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HAL Meetings in 2024

HAL General Meetings (Open to the Public)

  • 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.

2024 General Meeting Topics / Speakers
Jan. 18

Thursday, January 18th, 2024 beginning at 7:00PM

Topic: The ZWO Seestar S50: The Next Generation of Smart Telescopes

Presenter: Grace Coventry, Head of IT Services Division, Space Telescope Science Institute

Artifacts: Meeting PDF | Grace's Presentation PDF | Video Recording on YouTube | Chat Log

Grace Coventry

Grace will be delivering a presentation entitled "The ZWO Seestar S50: The Next Generation of Smart Telescopes". HAL has recently acquired a Seestar for use by our members at star parties and outreach events. Grace will provide an overview of this exciting new development in the field of amateur astronomy.
Specific subjects Grace will cover include:

  • The smart digital telescope paradigm
  • Two generations of smart telescopes
  • ZWO Seestar S50 specifications and features overview
  • A walkthrough of Seestar’s observing modes
  • (Stargazing/Solar/Lunar/Planetary/Scenery)
  • Image processing, with examples
  • Uses for the Seestar
  • HAL’s plans for the Seestar
There’s a lot of interest in the Seestar in HAL – a number of members are acquiring them. Join us for a lively discussion about the future of smart digital telescopes!

Bio: Grace Coventry is Head of the IT Services Division for the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore. She is currently serving as 2nd Vice President of HAL.

Feb. 15

Thursday, February 15th, 2024 beginning at 7:00PM

Topic: Total Eclipse of the Heart: Is it Geometry, or Just a Phase

Presenter: Christine Hirst Bernhardt, PhD Candidate, Astronomy Professor

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

Eclipse Information (Professor Bernhard's links including videos)

This talk will interactively explore why we have eclipses, and why we don't have them every month. We will explore the perfect triangles that allow for eclipses, our unique place in space and time which caters to this observation, some fun stories of eclipses in the past and connections to civilizations (and colonization) and finally learn how and where to see the eclipse in April.

Christine Hirst Bernhardt is a National STEM education leader and PhD candidate at the University of Maryland. In 2021-2022 she served in Congress as an Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow to advance education policy initiatives. Her passion for all things space fostered the Excellence in Astronomy Teaching award and participation on NASA’s SOFIA mission. Christine identifies and addresses national needs in Earth and Space education as the chair of the National Astronomy Education Coordinator team and US member of the Global Leadership in Earth Science Education. Christine has developed programs and curricula such as a high-altitude balloon program, student space symposium and international space camp. She holds Master’s in both Space Studies and Science Education. Her Doctoral research centers on international astronomy education and teacher learning with a social justice lens. She is interested in international science education and using Earth and Space topics as a gateway to STEM in early learning.

Christine Hirst Bernhardt
Mar. 21

Thursday, March 21st, 2024 beginning at 7:00PM

Topic: TBD

Presenter: TBD


Apr. 18

Thursday, April 18th, 2024 beginning at 7:00PM

Topic: Climates, Storms, and Weather On Other Planets (tentative)

Presenter: Dr. Richard G. Cosentino (tentative), Roman Telescope Branch - Instrument Division, STScI


May 16

Thursday, May 16th, 2024 beginning at 7:00PM

Topic: Great American Solar Eclipse of 2024: Collective Experience of the Howard Astronomical League

Presenter: Jim Johnson, Former HAL President

Jim Johnson

Jim Johnson's Bio from 2022.

Two years prior to the 2017 eclipse, then President Chris Todd gave a presentation to generate interest in the eclipse and he provided many thoughtful planning considerations. I know that I, for one, benefited from this presentation. Just prior to the eclipse date, I asked eclipse observers to record notes and images related to their eclipse experience. I called these notes in to use as a basis for a review of HAL’s collective eclipse experience, which I presented at HAL’s September 2017 meeting.

At the June 2021 HAL meeting, I embarked on a three-part series of HAL presentations that will culminate in a review of HAL’s collective experience at the 2024 eclipse. The series title is The Great North American Solar Eclipse of 2024, and the three parts are:

Part 1 – An Amateur Astronomer’s Guide to Solar Eclipses, (June 17, 2021) A general guide to solar eclipses and solar eclipse observing. Part 1: June 2021 YouTube recording

Part 2 – HAL Lessons from the Great American Solar Eclipse of 2017 (July 21, 2022). This presentation is the best “pre-game show” that I can recommend to prepare for the 2024 eclipse. While each and every HAL member or guest experience in 2017 was amazing, our collective experience is something quite special and worth revisiting. I prepared this presentation by starting with the with the 2017 collective experience, and added notes to derive helpful lessons for the 2024 eclipse. This presentation provides a sense of the variety of sites to which HAL members and guests traveled, their travel and lodging experiences, various experiences with weather, traffic, observation notes, and photos of sites, equipment, and the eclipse. This is a good place for someone to get a sense of what to expect in April. Part 2: July 2022 YouTube recording

Part 3 – The Collective Experience of the Howard Astronomical League. This part of the 2024 series has not yet been written, but I will be soliciting your eclipse notes and images for compilation into HAL’s record of the 2024 eclipse. This compilation will be presented at the May 2024 HAL meeting.

I encourage all to review parts 1 and 2 as you complete eclipse observing and travel preparations, and to get a sense of the kinds of information that I will be asking you to collect for the 2024 collective experience presentation as the eclipse date draws nearer.

June 20

Thursday, June 20th, 2024 beginning at 7:00PM

Topic: TBD

Presenter: TBD


July 18

Thursday, July 18th, 2024 beginning at 7:00PM

Topic: Two Years of JWST Science (tentative title)

Presenter: Dr. Kelly Lepo, Education and Outreach Scientist, Office of Public Outreach, STScI

Dr. Kelly Lepo,

Topic Description: [forthcoming]

Bio: Dr. Kelly Lepo is an Education and Outreach Scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute, where she supports outreach efforts for the James Webb Space Telescope. She received a PhD in Astronomy and Astrophysics from the University of Toronto. During her time in Canada, she made numerous local and national media appearances to talk about everything from the 2012 Mayan Apocalypse to the Super Blue Blood Moon. She previously served as the Coordinator of the McGill Space Institute, taught physics at Gonzaga University, and helped build the Large Hadron Collider at CERN.

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Last modified: February 18, 2024 @ 17:42 EST