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HAL Meetings

  • Meetings are currently held virtually (rather than at the locations below). Watch for updates!
  • 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.

HAL General Meetings (Open to the Public)

This Year's Meeting Topics / Speakers & Next Meeting

General Meetings are held at 7:00PM on the 3rd Thursday of every month at:

        The Robinson Nature Center (Map)
        6692 Cedar Lane
        Columbia, MD 21044
        More information about Robinson Nature Center
        Note: The Robinson Nature Center closes at 5PM and reopens at 6PM exclusively for the HAL meeting. 
        Do not arrive before 6PM or you will need to wait outside.

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 at:

        Wegman's Market 2nd Floor Dining Area (Map)
        8855 McGaw Rd
        Columbia, MD 21045
        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

  • 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.
  • Face coverings are encouraged for non-vaccinated people while participating outdoors.
  • Face coverings are required for all inside the Alpha Ridge HALO building.

2021 General Meeting Topics / Speakers
Jan. 21

Thursday, January 21st, 2021 beginning at 7:00PM

Topic: NOAA'S Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS)

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

Ted Leoutsakos

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.

Feb. 18

Thursday, February 18th beginning at 7:00PM

Topic: Chandra X-Ray Observatory

Presenter: Dr. Harvey Tananbaum - former director of Chandra XRAY Center

Dr. Tananbaum served as Director of the Chandra X-Ray Center (CXC) at the Smithsonian Astrophsycial Observatory in Cambridge, Mass. from 1991-2014. The CXC is responsible for operating the Chandra X-Ray Observatory in orbit, for supporting the broad community of scientists who observe with Chandra, and for disseminating the Chandra science results to the public.

Dr. Tananbaum received his B. A. in physics from Yale University in 1964, and his Ph.D. in physics from MIT in 1968. He began his career as a Staff Scientist at American Science & Engineering, Inc., and has been an Astrophysicist at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) since 1973. He directed SAO's High Energy Astrophysics Division from 1981 through 1993. Dr. Tananbaum has been involved with a number of space science missions in the high energy/X-ray field, serving as Project Scientist for the UHURU (SAS-A) X-ray Satellite (1969-1973), as Scientific Program Manager for the first imaging X-ray telescope, the HEAO-2/Einstein mission (1972-1981), and as Principal Investigator and Director of the Einstein Data Center (1981-1994). In 1976, he and Riccardo Giacconi led the team which proposed to NASA to initiate the study and design of a large X-ray telescope that was launched 23 years later, in 1999, as the Chandra X-Ray Observatory. He was the team leader for SAO's Chandra mission study and mirror development efforts, and he organized and led the team which was selected competitively in 1991 to develop and operate the science center for the Chandra mission. Dr. Tananbaum has been working in X-ray astronomy since his graduate days at MIT. His thesis research was on a mysterious, highly variable cosmic x-ray source. Later, when he was project scientist for the Uhuru X-ray Satellite, observations by the satellite were instrumental in showing that this source - Cygnus X-1 - was powered by matter falling into a black hole. Dr. Tananbaum received the NASA Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal in 1980, the NASA Public Service Award in 1988, and the NASA Medal for Outstanding Leadership in 2000. He was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and has served on numerous NASA and National Research Council advisory committees and as a Vice-president of the American Astronomical Society.

In 2004, he was awarded the Bruno Rossi prize of the High Energy Astrophysics Division of the American Astronomical Society, along with Dr. Martin Weisskopf the Chandra Project Scientist, for ", dedication, and leadership in the development, testing, and operation of the Chandra X-ray Observatory." In 2005, Dr. Tananbaum was elected as a member to the National Academy of Science, considered one of the highest honors that can be awarded to a U.S. scientist or engineer.

Dr. Harvey Tananbaum
Mar. 18

Thursday, March 18th, 2021 beginning at 7:00PM

Topic: Gravity: The Force of Creation

Presenter: Dr. Benjamin Schumacher, Professor of Physics at Kenyon College

Quick Zoom Link - more Zoom options on our home page

Dr. Benjamin Schumacher

Dr. Benjamin Schumacher is Professor of Physics at Kenyon College, where he has taught for 20 years. He received his Ph.D. in Theoretical Physics from The University of Texas at Austin in 1990. Professor Schumacher is the author of numerous scientific papers and two books, including Physics in Spacetime: An Introduction to Special Relativity. As one of the founders of quantum information theory, he introduced the term qubit, invented quantum data compression (also known as Schumacher compression), and established several fundamental results about the information capacity of quantum systems. For his contributions, he won the 2002 Quantum Communication Award, the premier international prize in the field, and was named a Fellow of the American Physical Society. Besides working on quantum information theory, he has done physics research on black holes, thermodynamics, and statistical mechanics. Professor Schumacher has spent sabbaticals working at Los Alamos National Laboratory and as a Moore Distinguished Scholar at the Institute for Quantum Information at California Institute of Technology. He has also done research at the Isaac Newton Institute of Cambridge University, the Santa Fe Institute, the Perimeter Institute, the University of New Mexico, the University of Montreal, the University of Innsbruck, and the University of Queensland.

Apr. 15

Thursday, April 15th, 2021 beginning at 7:00PM

Topic: How is radio astronomy different from optical astronomy?

Presenter: Sue Ann Heatherly, Senior Education Officer Green Bank Observatory

Quick Zoom Link - more Zoom options on our home page

Sue Ann Heatherly is the Senior Education Officer at the Green Bank Observatory in Green Bank, WV. Ms. Heatherly started her career as a science teacher in rural West Virginia, and in 1987 she participated in the first teacher workshop held at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. In 1989 she was hired by the Observatory to expand the education and outreach program.

The Green Bank Observatory is a real technical village -- the staff are composed of astronomers, engineers, technicians and software developers, machinists and mechanics and (3 educators). The observatory's mission is to provide state-of-the-art research facilities for the nation's astronomers. Astronomers from all over the world use the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope there, which is the world's largest fully steerable telescope.

Ms Heatherly's mission is to engage teachers and students in real-world scientific research experiences, and to share the excitement of scientific discovery with the public. Since her tenure began at the observatory she has written several successful grant proposals to the NSF and NASA which have allowed over 1500 teachers and tens of thousands of students to experience scientific research first-hand.

Note: If the 20 meter radio telescope is working, we will collect live data during the meeting.

Sue Ann Heatherly
May 20

Thursday, May 20th, 2021 beginning at 7:00PM

Topic: Sharing Coolest or Most Interesting Astronomy Moments and Experiences

Presenter: Phil Whitebloom and Members

Quick Zoom Link - more Zoom options on our home page

Phil Whitebloom

Sharing Coolest or Most Interesting Astronomy Moments and Experiences

See details from President Phil.

June 17

Thursday, June 17th, 2021 beginning at 7:00PM

Topic: The Great North American Eclipse of 2024: Part 1 - The Amateur Astronomer's Guide to Solar Eclipses

Presenter: Jim Johnson

Quick Zoom Link

The Great North American Eclipse of 2024 is our next readily accessible opportunity to witness first hand one of the most grand of all astronomical phenomena, a total solar eclipse. As it is less than three years away and careful planning is required for a successful experience, now is a great time to start getting ready. As April 8, 2024 approaches there will be much said about the eclipse in the press, on social media and in discussions among amateur astronomers like us. This talk will provide the foundational material for interpreting this coverage and for formulating travel and observing plans by exploring how and why solar eclipses occur, and what an observer can expect to see. This will be the first in a series of topics on the 2024 eclipse.

Part 2 of this topic will revisit The Great American Solar Eclipse of 2017: The Collective Experience of the Howard Astronomical League presentation to explore how HAL members and guests prepared for the eclipse and traveled to eclipse viewing sites, the problems that they encountered, what they learned four years ago, and how those lessons might be applied to preparations for the 2024 eclipse. For Part 3, the ultimate goal of this series, a similar presentation will be prepared that documents our collective 2024 eclipse experience.

Jim Johnson

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

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Last modified: June 11, 2021 @ 19:15 EST