2022 HAL Star Party Reports and Other News
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2022 Star Party Reports
Impromptu Star Party (Alpha Ridge) 12/09/2022
(The One with Near Perfect Seeing and Unexpected Frost)
We had a nice impromptu star party at Alpha RIdge yesterday.
FIve members joined the star party: Mario was already there
when I arrived around 6:40 pm. Later Benjamin, Charles, and
Grace also showed up.
The weather was calm; the sky was clear, the seeing condition
was near perfect except for the near-full moon. I used this
opportunity to learn how to do the period error correction
for my CGX mount. Mario and Benjamin did some imaging.
The weather forecast did not predict subfreezing temperatures
before midnight, but frost started to bite my telescope
around 10:15. We started to wrap-up around 10:30 and I locked
the door at 10:50.
Impromptu Star Party (Alpha Ridge) 11/22/2022
(The One with Visions of Turkey and Pumpkin Pie to Keep Us Warm)
Tuesday night turned out to be a fine night of observing from Alpha
Ridge Park. Ten HAL members braved the moderately cold temperatures to
view the heavens under the moonless skies. Mario had a couple of scopes
set up for visual observing, but most of his time was dedicated to his
new 6-inch SCT. Richard did intensified sketching (sample links below)
of some galaxies with
his 4.3-inch refractor. Richard later shared 1x views of the sky with
his intensifier, allowing us to see
Barnard's Loop and the
Flame nebulae in Orion;
the Rosette Nebula in Monoceros
was very bright and surprisingly large.
As is common at our impromptu star parties,
imagers outnumbered the visual observers.
Arjun and Shrikant conducted wide-field imaging, with Arjun capturing the
Andromeda Galaxy and
Shrikant imaging several different objects. Arjun's whole family
participated in his efforts, and it was nice to discuss numerous topics
Ken S. continued his imaging with his eVscope eQuinox setup, collecting
images of several different objects including
M15 (globular cluster in Pegasus),
the Dumbbell Nebula (M27), and
the Triangulum Galaxy (M33).
I continued collecting LRGB data for my
M31 mosaic with my 8-inch RC; I
have gathered data for 11 of the 12 panels of the mosaic. I also
collected some RGB images of the
Clown-faced Nebula, NGC 2392, in
Gemini. Hannah encountered some unfortunate equipment problems while
trying to image with the
and didn't get anything but
practice opening and closing the observatory. Shrikant and I closed the
park at 3:35am on Thanksgiving eve.
It was a nice, long evening under the early winter skies, and everyone
(with the possible exception of Hannah) had a nice time. It was fun to
talk astronomy and other topics with the good people of HAL; I hope we
can all do it again in the near future.
Sketches by Richard Orr:
Members-Only Star Party (Alpha Ridge) 11/19/2022
(The One with the Season Closer)
We had about 9 members show up for our last scheduled star party of the
year. We all braved the cold to collect photons one way or the other. Gary,
Kurt, and Arjun tested equipment and imaged before calling it an early
night. With temperatures below freezing, Ken E. and I worked past midnight
before finally calling the end tp our night.
is ready for winter imaging and I look forward to any
star parties until the new year is scheduled.
Stay warm out there!
Public Star Party (Alpha Ridge) 11/05/2022
(The One with 250 People and Our Youngest Helpers)
The last public star party of the year was a huge success!
There were at least 250 people attending and 8 telescopes.
Ken Everhart kept the constant flow of visitors
entertained. Richard Ren pulled out the 16" Meade and there were long lines
waiting to look at the Moon, Jupiter, and Saturn. Victor, Michelle, Eric, and I
(Bob) also provided views of the Moon, Jupiter, and Saturn. The weather was mild
with a slight breeze. We were very lucky because the clouds actually stayed away
from the Moon, Jupiter, and Saturn until about 8:15. I set up the solar system
models early (by 5:00) and the table was busy thereafter. Laurel John helped me a
great deal. When Arjun arrived, he took over for me so I could focus on my
telescope. Arjun was fabulous! He even recruited his friend Ramsey, and the two of
them were dynamos. This evening was a great way to end a cloudy, rainy, snowy year
of public star parties.
Members-Only Star Party (Alpha Ridge) 10/22/2022
(The One with a Sucker Hole)
Six HAL members came out to join me at Alpha Ridge tonight for our
members-only star party. Unfortunately, a thin layer of clouds coming
from the east was covering everything but the westernmost part of the sky
by dusk. I was still able to see Jupiter and Saturn through the clouds
but it was totally unsuitable for deep sky observing. Around 7:30 PM a
opened up near Cygnus and some members were able to observe
M13 (Great Hercules Globular) ,
M27 (Dumbbell) and
But the clouds kept coming in and getting worse so everyone packed up
their scopes and I locked up the park just after 8:00 PM.
Hopefully we'll have better weather for our public star party on November 5!
Impromptu Star Party (Alpha Ridge) 10/21/2022
(The One with a Good Mix of New and Seasoned Observers)
Eight HAL members enjoyed the somewhat cool but clear skies at Alpha
Ridge Park. Transparency started out a bit poor, but got better as the
night went on. At 8:15pm my Sky Quality Meter (SQM) reported a sky
brightness of 19.7 mag/sq-arcsec, which is rather brighter than normal
and suggests that there were some high clouds reflecting the light
pollution (there were high clouds in the west/southwest just after
sunset). At 2:30am my SQM measured the brightness at 19.89
mag/sq-arcsec, which is more typical of a good night at Alpha Ridge, but
not the best it can be. Seeing was also variable but was often very
good. There was some dew, but it wasn't too bad.
We had a good mix of new and seasoned observers, with "equipment"
ranging from naked eye to a 10-inch Newtonian. Dan and Jay stopped by
for a short while to check out the park for some wide-field imaging.
Richard used his 4.3-inch refractor to sketch some double stars and some
faint emission nebulae with his Televue eyepiece image intensifier. He
shared the view of
with me, and it is amazing what the
intensifier brings into view. I later got a look at the complex of
nebulae near the
and was equally amazed; look for his
sketches in a few days. Ken S. brought his new
eVscope eQuinox out,
and Grace shared her knowledge of the system with him to help get him past some
new-equipment hurdles. Alex and Kimberly used their 10-inch Newtonian
to practice finding objects, being successful with
M31 (Andromeda Galaxy) and
M57 (Ring Nebula),
while I spent the night imaging M31 with
my 8-inch RC. Despite the peak of the Orionid meteor shower, I only saw
one meteor all night -- at about 12:40am I saw a first-magnitude meteor
in the north, traveling west parallel to the horizon past Polaris and
through Cepheus. I'm not sure if it was an Orionid or just a sporadic
meteor, but it was a nice sight.
Richard left at 12:30am, leaving me alone in the park. I continued
observing until 3:20am and closed the gate an hour later after tearing
It was a very nice late Fall/early Winter night of observing. The early
sunset makes it easy to get in a decent amount of viewing before it gets
too late. Once again, it was nice to see members old and new taking
advantage of the opportunity to observe and sharing their knowledge and
views with one another. This is what makes HAL the great club that it is!
Impromptu Star Party (Alpha Ridge) 10/09/2022
(The One with Cool, Bright Skies)
Another of our continuing series of Full Moon impromptus was held on
Sunday, October 9, at Alpha Ridge Park. Conditions were nice with
moderately cool temperatures and no wind; the humidity was elevated but
not too bad. Four HAL members came out for the bright sky night, and
all enjoyed themselves. Jason was observing with his 6-inch Newtonian,
while Dave, Grace, and I were imaging various objects. Grace was
getting an end-of season image of the
Trifid Nebula (M20) with her
and Dave was imaging Jupiter and Saturn with his 8-inch SCT.
After doing some troubleshooting with my setup, I took some quick images
of the open cluster
M39 (very sparse!) and the
globular cluster M15
(click to expand image on right).
Mostly due to the bright sky we closed
up early -- we stopped observing at about 11:30 pm and I locked the gate
just after 1am.
As always, it was fun to get together with other HAL members for a night
of observing and sharing our collective knowledge and experience. I
hope to do it again very soon!
Click image to expand.
Impromptu Star Party (Alpha Ridge) 10/08/22
(The One with Phil's New Tele Vue Night Vision Device)
Last night, Wayne Baggett and I co-hosted an impromptu event at Alpha
Ridge. Joining us was David Glasser who was viewing through his telescope,
Richard Orr who was viewing through his large Orion Binocular, and Steve
Jaworisky who was enjoying our views. Wayne was calibrating his system and
doing some imaging. I was testing out my new Tele Vue TNV white phosphor
night vision device. It was incredible. The sky was almost a total wash-out
with the full-moon high in the sky, combined with the normal light
pollution. With that said, we were able to view several nebulae, globular
clusters, and galaxies. I could only imagine what it will do in a dark sky.
Click on the link below to open the image I captured by attaching my iPhone
14 to the night vision system. This is a single frame capture with a 3
second exposure. The details are described on the image.
Lagoon Nebula - M8 [single frame, 3-second exposure]
Gene Handler added: A monochrome image intensifier, like most other monochrome
astrophotography cameras, can take images through different filters and
produce color images using image processing software. The images from the
filters are assigned to color channels and combined to make a color image.
Public Star Party (Alpha Ridge) 10/01/22
(The One with a Busload of Students)
The weather was terrible. Complete cloud cover and mist and light rain through
the entire event which began at 6:30PM. At this point you are probably expecting
to read that nobody was at Alpha Ridge and I closed the gate and went home.
It turned out to be a highly successful event! Michelle Hymowitz arrived with a
school bus loaded with 28 students and 7 parents from North County High School
(Anne Arundel County). They set up two canopies next to HALO with tables and
International Observe the Moon Night.
Bob Savoy set up his Solar System table inside HALO
and presented and answered questions for students and
other guests. Although we could not open the dome, Hannah Broder demonstrated how
the telescope works and showed pictures on the large display throughout the
event. Richard Ren and I added to the conversations and answered questions
throughout. We even had one visitor who arrived when we started and stayed until
we ended. He joined HAL using his cell phone. And we are thrilled to have Dan as
a new member.
I locked the gate at 9:00PM.
Thanks to all who supported the event last night and to all who visited.
Phil, thanks so much for this report. Yes, it was amazing to have a highly
successful public star party even though the weather was lousy. The visitors were
engaged throughout the evening, the questions were great, and the answers were
even better. Wonderful conversations!
Impromptu Star Party (Alpha Ridge) 9/14/2022
(The One with Smoke from the West)
We had a quiet and successful evening at Alpha Ridge. The sky was clear and the smoke was present but not too bad. The moon rose above the trees around 9:50 pm. The temperature was around 63 degrees and the dew began around 11 pm.
There were four of us in attendance. Richard Orr came and made a beautiful drawing of M13 [NGC 6205, Great Hercules Globular Cluster].
Yvonne came to view the stars but found them very dim due to the smoke. Shrikant attended as well and worked on gear problem solving and imaging the moon and Jupiter. I worked on ongoing issues with tracking and imaged a few objects as well.
Shrikant and I were the last in attendance and packed up around 11:30 and locked the gates at midnight.
[The smoke refers to] many ongoing fires in Montana, Washington, Idaho, Oregon and Northern California that have been burning for a few weeks. This smoke was brought over us by the jet stream this week. I was grateful Victor alerted me to this because I just wasn�t thinking about checking for it this year.
Here is a link that will take you to an interactive map. I use the free version of the app Astrospheric to view smoke. This app has a smoke layer that you can switch to view the smoke location and its thickness.
Impromptu Star Party (Alpha Ridge) 9/09/2022
(The One with Bright Moonlight and Alpha Ridge Newbies)
Despite the terrifically bright Full Moon and rather high humidity we
had a successful impromptu star party at Alpha Ridge Park last night.
About 10 HAL members, including some who had never been to the park
before, enjoyed the clear, steady skies. Michael and John stopped by to
check out the park; neither brought a telescope and both left before
things got started good, but hopefully they'll come out next time with
their equipment and stay longer. Garry continued testing a large Meade
SCT that he is repairing, and Alex and his wife were doing visual
observations with his Dob-mounted Newtonian. Race had his setup going,
and Jaime and Grace were imaging -- Grace worked on the
Veil Nebula with her
and Jaime imaged several objects with his 4.5-inch
Newtonian. I spent the night addressing some issues that had cropped up
on my 8-inch RC and the mount -- I successfully cleared them up so I
think I'm ready to go on the next clear night. A few clouds started
approaching from the south by about 11:30, but they never really
impacted anything. I called it quits just before 1am and locked the
gate at 1:45am after tearing down and packing everything up.
It was great to see so many members out enjoying the sky under the
bright moonlight. It was a pleasure meeting the new folks and I'm
looking forward to seeing them again in the future.
Public Star Party (Alpha Ridge) 9/03/2022
(The One with Its Own Web Page!)
The September Public Star Party was so successful that we're devoting a whole page
so we can include lots of photos - 15, to be exact.
Impromptu Star Party (Alpha Ridge) 9/01/2022
(The One with a Meteor, Satellites, Binoculars and a New Keyholder)
For the second night in a row HAL members enjoyed an excellent night of
late-summer observing at Alpha Ridge Park. The night was pleasantly
cool, and a light jacket was a welcome addition to my observing gear.
The humidity was slightly high but not enough to interfere with
observing, but it did make the sky a little brighter than the previous
night due to the additional scattering.
About half a dozen members came out for the views, with Richard
searching for, and finding, Messier objects with his 100mm binoculars
-- in the first couple of hours of darkness he bagged over 20 objects.
Bob came out to confirm an observation he had made last night, and sure
enough, he was right. Garry did some testing on a large Meade SCT that
he is repairing, and Harold, Kurt, and I were imaging. Richard came out
to provide Kurt with his keyholder training, which Kurt passed -- we
have a new keyholder to call even more impromptus! Congratulations,
Kurt! (I may have missed a couple of people as I was preoccupied with
some mount issues; sorry!)
Harold and I saw a very bright meteor just before 1am. It was moving
south through Aquila and into Capricorn pretty low in the west
southwest. I estimate it was close to -6 magnitude, much brighter than
Jupiter and considerably brighter than Venus at its brightest. It
glowed a very pretty blue-green at the end of its flight. I saw two
other meteors during the night, with one being about as bright as
Jupiter and the other fairly faint but very fast and short duration.
Another interesting sight was a probable Starlink satellite train
passing right past the north celestial pole. I was using my Polemaster
camera to polar align during bright twilight when satellites started
passing through the field of view. There were often three of them in
the camera field at the same time, following almost identical tracks and
having the same brightness. I didn't actually count them, but I would
guess I saw upward of 50 of them before I finished polar alignment.
I closed the park at 3:25am -- winter is on its way! Thanks to all of
the members who came out to do some cool summer observing; Hopefully the
weather will be cooperative for Saturday night's Public Star Party.
Impromptu Star Party (Alpha Ridge) 8/31/2022
(The One with 12 Members and Completely Clear and Transparent Skies)
We had a great impromptu last night at Alpha Ridge! It was a beautiful night
with completely clear and transparent skies and a cool comfortable temperature
with very little humidity. I counted a dozen HAL members plus Victor Sanchez
who came out to tune up HALO and make sure everything was running properly
ahead of Saturday's public star party. It seemed like the
Andromeda Galaxy (M31)
was the photographic target of choice as I saw several folks imaging it
when I walked around, including Hannah who was imaging it using HALO once
Victor's work was finished. Ken was an exception as he had his giant SCT
Io transit on Jupiter
with a methane filter, which made the moon
stand out brilliantly against the planet (very much unlike what I could see
visually). Personally, I first looked at the Moon which was a beautiful
crescent that set early in the evening, then I switched to
Saturn where I could see Cassini's Division
popping in-and-out of visibility for me as the
seeing varied (it was overall not great but there were brief intervals where
it was fine), and finally I was able to watch much of the Io shadow transit
visually once Jupiter climbed high enough in the sky to get out of the slop.
I wished I had taken notes during
Jim [Tomney]'s great presentation at our [August] HAL meeting
so I could properly describe what I saw on the planet's itself - I'll have to
watch it again on our YouTube channel!
I finally called it a night and left about 12:15 AM. Wayne was still going
strong on his Andromeda project so he kindly offered to lock up the park for
me. Personally I had a blast and I hope everyone else did too and that
Saturday's public star party has similar weather!
Supplemental Report from Wayne
As David has already reported, it was a very nice night of observing at
Alpha Ridge Park. When David left at about 12:15am, there were four
members still observing under the perfectly clear skies. By about 2am,
it was just Phil and myself, and Phil left at about 2:40am. I continued
observing and closed up the park just after 4am.
The skies were very dark last night: my Sky Quality Meter reported just
fainter than 20 mag/square-arcsec for most of the night after the Moon
set. This is about as dark as it can get at Alpha Ridge Park, and
afforded wide views of the summer
Milky Way with the unaided eye.
Sometime after midnight Phil and I noticed that the Milky Way could be
seen from Perseus in the northeast, through the zenith, and down to
Aquila in the southeast. As we remarked at the time, it didn't knock
you over but it was there, and it's not commonly that good.
It was a great night of observing, and it was nice to see such a large
turnout on a weekday night. Thanks, David, for opening up, and thanks
to all the members who came out to enjoy the pleasant conditions.
Members-Only Star Party (Alpha Ridge) 8/27/2022
(The One with Perfect Temperature and Fleeting Clouds)
I arrived at Alpha Ridge Park at 7:15pm and noticed couple of members
were already there. It was fairly cloudy but the clouds started to
disperse soon after. About 10 members showed up and set up their gear.
For some of the members it was their first members star party and
others were veterans of it. Most of the members busied themselves with
imaging. Some thin clouds moved in around 10:30pm but didn't stick
around for long. The temperature was perfect for the party. I left
around 11:45pm. Big thanks to Phil Whitebloom who graciously offered to
close up the gate later.
The next public star party is on Saturday, September 3rd.
I have done very little deep sky imaging (DSI). This past weekend I
did grab a few images and below are two of them. I used SharpCap to
capture the images and the "Live Stacking" feature to record them. The
results are pretty good. They do not compare at all to the many
spectacular images you see from other HAL members. It is a learning
curve, that I am taking one step at a time. The cool thing is that I
captured recognizable objects and had fun doing so. I simply used
LightRoom Classic and Photo Shop to process the images. These are
unguided images with relatively short exposures. The weather turned
out to be much better than expected. It made for a fun and relaxing
night/early morning. Thanks to Atul and Richard for hosting the star
party. And it was good to see so many of you at the event. I am sorry
I did not get to talk with everyone.
See you at the next outing. Clear Skies!
Impromptu Star Party (Alpha Ridge) 8/24/2022
(The One with the Completely Clear Night and First Time Participants)
Last night we held an impromptu star party at Alpha Ridge. I will
classify the night as a success and a very good time. The sky was
completely clear all night. The seeing was not perfect, but it was
good. Dew was very mild. The temperature was mild. We had at least
ten telescopes in the parking lot. HALO was not open. Half of the
people were observing visually and half were imaging. What was
best of all, is that we had first time participants and
participants that we had not seen for a while. Of course, it is
always good to be with the regular attendees. Most people were
gone by about 1:00AM. Ken E. and I closed the park shortly after
I am looking forward to seeing many of you at this Saturday's
Member's Only Star Party at Alpha Ridge. Let us hope for good
Impromptu Star Party (Alpha Ridge) 8/12/2022
(The One with a Cool Summer Night and a New Member)
We had an unexpectedly cool night at Alpha Ridge Park, with the temperatures
dropping into the upper 50s by 1am. About 10 HAL members were at the park to
enjoy the brightly moonlit skies, and everyone had a successful night. The
clouds stayed away all night, except for one short-lived puffy thing that showed
up in the southeast soon after moon rise. The humidity was somewhat higher than
forecast but not really a problem. The wind had died down before dark so it
wasn't an issue, either.
As usual, there was a mix of visual observing and imaging:
- Donna came out to see what the park was like and what people were doing; hopefully she'll bring her scope out the next time.
- John stopped by for a while to see what people were doing and to assist another member in setting up their new system.
- Richard checked out some new Orion large binoculars.
- Phil spent the night observing a wide variety of objects through his refractor -- the Moon, Jupiter, Saturn, Mars,
the Pleiades, the
Double Cluster in Perseus, and other clusters.
- Garry was testing a repaired Stellina 80mm imaging system, imaging
M27 (Dumbbell Nebula),
NGC 6992 (Veil Nebula),
M16 (Eagle Nebula),
M51 (Whirlpool Galaxy), and
M31 (Andromeda Galaxy) along the way.
- Several members imaged the Eastern Veil Nebula (NGC 6992) for the August Object of the Month
(Jared, Ken, Jaime, and myself, at least).
- Jaime also imaged a number of other objects, including the Pleiades, the
California Nebula, and the
Cat's Paw Nebula.
- Kurt imaged the Cygnus Wall portion of the North America Nebula.
The Perseid meteor shower was the unaided-eye attraction for the night, and I
think everyone saw at least one. Because of the Moon only the bright meteors
were apparent, but they were very nice if a little far between. I saw one that
was almost as bright as Jupiter, and there may have been others that were
Orion was completely above the eastern horizon by the time I closed the park at
4:30am -- winter and longer nights are on their way! Thanks to all of the
members who came out to do some cool summer observing; I hope we can do it again
Public Star Party (Alpha Ridge) 8/06/2022
(The One with a Huge Turnout and Malfunctioning Flippy Flapper)
Last night, Hannah Broder and I hosted HAL’s monthly public
star party at Alpha Ridge. Hannah drove the
provided views of the
along with the clouds. Guests
enjoyed a brief view of M13
before the clouds rolled in for
good. Phil had the 16� Meade out and viewed
and Bob Savoy set up his
solar system table and was a busy
Bob. Although I was inside
with Hannah most of the
evening, I saw Ken, Michelle, and Hymie talking with folks,
along with several other HAL members. Even with the clouds,
approximately 75-100 guests came and went until we closed up
shop at 11pm.
A special thanks to Victor for interrupting his dinner party
to attend to our malfunctioning flippy flapper. He removed
it, and we reverted old school to our shower cap to protect
Impromptu Star Party (Alpha Ridge) 8/03/2022
(The One with a Fine Night of Observing)
It was a great night of observing at Alpha Ridge Park for the dozen or
so HAL members who came out. As expected, the daytime fair-weather
cumulus clouds were gone by sunset and it remained clear the entire
night. Transparency was good, but there was some evidence of wildfire
smoke when looking to the east-southeast into the strong light
pollution. Even though the sky was dark for Alpha Ridge -- my
Sky Quality Meter
was reporting 19.8 mag/square-arcsec after moonset -- the
Milky Way was just very faintly visible as the
meridian. Humidity was not too bad with just a tiny amount of
condensation on my scope as I packed up. The temperatures, not
surprisingly, stayed warm all night, being only about 74 degrees when I
closed the park at 3:30am.
Our friends the bats were out in force last night; maybe that's why the
bugs weren't too bad. Jared saw one bat swoop right past my scope at
head height. Arjun spotted another flying around high inside the dome;
I'm 99% sure it had left before I closed up. There were no reported
collisions with any observers or equipment, and AFAIK no bats were
harmed in the production of this report.
As usual, there was a mix of activities during the night -- maintenance,
training, visual observing and imaging:
- Joel did some CTO training on HALO after he and Victor installed
grommets on the Illig scope's protective tarp. A little house
cleaning was also performed (Thanks!)
- Richard and Phil were observing visually, using Richard's eyepiece
image intensifier. They were joined by Steve J. and shared the
views with anyone who was ineterested. The intensifier provided
very impressive views of emission nebulae and other targets in
Phil's 5-inch Astro-Physics refractor: I checked out
M17, the Swan Nebula
, and the "swimming swan" shape was very bright in the
monochrome view. The sparkly aspect of the intensifier was
mesmerizing as it randomly picked up flashes of brightness in
otherwise blank sky.
- Steve B. came out for some naked-eye and binocular viewing.
- Arjun imaged the
with HALO, with assistance from me.
Even at the low altitude of the object, just above the bottom of the
dome's slit, the 2-minute exposures with the Illig scope provided a
strong color signal. The final stack of 40 minutes exposure time
should produce a very nice image.
- Chris M. was working with his new ZWO AM5 mount, using it to image
North America Nebula
in Cygnus. He's very happy to be able to
run everything from his cell phone (using ZWO's ASI Air system) and
not have to lug an entire laptop around.
- Jared collected RGB data for
to complete July's
Object of the Month
project. He fought the seeing as M16 descended in the
southwest and called it quits when it was below 25 degrees
- I imaged a portion of the
Eastern Veil Nebula
in H-alpha and [OIII]
as part of August's Object of the Month program on the HAL Discord
server. I also tried out the Live Stacking plugin in NINA which
uses Pixinsight to do the stacking and it worked very nicely; I
expect I will continue to use it. The accompanying image is the
Live Stack of my [OIII] image data, a total of 29 four-minute
exposures (just under two hours of data). I can't wait to see the
It was a fine night of observing, and I thank all of those who came out
to enjoy it!
Click image to expand.
Members-Only Star Party (Alpha Ridge) 7/23/2022
(The One with the Threat of a Rain Storm)
I arrived at sunset and found three (and a half - Hi Zach) members as
well as Hannah at HALO, enjoying the cool evening breeze but not the
cloudy skies. Unfortunately, it appears that the ECMWF cloud forecast
was closer to reality and we were clouded over with a threatening rain
storm appearing along the west horizon. At 9.05, I decided to call off
the party lest we get swamped by the storm. I'm actually not sure if it
rained at all as the radar showed the rain dissipating before reaching
Alpha Ridge Park. However cloud cover continued through the duration of
the event and after, with a few pockets opening up here and there. Your
reminder that the next star party is a Public Star Party scheduled for
August 06, 2022.
PS: Reminder about HAL Impromptus - To make the most of clear weather on
nights other than designated star parties, members can sign up for the
Impromptu list as detailed below.
Impromptu Star Party (Alpha Ridge) 7/11/2022
(The One with Two Enthusiasts)
Had a good night of imaging last night. Kurt and I were the only two people at
AR. I arrived at AR at 8PM and Kurt was there shortly after. We both had
initially considered shooting M16, but due to the proximity to the mostly full
moon, changed plans. Kurt took pictures of the Cygnus Wall and I shot Sii data
on Pelican. We wrapped up with flats around 12:30AM and closed the gate at 1AM.
Public Star Party (Alpha Ridge) 7/09/2022
(The One with All the Clouds)
Saturday's public star party was a total cloudout. Phil and Ken S. were kind
enough to join Gary, Ken E. and me and keep us company. We had a few visitors
stop by to look at the observatory and say hello. We locked up the park and left
about 10:00 PM.
Our next members-only star party is July 23 and our next public star party is
August 6. Let's hope for some better weather for these events!
Overcast skies tainted Saturday night's Public Star Watch.
Four HAL Members, five members of the public and one wolf-like dog attended. As
well as seeing the facility, visitors got to watch videos of The Messier List and
James Webb Space Telescope.
Once the visitors left, we closed up HALO at about 9:30pm.
Thank you to all who attended.
Impromptu Star Party (Alpha Ridge) 6/30/2022
(The One with a Bunny)
An early end to the night!
Ten HAL members and a little baby bunny came to Alpha Ridge Park last
night for the impromptu star party. The night started well, with very
clear skies and reasonable transparency and seeing. A couple of members
were viewing naked-eye, (re)learning the
summer sky and getting their
Several others were working with new equipment
to gain the necessary familiarity with it to use it efficiently in the
dark. The rest of us were imaging the
Crescent Nebula and a
galaxy in Draco.
Things were going along swimmingly (although the humidity wasn't
that bad!) until a little after midnight when a few clouds appeared in
the sky, starting in the north near Polaris. By 12:30, they were
actively interfering with observing; the remaining imagers decided to
utilize the time by obtaining their calibration images while waiting the
clouds out. We gave the clouds another half hour to get better, and we
decided they were forming in the northwest part of the sky then blowing
through. Since they showed no sign of ceasing that activity we called it
a night and started tearing down our scopes. By the time we were all
packed up, the skies were clear again. :) We closed the park at 2:00am.
Visually, one of the prettiest sights of the night was the young Moon
hanging low in the west in deep twilight. The 3.4% illuminated
satellite (38 hours old, approximately) was a very slender crescent
significantly reddened by the atmosphere.
Short as it was, it was an enjoyable night under the summer skies with
good conversation all around. It was good to see new or returning HAL
members again, and I thank eveyone for coming out to share their evening.
Members-only Star Party (Alpha Ridge) Saturday evening, 6/25/2022
(The One with 30 HAL Members)
What a GREAT turnout! At last night's Members-Only Star Party at Alpha
Ridge Park approximately 30 HAL members -- nearly 10% of our membership
-- enjoyed the pleasant conditions to observe the nighttime sky. Quite
a few did not bring any equipment, but they discussed all topics
astronomy with other members. People were doing the usual mix of visual
observing and imaging, and several visual observers made some personal
observational firsts -- their first external galaxy and first
M11 (the Wild Duck Cluster in Scutum)
are two that I
distinctly recall. The attached photo is a collage of some of the rigs
that were set up.
After reinstalling the flat panel (or "flippy-floppy") on the scope,
Dale and David worked in HALO all evening training multiple CTOs and
grabbing some fine images with the Illig scope, and worked with several
software packages to set them up for use by others. Richard started to
observe and sketch galaxies, but the transparency was not optimal so he
switched to open clusters. Imagers were using equipment ranging from
DSLRs on tripods to a 14-inch SCT, and they were observing a similarly
wide range of objects. Hopefully we will have a lot of images to share
at the next meeting.
There were still almost 10 of us observing as 2am approached and clouds
started coming in. By 2:20am the sky was mostly covered by clouds and
everyone closed up for the night. I locked the gate at about 3:20am.
Although the sky conditions were not quite up to the forecasts, it was
still a nice night of observing with lots of nice people. Thanks to all
the members who shared their night!
Click images to expand.
Impromptu Star Party (Alpha Ridge) early Saturday morning, 6/25/2022
(The One with the Alignment of 5 Planets and the Moon)
Click image to expand.
We had a very successful event. I opened up Alpha Ridge at 3:30AM. We had 7
people onsite. The featured event was the
alignment of the planets.
When we arrived the sky above was clear. However, the eastern and horizon had a
dark line of clouds that hovered just over the tree line (of course), and
extended upwards about 5 degrees. Venus, crescent Moon, Mars, Jupiter, and
Saturn were visible by the time we were setup. We were easily able to see
these objects "naked-eye", Mercury came up as the early morning progressed.
It was difficult to see naked-eye because it was behind the cloud line. As
it rose above, the Sun was preparing to rise and it was very difficult to
see without a binocular, but not impossible. Using a 24mm wide angle lens,
I was able to capture Venus through to Jupiter. We will see if I got
Mercury when I process the pictures. Saturn was just too far out of my
field of view. However, James willing ham was using a 10mm wide angle lens,
he was able to capture the entire stretch from Mercury to Saturn. We were
also able to see Neptune and Uranus through Dave's telescope. I am not sure
anybody saw Pluto. By 5:30AM pretty much everybody had departed. I left
soon afterwards and was home at about 6:00AM. Burt was the last person to
depart. All and all it was a successful event. It was great to be out there
with everybody in the early morning hours. The temperature was very
comfortable in the mid 60's.
See you next time. Clear Skies!
JPWillinghan's 5 planets aligned Flickr photo or
Impromptu Star Party (Alpha Ridge) 6/18/2022
(The One with the Rocket Gas Cloud Flyover ;-)
the impromptu on Saturday night was another night of great conditions at
Alpha Ridge. We had 10 folks join us for both visual and imaging
observation. Conditions were great, even with a slight wind that actually
helped to keep the bugs and dew away. A cool highlight for the night was
seeing the Falcon 9 rocket carrying the
GlobalStar DM15 Satellite. (We
think, or it's just a
We captured some video, but the effect was a
bright light with a donut shaped halo that went overhead around 2:15 AM in
the morning (image on the right, shot on iphone). We locked up the gate around
4AM. I shared pictures on Discord for all the rigs from beginning of the
night for those interested.
Click image to expand.
Public Star Party (Alpha Ridge) 6/11/2022
Last night's Public Star party was a success despite that more than 80%
of the sky was covered by clouds after 9 pm. I spent most of the time
in the HALO but estimated that at least 50 guests visited the party,
including a Boy Scout Troop. Thanks to Joel who did most of the
greetings! About 3 members set up their telescopes and Bob Savoy
displayed his solar system orrery as usual. Bob's table was crowded with
listeners all the time! The Illig scope slewed at the coordinate of the
moon most of the time waiting for it unveiling itself from the cloud.
Hannah had some good pictures of the moon. The party reached its climax
around 10 pm when a clear pocket showed up in the northern sky. We were
able to peer at M81 for about 10 minutes.
We said good night to the last visitors around 11 pm and wrapped up. I
locked the park at 11:20. Many thanks to all the members that helped
Impromptu Star Party (Alpha Ridge) 6/05/2022
Click image for alternate view.
Ten HAL members enjoyed a SPECTACULAR night of observing at Alpha Ridge
Park. It was perfectly clear all night (OK, there were a few clouds far
in the south right after sunset), with no wind and a bit dew by night's
end. At about 1:45am, my Sky Quality Meter reported a sky brightness of
20.05 mag/sq-arcsec, which is pretty much as dark as it gets at Alpha
Ridge Park; the Milky Way was visible from Cygnus down toward Scutum.
Nine of the observers were imaging a variety of objects --
the Lagoon Nebula, and a
small Sc Galaxy
in Draco were among the targets
of choice. Arjun used HALO to get some images of the Rho Ophiuchi
region to look for asteroids, and when he was done I used HALO to grab a
few images of the
Black Eye Galaxy, M64.
Jared and I both finished
imaging a little after 3am, and I locked the gate at about 4:15am; it
was bright twilight by the time I got home, with four bright planets
visible in the east: Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.
Thanks to all the members who came out for this glorious night of observing!
Impromptu Star Party (Alpha Ridge) 6/04/2022
Galactic Buddies: We opened up around 8PM yesterday and had a good turnout. It looked like
it was going to be a great night, but unfortunately the clouds rolled in
from the south and refused to leave. That said, its always nice to be
able to get out under the stars with your equipment and enjoy the company
of others that share a passion for the cosmos. Wayne opened up the Halo
and we had several folks that were able to take advantage of some decent
visual observations last night of the moon. I ended up packing up around
1AM last night, after deciding the clouds were not going to break, and
Wayne and Phil closed up the park. Looking forward to the next Impromptu.
Impromptu Star Party (Alpha Ridge) 5/29/2022
Just a follow up from last night's Impromptu. We had a great night, nine
people joined us at Alpha Ridge. We all got to watch the ISS, which was
amazingly bright last night as it transited overhead. Several of us enjoyed
catching a glimpse of a few shooting stars. We ended up locking the gate
around 3:30AM. Thanks to all that joined and shared there camera views,
telescopes, and knowledge. Looking forward to the next Impromptu.
Impromptu Star Party (Alpha Ridge) 5/28/2022
Last night's impromptu included three members. Early in the evening, the
Meade 16" was used to point at objects close to the horizon as clouds
By 11:00 pm, the clouds had parted to reveal a nice sky with above average
transparency. I packed up and left at 1:15 am.
Attached is an image I got later in the evening. As I was really just
working out some idiosyncrasies with my guiding system, the image is not my
Click image to expand.
Members-only Star Party (Alpha Ridge) 5/21/2022
We had a delightful members-only star party Saturday night.
Although it was warm, it was clear at sunset. Neville Fernandes and
I opened up HALO for some observatory practice, and at least five
HAL members showed up outside. Neville and I had a great time
practicing on the
the Whirlpool Galaxy,
Bode's Galaxy (M81),
the Cat's Eye and
Owl nebulas and finally the
and Antennae interacting
The clouds finally rolled in
about 10:30 and we locked up the observatory and the outside folks
packed up their scopes and we all left. It was really nice to be
out under the stars on a clear Saturday night for a change,
especially with such good company. I hope this starts a new streak
of successful star parties!
Impromptu Star Party (Alpha Ridge) 5/17/2022
We had a very nice impromptu at Alpha Ridge last night. Cheryl, Atul
and I were in HALO for practice, and at least five other HAL members
stopped by outside to take advantage of the beautiful night. Using
HALO we were able to image the
globular cluster M3,
the galaxy pair M81/M82,
the Whirlpool Galaxy (M51),
the Cat's Eye Nebula (NGC 6543),
Markarian's Chain (M86 and many others) and the
Needle Galaxy (NGC 4565).
The Moon rose brightly but beautifully at 10:30 and Cheryl and
I locked up HALO and the park and left just before midnight.
The weather was just about perfect, it was cool but not at all cold
with calm winds and entirely clear with good transparency. I wish
we'd get weather anything like that good for our members-only star
party this Saturday night!
Impromptu Star Party (Alpha Ridge) 5/09/2022
Turned out to be an amazing night. Very little to almost no wind and
cool temperatures in the 50s. We had five HAL members join Alpha
Ridge last night, most of us arrived around 8PM.
The Waxing Gibbous
was almost directly overhead when we started the night. Huge thanks
to Bert for sharing an amazing view of the moon from his telescope. I
packed up around 1AM and locked the gate around 1:30AM after everyone
left. It was great to enjoy the clear skies last night with good
company. Looking forward to many more this summer as the weather
Public Star Party (Alpha Ridge) 5/07/2022
Last evening, Cheryl Kerr, Hannah Broder, David Stein, and I braved
the yucky weather and opened up HALO for a Girl Scout troop from
Columbia/Elkridge. We took turns taking about HAL, the capabilities
of the Illig scope,
eclipses, and more while fielding thoughtful
questions from the 7th graders working toward their Night Owl badges
by attending a star party and learning about the night sky. The
comments and questions dried up around 9:30. We locked up the park
Members-Only Star Party (Alpha Ridge) 4/30/2022
Approximately 15 HAL members arrived at Alpha Ridge Park to attempt
observing under largely cloudy skies. The clouds were thin for the most
part, but they were annoying nonetheless. The observational highlight
of the night for several of us, I think, was being able to see Mercury
above the western horizon, viewing through a cloud that was thick enough
to make the planet slowly wink in and out. That made observing the
challenging object even more challenging. Most people had departed
before 10pm, but a few were sticking it out a little longer, giving up
by about 10:30. We called it a night and I locked the gate at about
I enjoyed talking to all of the members, several of whom were at their
first star party; thank you all for coming!
Member-Only Impromptu Star Party (Alpha Ridge) 4/29/2022
We had an impromptu star party at Alpha Ridge this past Friday evening
(4/29/2022) so I thought I’d summarize how things proceeded - as we generally
tend to do afterwards. It turned out to be a fine night, with clear skies,
light winds and temperatures dipping down to around 50° F (I think). Several
HAL members set up their gear for imaging including Bert, Wayne, Shrikant and
Richard. We also had a telescope operator training session in the observatory
for Ken E. which Wayne joined once his rig was up and running. Later, in
HALO, I helped Arjun collect some image data on M44 for his asteroid hunting
project. I was ready to leave around 12:30 AM but Wayne was interested in
staying longer, so I handed over responsibility to close up the park to him.
When I left, Bert, Shrikant and I were in the process of wrapping up and Wayne
was still going strong.
Until next time,
After Victor left, Bert, Shrikant, and I continued our imaging. Bert and
Shrikant stayed for about another hour, and left me there in solitary communion
with the night sky. The night was pretty good -- my Sky Quality Meter
consistently reported a sky brightness of 19.75 mag/sq. arcsec -- with little
wind and only slightly cold temperatures. The seeing was rather poor, however,
even though the transparency was better than average. Some high, thin clouds
started to encroach at about 1am, but they held off until I finished at 2am and
collected my flats. I locked the gate at about 3:15am.
It was, overall, a very nice night of observing. Hopefully more people can
come out for the next impromptu.
Click image to expand.
Member-Only Impromptu Star Party (Alpha Ridge) 4/23/2022
We had a good impromptu last night. Five members (David, Cheryl, Richard,
Neville and Atul) showed up to do some training work inside the observatory
and a handful of others (Thorne, Bert, Shrikant and myself) set up their own
gear in the parking lot do their own thing. Arjun and family were also in
attendance, with Arjun using some HALO scope time (with some help from
Richard, David and myself) to do some asteroid hunting citizen science. Go
Arjun! The night was very calm, pleasant and clear. Around 1 AM, high thin
clouds started threatening, so we wrapped it up… except I stuck around a
little while longer until they actually rolled in. I got some images of the
region around M60 where
recently appeared (thanks to David for
alerting me to this!) and will share if the data looks any good.
Overall a good night under the stars. Regards,
Click images to expand.
Public Earth Day Celebration (Clarksville Commons) 4/23/2022
Today was a beautiful day at Clarksville Commons. Occasionally cloudy
but mostly sunny and clear. Three HAL members (Eric and Michelle
Hymowitz and Dominic Alfinito) were there with two telescopes.
We did not think to keep a formal count, but we estimate 75-100 people
came to look at sunspots and prominences through our telescopes, including
Howard County Executive Calvin Ball. About a dozen people were interested
enough that we talked about HAL, our meetings, and our star parties.
Public Star Party (Alpha Ridge) 4/09/2022
Last night's Public Star party was a success in spite of the
ever present clouds, with the Moon acting as the leading star
actor of the evening. Approximately 45 people attended the
party which included 2 local Girl Scout Troops from the Central
Maryland District, HAL members and the general public.
Tremendous thanks go to Hal members Bob Savoy and Chris
Miskiewicz. Bob set up his popular Solar System education
table and Chris set up two telescopes which provided incredible
views of the Moon all evening. Chris's telescopes were the
main attraction outside offering truly incredible close-up
views of the Moon's surface features. Additionally, Chris
provided everyone with great explanations of the telescopes and
imaging equipment he was using. Both Girl Scouts and other
attendees were able to capture fantastic souvenir cell phone
images from Chris's scopes. Phil Whitebloom provided an
educational walk and talk to the Girl Scouts with a Solar Walk
and talk, then they visited Bob's Solar educational set up and
talk and spent the remainder of their time looking at the moon
images on the big screen provided by the Illig Telescope. Phil
also assisted other attendees as well. Hannah Broder and Dale
Ghent manned the recently upgraded Illig scope and dome which
operated beautifully and, Victor Sanchez stepped in to answer
attendee's questions and lend technical assistance as needed.
Mike Krauss and I provided host reception duties for the
duration. We truly hope everyone enjoyed the evening as much
as we did.
Chris Miskiewicz added:
Big shout out to Mike Krauss who co-hosted from my setup as well.
He helped with a lot of the cell phone astrophotography.
More photos on HAL's Instagram account.
Member-Only Impromptu Star Party (Carrs Mill Park) 4/4/2022
After all the guessing on the potential cloud coverage and the tree line,
it turned out to be a successful early morning at Carrs Mill. It was just
James Willinghan and myself. We arrived at 4:00AM, spent some time planning
on where the best place would be to set up, and got started. There was not
a cloud in the sky and Venus, Mars, and Saturn cleared the tree line around
5:00AM and continued to rise at a good rate. James was using his 6" SCT on
a Celestron mount. He also setup a tripod with a DSLR camera (lens
unknown). I was using a Canon EOS Mark IV with a 200mm-600mm zoom lens. It
was setup on a Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer 2 mount on a tripod. Hopefully
there will be some good pictures to share. Visually naked eye it was very
cool to observe. The temperature was in the mid to low 30's. I am ready to
start complaining about the heat.
All in all it was definitely worth getting up early in the morning to see the conjunction.
See you next time. Clear Skies!
Was out this morning to catch the Saturn and Mars conjunction. Thanks
go to Phil for the impromptu at Carrs Mill. For members who
want to join in on impromptus, there is an option to get
on the impromptu email list to be alerted to these. Was a great early
morning with concerns over trees blocking our view to the ESE to SE,
but around 5:15am both planets popped out over the tree line much
sooner than I had expected so it was a go. Rings are visible in the
first image zoomed in, but upper air winds made seeing poor. I went
with my small 6 inch Celestron SCT with a Canon T7i camera and also
decided when Venus also rose to get some wider shots with my Canon XSi
on just a tripod. I still have some images to sort through and videos
to try and stack to see if I got anything better, but here are a few I
picked out and processed quickly.
Member-Only Impromptu Star Party (Alpha Ridge) 3/26/2022
After a day of rain, sunshine, sleet, sunshine, snow, sunshine, and
whatever else was not in the forecast but happened, Ken Everhart and I
braved the night to setup. A few other members stopped by to say hello, but
the clouds hung around and the wind gust were strong so we packed up and
went home knowing the skies would clear.
Member-Only Impromptu Star Party (Alpha Ridge) 2/20/2022
We enjoyed an unusually cloudless sky at Alpha Ridge Park last night --
there were no clouds visible from 5:15pm when I arrived until I locked
the gate at 4:10am. As many as 15 HAL members and their families were
enjoying the sky that gave us very good transparency but poor (or
worse!) seeing. The temperatures were pleasant for late February,
hovering within a few degrees of freezing all night. The breeze kicked
up a few times but it never actually got windy; it was just enough to
make it feel colder for a few minutes and make guiding a little rough.
The members who came out to observe did the usual mix of activities
including visual observing, imaging, and equipment
familiarization/checkout. Hannah opened HALO to use the Illig scope for
some imaging of various deep-sky objects -- she captured a particularly
nice image of the Orion Nebula. Others worked on projects like getting
images of every Messier object, or spent their time viewing the many
beautiful winter deep-sky objects. I spent most of my time collecting
images of a variable star to determine its light curve, and I
interrupted that project to grab an image of JWST as it orbits the
Sun-Earth L2 point.
The attached image is my observation of JWST, this time moving through
western Cancer, not too far from the Beehive Cluster, M44. I tracked
JWST for 20 minutes of exposure time (five 4-minute exposures) with my
8-inch RC. Because I tracked JWST, the stars are trailed while JWST
looks like a round(ish) dot in the center between the yellow marks.
JWST was barely detectable in a single 4-minute exposure, and I have
estimated it to be about magnitude 17.2 on the GAIA Gmag scale.
It was a very nice night of observing, with good conversation and
sharing of experiences. It was good to see everyone and meet some new
people, and it was especially encouraging to see the youngsters there
and actively observing. Hopefully we'll have some more clear nights in
the near future, and of course the scheduled star parties will be
starting with a Public Star Party on March 12!
Member-Only Impromptu Star Party (Alpha Ridge) 2/10/2022
Ten HAL members enjoyed the occasionally cloudy skies at Alpha Ridge
Park on Thursday night. The waxing gibbous Moon was high overhead in
Taurus, making it a good target for visual observing. Most attendees
were imaging, though, concentrating on bright objects typically due to
the moonlight. The temperatures were comfortable for mid-February, not
dipping to freezing until I closed up the park at 12:15, with a wide
line of clouds covering much of the sky.
Overall it was a nice night for observing. I was happy to see all of
you and hope to see even more members in the future. Thanks for sharing
Member-Only Impromptu Star Party (Alpha Ridge) 1/26/2022
The impromptu began prior to dark with Wayne, Kurt and myself arriving to set up during daylight hours.
Temperature upon arrival was 32 degrees. At approx. 9:00 pm the Park Ranger arrived for a routine Park
Check and stopped to chat with us. The skies were clear and bright making for decent viewing and
This evening provided me the opportunity to give first light to my new little William Optics RedCat 51
that I mounted onto my Sky Watcher/Star Adventurer Tracker. This was a bit of a learning curve and
challenge with recent eye surgery however, with Wayne's gracious and extensive knowledge and experience
suggesting my alignment might be off. I rechecked and found alignment was off and re-focused the little
scope and began to see a bit more detail in the image on the back of the camera. Anxious now to load
the images onto the computer to see if there is in fact anything decent. More learning to do!
By approx. 10:30-11 pm, Kurt and myself were packed and ready to leave. Night temperature at this time
was 22 degrees. Wayne decided to stay for further imaging so I left and locked Wayne in the park at 11
Member-Only Impromptu Star Party (Alpha Ridge) 1/11/2022
It was cold - below 20F all night. For a while there were high clouds -
but they dissipated after about an hour. The moon was bright - what's a
person to do? However, overall it was a very nice night at Alpha Ridge
Park in spite of these factors.
Steve Bilanow and I were the only HAL members to enjoy the night at
Alpha Ridge Park. Steve arrived just after sunset to view Saturn and
Mercury, and to watch the sky get dark. He left after an hour or so,
just as I really got started with my imaging. I spent the night doing
narrowband imaging of the
as part of HAL's Winter Imaging
Activity. I also did narrowband imaging of the
Monkey Head Nebula, and
some luminence imaging of JWST. More clouds started encroaching at
about 1:30am, so I finished up, collected my flats, and called it a
night. I locked the gate at about 3:10am.
The image at right shows the motion of JWST from 11:36pm - 12:15am. This
was captured as 20x2 minute exposures with my 8-inch RC through a
luminence filter. I estimate the magnitude of JWST to be 16 in the GAIA
If you're dressed appropriately, winter observing can be quite
enjoyable. The winter constellations are beautiful and there are many
interesting objects to observe. Hopefully more of you can and will give
it a try next time!
2021 Event Reports (full year)
Event Reports from Previous Years