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Howard Astronomical League - Meetings

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. Thanks.

Specific dates for the meetings below can be found on the HAL Calendar page. Additional information is communicated near the event in the HAL e-mail group.

HAL General Meetings (Open to the Public)

This Year's Meeting Topics / Speakers

  • HAL's monthly 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


Click here for more information on this great new facility: Robinson Nature Center

HAL Planning Meetings (Open to All Members)

  • Monthly Planning meetings to discuss future club direction, events, meeting topics, outreach, etc. are open to all members.  Attendance is  encouraged. These are held from 7:00-8:00PM on the first Monday of most months* at:

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

* Sometimes the Planning Meeting date falls on a holiday in which case the meetiings could be either cancelled or rescheduled. ' Occasionally, the meetings get cancelled due to lack of agenda items. Therefore, check the calendar page, the top of the home page, and/or posting on the e-mail group to be sure a specific meeting will be held.

January 17

Speaker: Bob Dutilly

Title: Spacecraft Mission Development

Abstract: This is a presentation on the entire process from a concept through all of the stages that a spacecraft mission goes through to launch.  I plan on quickly discussing each stage for a successful mission.  The scientists can work on the concept stage for a number of years prior to having it approved.

Bio: Bob worked at Goddard Space Flight Center from 1982 until his retirement in 2008. He has experienced all mission stages except for the prelliminary concept stage.

February 21

Speaker, Mark Perry

Title: Ring rain and tar polluting Saturn: a new understanding of the interactions between Saturn and its rings. 

For forty years, calculations based on remote observations indicated that Saturn’s magnetic field carries ions and charged particles from the rings to the mid latitudes of Saturn. In Cassini’s spectacular last few months of life, direct, in situ measurements found that ten tons per second of molecules and particles smaller than two nanometers are streaming along the plane of the rings into Saturn’s atmosphere by another process: atmospheric drag. Saturn’s extended atmosphere reaches the inner edge of Saturn’s rings and extracts neutral particles less than one thousandth the thickness of a human hair by slowing them down until they fall into Saturn. Surprisingly, the flux is a hundred times larger than past predictions, and at least half of the material is hydrocarbon, which comprises less than 5% of the water-ice-dominated rings. Cassini’s data also show that the influx varies at least a factor of four and may be linked to clumps that appeared in 2015 on D68, the ringlet on the inner edge of the rings. These newly discovered particles and processes alter the evolutionary landscape of the rings and provide an exciting, rich field for future research aimed at understanding the origin and history of the rings. 

Short bio:
Mark Perry, a planetary scientist at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, uses data from in situ mass spectrometry and remote observations such as RF occultations to study the internal structure of rocky planets, the magnetospheres of outer planets, the plumes of icy moons such as Enceladus, the topography of asteroids, and now the interactions between the rings of Saturn and its atmosphere. Before returning to research, Dr. Perry spent fifteen years involved with live-cycle engineering and managing many missions, from deep-space missions such as the MESSENGER mission to Mercury and the New Horizons mission to Pluto, to technology-demonstration missions, the International Space Station, and astrophysics missions such as the Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer

March 21

Speaker: Dr. Albert Holm, Retired. Formerly a staff member for OAO-A2, the International Ultraviolet Explorer, and the Hubble Space Telescope.

Title: Out of this World Astronomy: The Orbiting Astronomical Observatory-A2 

Abstract: What could be better than a telescope on a high mountain? In 1946, Lyman Spitzer published a paper arguing for the development of a large telescope in space. The technology to do that did not exist then nor in the decades after Sputnik. The Orbiting Astronomical Observatory series provided stepping stones for developing and testing the technologies that eventually would be used for the Hubble Space Telescope, the implementation of Spitzer's dream. 2018 is the 50th anniversary of the December 7, 1968, launch of Orbiting Astronomical Observatory-A2, the first satellite to deliver astronomical data about stars, planets, and galaxies to Earth. This is the story of that mission, its operations, its discoveries, and its legacy. 

April 18 TBD
May 16 TBD
June 20 TBD
July 18 TBD
August 15 TBD
Sept. 19 TBD
October 17 TBD
Nov. 21 TBD
Dec. 19 Holiday Potluck

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

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