lot of banding detail on the planet. I also had a great view of Saturn showing the Cassini division very clearly, and a view of Mars low in the sky as a big boiling red blob around 11:30. We packed up and left around midnight.
I think that was a pair of back-to-back nights as good as any I remember in Maryland in mid-summer. I hope it happens again soon!
July 7, 2018 Members Star Party
We had beautiful skies last night! I was in the observatory and didn't get a count of how many members showed up, but it seemed like quite a few scopes were running. Many people stopped by to see the Illig scope in action, including one of the founding members of HAL and someone who had just moved to the area, a combination which seemed to sum up the continuing vitality of our club. Our next star party is July 21, which will be a public star party. I hope we can have similar weather!
June 16, 2018 Public Star Party
Tonight's HAL Public Star Party was rain-free and well-attended. I closed
the gates at 11:30pm. I counted 54 cars and Jim Johnson counted people, well over
100. There were lots of scopes and people, with numerous family groups as
well as Scouts. No one had to wait long to get a look through one of the
numerous scopes. There were no large scopes but this was not a good night
for deep sky. The Moon and Venus were low and often obscured by clouds,
but Jupiter put on a decent show, although there was no Red Spot or moon
transit. The evening's highlight was the introduction of the Illig Tak apo
refractor on its AP 1200 mount, a lovely and important instrument and
Some people showed up well before the official HAL event time of 8:30pm,
responding to the HC Parks and Recreation announced time of 7- to 9, or
some such. In the future, we need to avoid miscommunication start and
A high quality black extension tube was found after tonight's event, lost
either tonight or during a recent AR session. The tube was put in the
Observatory desk drawer. Contact me or other HAL officer to arrange pickup
during a future HAL event.
Public Star Party Host
June 15, 2018 Impromptu Star Party @ Alpha Ridge Park
We had a great impromptu at AR last night. There about 10 scopes and 15 people, and everyone had a good night. The conditions were nearly ideal, just a little damp and a bit cool. As promised, we stayed late with the last of us leaving at about 2am. HALO was used by a group to prepare for tonight's public star party. The Illig scope was performing well, with an impressive image of Jupiter and several DSOs.
Hope to see many of you at tonight's public event!
June 14, 2018 Impromptu Star Party @ Alpha Ridge Park
It was like old times. I lost count of the number of people who showed up at Alpha Ridge tonight. You'd almost think it was a scheduled star party instead of just an impromptu. Amazing what a few planets and some clear skies will do!
I counted 9 scopes (10 with the observatory) and at least a dozen HAL members. It was a perfect evening, we got great pictures with the observatory and when I left after midnight Wayne and Ken were still going strong. One of the best nights I've seen in Maryland with absolutely delightful shirtsleeve temperatures, clear skies and no dew or wind. The planetary seeing didn't seem bad either in the few minutes I looked at Jupiter before it got dark enough to do deep sky with the Illig scope.
David (Stein) HAL Events Coordinator
June 9, 2018 Members Star Party
Unfortunately we were clouded out last night. Let's hope for better weather for next week's public star party!
May 24th, 2018 Impromptu (Members Only)
We had a great impromptu last night at Alpha Ridge. The weather was cool but not cold, the sky was clear and had periods of excellent stability, and the Moon and Jupiter were bright. We had nine members attend, including two past presidents of HAL. I saw some great views, including the Great Red Spot as it rotated into view on Jupiter. The sky was getting even better at midnight and I hated to leave, but I couldn't stay awake any longer. Garry kindly agreed to stay later and lock up for me.
It would be wonderful to get weather like that for our next (members only) star party on Saturday June 9!
May 19, 2018 HAL Public Star Party
Despite total cloud cover, fog and light rain, eight (!) people (three family groups) showed up, a very positive sign of astro interest in Howard County. All want to come to our next public event. Cloudy nights are a good chance to discus the club, observing, and telescope tips.
April 21, 2018 HAL Public Star Party
Well the clouds did clear somewhat last night at AR for our public star party. The moon was our only good target but our HALO operators Mike Kraus and Dave Stein had a beautiful image of the moon on the screen inside the dome.
I saw around 30 to 40 cars in the parking lot but failed on the head count. Lines on the scopes were not to bad of a wait.
Not sure who did the solar system walk for the crowd but boy were they in for a walk around AR (i got tired just watching) but sure they got lots of information.
While we were closing up for the night a family arrived late and asked were they might find a place were the kids could lay on blankets and look up at the sky. Our dome operators stepped up and turned the light off and stayed awhile longer just for the kids, three cheers for those two.
Crossed fingers for our next events coming in May.
Greenfest April 21, 2018
Great time and lots of sunshine at HCC and GREENFEST yesterday. Chris Miskiewicz, Phil Whitebloom, and I talked to 60 to 80 people who stopped by to experience safe solar viewing, learn about gravity at Chris’ gravity well, and talk about the Solar System over the model.
The pictures are: Phil with H Alpha scope; Chris with his H Alpha and white light filter scopes; Chris’ gravity well; Phis had a series of books and material about the Sun; and the HAL section on the quad.
Sent by Bob Savoy
April 4, 2018 HAL Members Only Star Party
Weather reports earlier in the day were mixed but ten members believed in the group observing together with good weather. We setup around HALO and waited for the sky to darken and clear, oh did it clear. We were treated to final views of the winter constellations, the ISS fly over, and Venus. Then, we started to take in star clusters and galaxies as the night continued. Some light clouds starting to come in around 11 so we called it a good night for observing and packed up.
April 14, 2018 Solar Observing at Clarksville Commons
A very successful outreach event was held at Clarksville Commons. Bob Savoy and I set up white light and H-Alpha scopes as part of the Center’s Earth Day celebration a week early. Even though there is not much visible activity on the Sun right now, views of our home star still brought wows from kids and adults alike, and we had fun talking about the newly observed coronal hole (unfortunately only visible in UV).
Joel "StarDoc" Goodman
March 24, 2018 First Public Star Party
Whoever said you can not have a great night of outreach and observing with clouds in the sky. The cold weather and snow melting did not hold back the 86+ people from attending last night! The moon was swimming in thin cloud cover but it didn't keep people from observing at the eyepiece.
For many, it was the first view from a telescope and everyone was very impressed with the views of the different craters and contrast along the terminator.
Outside we had three telescopes setup and the Watson shared views inside along with short presentations on all things fun related to astronomy. We all looked up to observe the International Space Station transit which capped off the evening.
Looking forward to another great night.
Clear Skies, or in this case even think cloud cover!
March 17, 2018 First Member's Only Star Party
Only three HAL members showed up, I stayed till 5am and got to see Venus, Mercury, Jupiter, Mars and Saturn all in one night.
March 2, 2018 Outreach Report
This past Friday night, Bob Savoy, Bob Dutilly, and I represented HAL before and after the family and adult planetarium shows at the Robinson Nature Center. We had a variety of refractors, reflectors, and H-alpha scopes to display and talk about.. We handed out HAL cards to the receptive crowd and touted our public star party season opening on Saturday, March 24th.
For anyone new to HAL and looking for opportunities to conduct outreach besides at our public star parties, the HAL Board accepts a limited number of invitations to be featured as a club elsewhere besides Alpha Ridge. Check the HAL calendar for events the Board has committed to well in advance, or keep an eye out for an email call for volunteers in the days just before an outreach event.