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HAL Meetings in 2023

HAL General Meetings (Open to the Public)

  • As of September 2023, we have resumed in-person General Meetings at Robinson Nature Center (as well as on Zoom).
  • For specific meeting dates, see the HAL Calendar.
  • Additional information is announced via the HowardAstro Google Group.
  • All HAL Meetings (and star parties) are held in locations which are smoke free by law. Help us protect our ability to use these facilities by not smoking.

General Meetings are held from 7:00PM to approximately 9:00 on the 3rd Thursday of every month via Zoom (until further notice).

HAL Planning Meetings (Open to All Members)

Planning Meetings to discuss future club direction, events, meeting topics, outreach, etc. are open to all members. Attendance is encouraged. They are usually held from 7:00 to 8:00PM on the 1st Monday of every month via Zoom (until further notice).

Sometimes these meetings are rescheduled or cancelled due to holidays or board member unavailability. Check our home page, posts to the HowardAstro Google Group, or the HAL calendar.

HAL's COVID-19 Policy for Events - Updated May 2023

  • In Howard County, COVID-19 community level is Low. We are following Howard County guidelines:
  • Face coverings are optional inside the Alpha Ridge HALO building. People may choose to mask at any time.
  • If you are experiencing any flu-like symptoms or have tested positive for COVID, please be considerate of others and refrain from attending HAL events.
  • For HAL impromptu and member-only star parties, participants should wait for an invitation before approaching to look through others’ telescopes; respect each other’s desires for social distancing.

2023 General Meeting Topics / Speakers
Jan. 19

Thursday, January 19th, 2023 beginning at 7:00PM

Topic: NOAA'S Joint Polar Satellite System, JPSS-2, the Sequel

Presenter: Ted Leoutsakos, NASA - JPSS Deployed Systems Team Senior Engineer

Artifacts: Presentation PDF | Video Recording on YouTube | Chat Log

Ted Leoutsakos

Back by popular demand! Ted presented to HAL about the first JPSS mission in January 2021. His 2023 presentation will provide details about JPSS-2, the new mission. JPSS-2 successfully lifted off from Vandenberg Space Force Base on Nov. 10, 2022.

The Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) is the nation's new generation polar-orbiting operational environmental satellite system. JPSS is a collaborative program between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and its acquisition agent, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). JPSS provides critical environmental satellite data to support NOAA's ongoing mission to understand and predict changes in the weather, oceans and climate.

Ted Leoutsakos has extensive NASA/DOD and commercial experience with broad end-to-end satellite systems engineering knowledge in complex system integration, testing, operations, training, and ground system development with over a dozen missions under his belt. A life-long Star Trek fan, Ted recalls his dad taking him to the library at age 5 to check out his first read entitled "The Book of Rockets", and the rest is history…

Feb 16

Thursday, February 16th, 2023

Topic: Defending Planet Earth: The Double Asteroid Redirection Test

Presenter: Dr. Angela Stickle, DART Impact Modeling Working Group Lead, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory

Artifacts: Presentation PDF | Video Recording on YouTube | Chat Log

NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) was the first planetary defense test mission. The DART spacecraft purposefully ran into a small asteroid, Dimorphos, on September 26, 2022, in order to test asteroid deflection. DART was a huge success, changing Dimorphos’s orbital period by around 30 minutes and generating many tons of ejecta. We will discuss planetary defense, the DART mission, initial results from the team and how we are using those results to learn more about Dimorphos, Didymos, and future applications to planetary defense.

Dr. Angela Stickle is a planetary geologist with a background in Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, and impact processes on planetary surfaces. She specializes in hypervelocity impact processes and dynamic failure of materials. Dr Stickle is currently a senior research scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. She is the Deputy Principal-Investigator for the Mini-RF radar, a Co-I for the LRO-LAMP instrument aboard the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, the impact modeling working group lead for the Double Asteroid Redirection Test mission, and a Co-I on the Dragonfly mission. Her research includes analyzing young impact craters on the Moon to better understand ejecta emplacement processes, impact modeling on asteroids and rocky/icy bodies, planetary defense testing, and working to understand and evaluate available technology for future lunar surface missions. Asteroid 36986 Stickle is named in her honor.

Dr. Angela Stickle
Mar 16

Thursday, March 16th, 2023

Topic: Dragonfly: Flights of Exploration on an Exotic Ocean World

Presenter: Dr. Melissa Trainer, NASA GSFC / Planetary Scientist

Artifacts: Presentation PDF | Video Recording on YouTube | Chat Log

Dr. Melissa Trainer

Titan is the only moon in our solar system with a dense atmosphere, which supports an Earth-like hydrological cycle of methane clouds, rain, lakes, and seas. Complex organic surface materials may preserve, in a deep freeze, the types of organic chemicals that would have been present on Earth before life developed. The Dragonfly mission to Titan will characterize its habitability and determine how far prebiotic chemistry has progressed in environments known to provide the necessary ingredients for life. The mission comprises a single rotorcraft lander with a sophisticated scientific payload, designed to take advantage of Titan's environment and achieve wide-ranging exploration goals by flying to sites in different geologic settings.

Dr. Melissa Trainer is a planetary scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) with expertise in the composition of planetary atmospheres and the production of organic molecules and aerosols via in situ synthesis pathways. Dr. Trainer currently serves as a Deputy Principal Investigator (PI) for the Dragonfly mission to Saturn's moon Titan, part of the NASA Planetary Science New Frontiers Program. She is also the lead for the Dragonfly Mass Spectrometer (DraMS), which enables the investigation of Titan's surface composition and characterization of potential prebiotic chemistry.

Apr 20

Thursday, April 20th, 2023

Topic: Discussion

Presenter: HAL Members

Artifacts: Presentation PDF | Video Recording on YouTube | Chat Log


May 18

Thursday, May 18th, 2023

Topic: Exploring the Solar System and Beyond – the Role of NASA’s Deep Space Network

Presenter: Glen Nagle, Science Communicator, Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex

Artifacts: Presentation PDF | Video Recording on YouTube | Chat Log

Glen will be speaking on the role that Canberra plays as part of NASA’s Deep Space Network, and the dozens of deep space robotic missions exploring our solar system and beyond. He will also discuss the vital role of communications in the success of the Artemis missions designed to return humans to the surface of the Moon in the next few years.

Glen Nagle is the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) communications officer for the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex (CDSCC). He has been employed there since March 2002. His work focuses on educating and promoting space science to the wider community and especially to the younger generation, with the goal of exciting them about engineering, science and mathematics. Glen's professional career in the space and education sector has spanned over 38 years. He has worked with organisations to promote international and domestic development of space science related services and technology and has supported several space conference and industry groups. Glen has been an active grassroots promoter of science to schools and the public and shares his enthusiasm through public speaking and media appearances. Glen has also worked at the CSIRO’s Parkes Radio Telescope, the Australia Telescope Compact Array and is currently also supporting NASA Operation activities at the Canberra complex.

Glen Nagle’s work has also extended to areas such as the internet, either designing or contributing to a number of science related websites, and as a keen graphic designer has produced artworks that have appeared in several books, magazines and scientific journals. He is a regular guest on several syndicated radio programs and on television through programs such as Catalyst and Sunrise. For three years and 100 episodes, Glen also hosted his own weekly television program about space exploration and astronomy on ABC2 called ‘Skywatch’. Glen’s knowledge, enthusiasm and passion for space exploration comes across in all his work, presentations and public outreach activities.

Glen Nagle
June 15

Thursday, June 15th, 2023

Topic: The First Isolated Black Hole

Presenter: Dr. Jay Anderson, Observatory Scientist, Space Telescope Science Institute

Artifacts: Presentation PDF | Video Recording on YouTube | Chat Log

Dr. Jay Anderson, Observatory Scientist

Since Black Holes emit no light, they are hard to find. Some super-massive black holes can be found at the centers of galaxies, since gas often dribbles onto them and lights up. Other regular-sized black holes can be seen when they are part of a binary system, either from orbital motion or from dribble from their companion. Kailash Sahu and I have been pursuing a HST program to find isolated black holes that have been meandering through the Galaxy. I will report on our recent finding of an isolated BH of about 7 solar masses.

Brief Bio:

  • 1986-1990: BA in Physics and French from Rice University
  • 1990-1997: PhD in Astronomy from UC Berkeley
  • 1997-2007: Post-doc on grant money
  • 2007-present: Observatory Scientist at Space Telescope Science Institute

Jul 20

Thursday, July 20th, 2023

Topics: CCOR: NOAA's New Space Coronagraphs
& Celebrating the 2023 and 2024 Eclipses

Presenters: Dimitris Vassiliadis, Scientist at NOAA/National Environmental Satellite Information and Data Service
& Kim Eaves, Communications Lead for Education and Outreach

Artifacts: Presentation PDF | Video Recording on YouTube | Chat Log

Celebrating the 2023 and 2024 Eclipses: NOAA is partnering with the NSF and NASA teams to help promote the 2023 and 2024 eclipses. Together we are hosting 4 events across the nation to educate the local population. Each location and the partnerships established will be included, as well as our audience we are trying to reach.

CCOR: NOAA's New Space Coronagraphs: Space weather is a fascinating applied-science field which has been rising in prominence since it is related to many real-world problems as well as plasma-physics questions. Space weather has the potential to impact technologies in space and on the ground, and importantly place astronauts and certain airline crews at risk. Early warnings of solar and interplanetary activity are therefore valuable to spaceflight managers, satellite operators, electric power-grid managers, and others. Images of the solar corona are particularly important since they can be used to detect coronal mass ejections (CMEs), plasma structures emitted by the Sun that can produce the greatest space weather disruptions on and near Earth. The physics of CMEs contains several unsolved problems in magnetohydrodynamics, magnetic topology, and particle acceleration. In addition to the imagery, measurements of the solar wind upstream of the Earth are useful for driving a wide variety of real-time numerical weather prediction models. The Space Weather Follow On (SWFO) program is developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in close collaboration with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The program aims to place two NRL-built Compact Coronagraphs (CCORs) in space, one at geostationary orbit (GEO) in 2024 and one at the Sun-Earth Lagrange 1 (L1) point in 2025. A third coronagraph is planned to be launched on board ESA's Vigil mission to Lagrange 5 to contribute solar imagery from a different perspective for 3-dimensional mapping of CME structure and motion. I will discuss the SWFO program with emphasis on the coronal observations.

Kim Eaves is the Communications Lead for Education & Outreach at the office of Space Weather Observations within NESDIS/NOAA. She has provided communications support for the office for approximately 9 years, including support for 4 different satellite launches. She is also the Program Lead for the eclipse events.

Dimitris Vassiliadis earned his PhD in space physics at the University of Maryland, College Park and was a postdoc at NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center where he worked on magnetospheric dynamics and space weather effects and developed predictive models based on data from spacecraft such as ACE, WIND, SAMPEX, POLAR, etc., and ground magnetometers and other systems. He then taught physics, astronomy, and other subjects in academia where he worked with graduate and undergraduate students on space physics and aerospace engineering projects such as cubesat and sounding-rocket payloads. Since joining NOAA/NESDIS, he has been active in the Space Weather Follow On (SWFO) and Space Weather Next (SW Next) programs and other flight projects.


Kim Eaves, Communications Lead for Education and Outreach
Aug 17

Thursday, August 17th, 2023

Topic: DarkSky International 2023, A Presentation to the Amateur Astronomy Community

Presenter: Tom Reinert, President of DarkSky International

Artifacts: Presentation PDF | Video Recording on YouTube | Chat Log

Tom Reinert

The August presentation will be a report to the amateur astronomy community on the current status of IDA and the fight against growing light pollution, focusing on increasing awareness of light pollution, changes in the organization now known as DarkSky International, and how amateur astronomers can make a difference in reducing light pollution in the years ahead.

Tom Reinert is a retired Washington, D.C. lawyer who spent most of his career representing airlines and railroads in labor and employment matters, including extensive experience translating scientific experts for lay decision-makers. He has assisted the International Dark-Sky Association on policy and legal issues for almost a decade, inspired by seeing the Andromeda Galaxy with his naked eyes from atop Kitt Peak. His prior environmental activism includes a decade fighting water pollution with a local riverkeeper organization, the South River Federation, on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. Currently residing in the City of Fairfax, Virginia, he is an active member of NOVAC. He and his wife Chris travel extensively in the Western United States seeking dark sky locations, and he is a member of the Tucson Astronomical Association. He is a graduate of Harvard College (where he never took an astronomy or physics course) and the Harvard Law School (where he never took an environmental law course).

Also: Ooty Radio Telescope - Arjun Meenashi Sundar (see above YouTube video).

Sept 21

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Topic: The Art and Science of Visualizing Webb Imagery

Presenter: Alyssa Pagan, Science Visuals Developer, Space Telescope Science Institute

Artifacts: Presentation PDF | Video Recording on YouTube | Chat Log

The amazing visions from the Webb Space Telescope have captivated the world. However, there is a long and involved process by which the scientist's black and white observational data are transformed into dynamic color imagery for the public. Join image specialist Alyssa Pagan as she demonstrates, in detail, the art and science of translating infrared light beginning with acquiring the data to finalizing the press release imagery which is intended to inform, inspire and engage the public.

Alyssa Pagan is a Science Visuals Developer who works in the Office of Public Outreach within the Space Telescope Science Institute. Using her background in Art and Science, she works closely with astronomers to create color images of space that are intended both to educate, inspire and showcase the beauty of our Universe.

Alyssa Pagan
Oct 19

Thursday, October 19th, 2023

Topic: Stellar Occultations by Small Solar System Bodies: Tiny Shadows, Big Science

Presenter: Dr. Bryan Holler, STScI Scientist I

Artifacts: Presentation PDF | Video Recording on YouTube | Chat Log

Dr. Bryan Holler

Stellar occultations occur when a foreground solar system object passes in front of a background star, casting a small shadow observable for a brief amount of time. These shadows can be observed when they fall on the Earth and proper placement of telescopes perpendicular to the shadow's motion can be combined to provide valuable information about the body's size and shape. These events have also been used to detect previously unknown satellites and rings around small bodies as well as topographic features on objects in the distant reaches of the solar system. The beauty of stellar occultations is that anyone with a telescope and a CCD imager can participate, since the stars being occulted are much brighter than the small bodies occulting them. I will discuss recent exciting stellar occultation results and how to get involved with future events.

Bio: I first knew that I wanted to be an astronomer in August 2003, during heightened interest in the close approach of Mars to the Earth. I entered college a few years later at the University of Maryland as an Astronomy major and earned my PhD at the University of Colorado, Boulder in 2016. For almost 7 years now I have worked at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, providing support for solar system observations with the James Webb Space Telescope. My research focuses on studies of Pluto and other trans-Neptunian objects, with specific investigations into surface compositions, rotation periods, satellite orbits, and constraining physical properties through stellar occultations.

Nov 16

Thursday, November 16, 2023

Topic: Venus Tectonism

Presenter: Dr. Debra Buczkowski, Senior Staff Scientist, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory

Artifacts: Presentation PDF | Video Recording on YouTube | Chat Log

The talk will be an overview of what we know about the Venus surface and why we care, from a geologist’s point of view.

Dr. Buczkowski is a structural geologist and planetary geologic mapper who has completed projects on the rocky bodies of the Solar System, including Mercury, Venus, the Moon, Mars, Eros, Vesta and Ceres (and Earth!).

Dr. Buczkowski
Dec 21

Thursday, December 21, 2023

Holiday Pot-Luck Party at Robinson Nature Center

Christmas LightsChristmas LightsChristmas Lights

Zoom link:

Once again, as is our long-standing tradition, we will use the occasion of our December meeting to hold our Holiday Pot-Luck Party at the Robinson Nature Center.

The meeting will be on Thursday, December 21st from 7 to 9 pm, with doors opening at 6:30 for those who bring something and need some time to set up. We'll also include a zoom meeting (link above) for those who can't attend in person.

If you can make it, please RSVP as soon as possible to with Subject line: HAL Holiday Party RSVP and indicate how many people will attend and what item(s) you anticipate bringing. Examples of items brought to past holiday parties include… Meatballs, Ham, Salads, Chili, Casseroles, Potato salad, Coleslaw, Desserts, Juices and Sodas, Vegetables, Chips, etc…

Note that this is a members-only event, but you're welcome to bring family members.

In addition to the food and fun, if you want to bring in telescopes and related products to swap, sell, or giveaway, bring the items with you. It is a great way to pick up gear you have been looking for and/or unload items you no longer need or want.

2013 Meetings - Speakers and Topics
2014 Meetings - Speakers and Topics
2015 Meetings - Speakers and Topics
2016 Meetings - Speakers and Topics
2017 Meetings - Speakers and Topics
2018 Meetings - Speakers and Topics
2019 Meetings - Speakers and Topics
2020 Meetings - Speakers and Topics
2021 Meetings - Speakers and Topics
2022 Meetings - Speakers and Topics
2023 Meetings - Speakers and Topics

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Last modified: January 02, 2024 @ 20:13 EST