- 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)
Next Meeting & This Year's Meeting Topics / Speakers
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
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
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.
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 "...vision, 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.
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 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.
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.
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
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's presentation (Part 1):
Thursday, July 15th, 2021 beginning at 7:00PM
Topic: Exoplanets: Finding Life in the Galaxy
Presenter: Robert Zellem
Quick Zoom Link
Description: Join Dr. Rob Zellem, an exoplanet astronomer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who will be talking
about his work on characterizing exoplanets, planets outside of our own Solar System, with the ultimate goal of finding life.
Rob is an exoplanet
astronomer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory working on ground- and space-based observations of the
atmospheres of exoplanets, planets outside of our Solar System. Rob is a member of the
Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope's Coronograph Instrument
(CGI; an instrument that will directly-image exoplanets)
Project Science Team and is the lead of developing its Science Calibration Plan. He is the JPL Commissioning Lead of NESSI,
a new multi-object spectrograph at Palomar Observatory that will study tens of these alien worlds. He has been involved in
benchmarking the performance through simulations of NASA and ESA exoplanet-dedicated missions such as CASE, the NASA contribution
to ESA's ARIEL mission, and the Astro2020 missions Origins Space Telescope and HabEx. He is also the
Project Lead of Exoplanet Watch,
a citizen science project that will aid in the characterization of exoplanets.
Rob was born just outside the Philadelphia city limits but grew up in Hendersonville, TN. He went to Villanova University
where he graduated with his Bachelor of Science in Astronomy and Astrophysics, minoring in Physics, Mathematics, and Classics,
and getting an Honors Concentration. His love of travel and learning about other cultures brought him to University College
London in England where he got his MSc in Space Science. He then moved out west to Tucson, AZ, where he received his PhD in
Planetary Sciences from the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona. He is currently staff at NASA's
Jet Propulsion Laboratory. When he's not observing exoplanets, he enjoys jazz piano, cooking, trying not to kill all his
plants, brewing beer, playing ice hockey, and fantasizing about retiring to work at Disney.
Thursday, August 19th, 2021 beginning at 7:00PM
Topic: An overview of the Miniature Radio Frequency (Mini-RF) Instrument aboard the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO)
Presenter: Nick Dutton, Johns Hopkins University / Applied Physics Laboratory
Quick Zoom Link
The Mini-RF Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) has a long and interesting history.
Originally designed and flown as a technology demonstration aboard the
Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) in 2009, it continues to provide useful science information
about the lunar surface and subsurface. This talk will give an overview of the instrument and its science objectives,
as well as a detailed discussion on the bistatic SAR Lunar image formation process. In addition, we will describe a
novel approach to estimating lunar surface composition using machine learning on the Mini-RF data.
Nick has degrees in Aerospace Engineering, Astronautical Engineering, and Physics.
From 2013-2018, Nick was the chief engineer and co-founder of Clear Aspect Solutions (CAS), LLC.
In 2018 Nick left CAS to join JHU/APL in pursuit of more scientifically oriented work as Senior Professional Staff in the Space Exploration Sector.
Thursday, September 23rd, 2021 beginning at 7:00PM
Topic: Observing the Next Galactic Supernova
Presenter: Dan Milisavljevic
Quick Zoom Link
The catastrophic deaths of massive stars--supernova explosions--are among the most powerful and important events in the cosmos.
strongly shape the structure and chemistry of their host galaxies; they produce a variety of exotic objects including
neutron stars, black holes, and gamma-ray bursts; and, perhaps most importantly, supernova debris ejected into interstellar space
is chock full of the heavy elements that make planets and life possible. Dr. Milisavljevic will provide a vivid description of historical
supernovae that occurred in our own Milky Way galaxy, and outline plans for a coordinated global response to the next "Big One."
Particular emphasis will be drawn to the special role that
American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO) members will have in responding to an alert from the
Supernova Early Warning System (SNEWS), which is a network of neutrino detectors
around the world designed to rapidly provide the first announcement when the next once-in-a-century Galactic supernova occurs.
Dr. Dan Milisavljevic is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Purdue University. He completed his
undergraduate degree in liberal arts at McMaster University; masters degree in philosophy at the London School of Economics,
under a Commonwealth Fellowship; and PhD in physics and astronomy at Dartmouth College. He's held research positions at Harvard University
and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. Milisavljevic's research interests include multi-messenger signals of astrophysical transients
discovered via time-domain surveys; autonomous AI-directed coordination of global observing facilities; the explosion mechanisms,
progenitor stars, and compact object remnants of supernovae; massive star mass loss; and the formation and destruction of dust and molecules.
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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