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HAL Meetings in 2022-23

HAL General Meetings (Open to the Public)

  • Meetings are currently held virtually via Zoom. 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.

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 Updated 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.
  • We are following Howard County guidelines such as:
  • Face coverings are encouraged inside the Alpha Ridge HALO building.

2022 General Meeting Topics / Speakers
Jan. 20

Thursday, January 20, 2022 beginning at 7:00PM

Topic: Paulo's Discoveries from his Personal Observatory

Presenter: Paulo Cacella, Senior Consultant, Central Bank of Brazil

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

Paulo Cacella

Paulo has a background in Electrical Engineering with MBA in Big Data and A.I. He has been an amateur astronomer since 9 years old and an active researcher in fields like finance, philosophy and astronomy. His observatory includes a 20in reflector on a HD32 Chronos mount, C14 with Hyperstar, Meade 12ACF with LHIRESIII spectroscope, RC10 for astroimaging, Meade 10 with a DSS7 spectroscope, FLT98 and Z71 APOs, Solar 120mm scope and some others.

He is going to talk about discoveries that were made in his observatory, software he developed for searching transient and asteroid/comets; he will also show some of his astrophotos.

Feb. 17

Thursday, February 17, 2022 beginning at 7:00PM

Topic #1: Space Art: Personal Experiences of an Artist/Author

Presenter: Ron Miller -- Space Artist, Science Fiction Illustrator and Author

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

Ron Miller is an author and illustrator specializing in space and astronomy. His work appears regularly in magazines such as Astronomy and Scientific American. He is also the author and illustrator of 70 books, including: Space Art: Starlog Photo Guidebook, Cycles of Fire: Stars, Galaxies, and the Wonder of Deep Space, The Grand Tour: A Traveler's Guide to the Solar System, The Art of Chesley Bonestell, The History Of Science Fiction, The Art of Space: The History of Space Art, from the Earliest Visions to the Graphics of the Modern Era, and many others. The most recent is Natural Satellites: The Book of Moons, which came out in 2021. He also designed a set of postage stamps celebrating the exploration of the solar system. The "Pluto Not Yet Explored" stamp is attached to the New Horizons spacecraft. It is now in the Guinness Book of World Records as having traveled further than any other stamp in history. He has also worked on motion pictures, probably most notably the David Lynch Dune.

This will be a very interactive session. Ron Miller will begin with an overview of his nearly 50-year career as a space artist, science fiction illustrator and author (which you can read about on Wikipedia) -- what he has done previously as well as his current focus. Then we'll open it up to questions, giving everyone a chance to ask about any aspect of his career you'd like to know more about.

Topic #2: Quantum Tunneling in Nuclear Fusion

Presenter: Arjun Meenashi Sundar

Arjun is 11.8 years old kid. He is in 6th grade and is very interested in Asteroid mining and Quantum Mechanics which are some of his lifetime passions. This is his current desired career path. He also has other interests, such as Visual Arts, playing guitar, and astrophotography, which is a very recent hobby.

Mar. 17

Thursday, March 17, 2022 beginning at 7:00PM

Topic: Filters

Presenter: Phil Whitebloom and other HAL members

Artifacts: Presentation PDF | Video Recording | YouTube | Chat Log | Related Blog (Jim Tomney)


Our March 2022 HAL Meeting is coming up Thursday, March 17th beginning at 7:00PM EST.
Note: This will be a Zoom meeting only. We will not be at Robinson Nature Center.

Our primary discussion topic will be "Filters". A panel of experts will discuss what filters to use for both observational astronomy and also for astro-imaging. They will share their knowledge answer all of your questions. Knowing what filters to use for what conditions and objectives will greatly enhance your night-out and solar experiences.

In addition we are going to discuss a new members only platform known as "Discord". Some of you have already been using our Discord server to share information and experiences. We are now ready to roll it out to the membership. And there is more, including our new YouTube Channel and sharing your recent picture submissions.

Apr. 21

Thursday, April 21, 2022 beginning at 7:00PM

Topic: Six Impossible Things

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

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

Some things are possible and some are not. That line between the possible and the impossible can tell us a lot about the way Nature works. In this talk we will ponder a few impossibilities, from the notorious (time travel, escape from a black hole) to the obscure (quantum cloning), using them to discover some of the physical principles that govern information in our quantum universe. As one might expect upon a journey into wonderland, our constant companion will be Alice -- thanks to her creator Lewis Carroll and her most famous illustrator Sir John Tenniel. Many surprises await beyond the looking-glass of the impossible.

Bio: 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.


Dr. Benjamin Schumacher
May 19

Thursday, May 19, 2022 beginning at 7:00PM

Topic: International Latitude Observatory

Presenter: Karen Yaffe Lottes, Gaithersburg Community Museum

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


Special presentation by Karen Yaffe Lottes on a historical site that is in our own backyard, the "International Latitude Observatory".

Karen Yaffe Lottes is an historian and museum educator at the Gaithersburg Community Museum where she creates informal educational opportunities in history and STEM at the museum and the Latitude Observatory. Her book In Search of Maryland Ghosts: Montgomery County was published in 2013 and she has written for In Gaithersburg Magazine, the Gazette, and other area publications.

June 16

Thursday, June 16, 2022 beginning at 7:00PM

Topic #1: Possible Causes of Hydration of Vesta's Oppia Crater

Presenter: Dominic Alfinito, Senior, North County High School in Glen Burnie, MD

Artifacts (for both topics): Presentation PDF | Video Recording on YouTube | Chat Log

Establishing conclusive evidence of hydration on solar system bodies is a key step in gaining a better understanding of our solar system's evolution and present composition. Oppia crater is a location on asteroid Vesta where a hydration feature has been detected but there is no direct evidence/reason for how it got there. This research project hoped to start answering this question.

Dominic is a senior at North County High School in Glen Burnie, MD who will be graduating next month. He has been a very active member of the Mock Trial team as well as the Astronomy Club throughout his high school career. Dominic will be attending college at UMBC right here in Baltimore and plans to study Physics with an emphasis in Astronomy.

Dominic Alfinito

Topic #2: Directly Imaging Exoplanets, Determining Their Orbits and Modeling Their Atmospheres

Presenter: William O. Balmer, PhD Student - Johns Hopkins University, Graduate Research Assistant at Space Telescope Science Institute

Artifacts: Links appear above under Topic #1.

William Balmer

William Balmer is a PhD student at the Johns Hopkins University and graduate research assistant at the Space Telescope Science Institute. He and his colleagues research the growth, evolution, and composition of giant planets, brown dwarfs, and very low mass stars using some of the world's largest optical and infrared observatories (WIYN 3.5m, Magellan 6.5m, Gemini 8.1m, VLT 8.2m, the VLT-Interferometry Array, and soon JWST). You can read more about their research and other projects online at

July 21

Thursday, July 21, 2022 beginning at 7:00PM

Topic: The Great North American Solar Eclipse of 2024:
Part 2 – HAL Lessons from the Great American Solar Eclipse of 2017

Presenter: Jim Johnson, former HAL President and Secretary

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

The Great North American Solar Eclipse of 2024 will be Marylanders’ next readily accessible opportunity to witness firsthand one of the grandest of all astronomical phenomena, a total solar eclipse. As April 8th, 2024, is about 1 ½ years away and long-range planning is required for a successful eclipse experience, now is a great time to start getting ready. This talk will be a very interactive discussion that builds on the foundational eclipse material presented in Part 1 of this series at the June 2021 HAL general meeting (PDF slides / Zoom recording on YouTube ). Part 2 of this series 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, traveled to eclipse viewing sites, and dealt with difficulties that were encountered five years ago, and how these lessons might be applied to preparations for the 2024 eclipse.

Jim Johnson has been a HAL member since 2012. He is a retired Marine and a retired Federal civil servant, and has served HAL in many capacities over the ten years of his membership. Within two years of joining, he was a park keyholder hosting public, members only and impromptu star parties. Also at around this time he served on the observatory committee as plans to build HALO and install the Watson telescope were being finalized, and he participated in placing the observatory in service after the building was complete. Jim first served on the HAL Board as secretary during the 2015 and 2016 terms, and as president during the 2017 and 2018 terms. Under Jim’s leadership, the Board resolved to replace the Watson telescope with an instrument more appropriate for public outreach, and subsequently accept and install the Illig telescope in HALO. After moving off of the Board, he has continued to support HAL by serving as HAL Elections Committee chair in each election since 2019. Jim also enjoys leading an occasional HAL AstroSchool session or appearing as a guest speaker at a monthly meeting. His personal astronomy journey continues in the art of planetary and deep space object astrophotography, and he is a frequent contributor of astrophotos presented at the monthly meetings.

JimJ ohnson
Aug. 18

Thursday, August 18, 2022 beginning at 7:00PM

Topic: Jupiter – Big Fun for the Amateur Astronomer!

Presenter: Jim Tomney, HAL 2nd Vice President

Artifacts: Jupiter Presentation PDF | Download Presentation PPT | Video Recording on YouTube | Chat Log | August Meeting Slides w/Images

Jim Tomney

Get ready for Jupiter’s opposition next month with this presentation by HAL’s Jim Tomney on the ins & outs of observing the giant planet. As a Jovian enthusiast since getting his first 60mm refractor in the 60’s, Jim has spent hours behind the eyepiece sketching and photographing this fascinating planet. He will be sharing tips on viewing Jupiter that he has learned along the way and provide an overview of features the amateur observer might be able to see for a variety of instruments. There also will be a primer on getting into imaging Jupiter using video camera and open source software.

By day Jim is a software developer currently working as a contractor for the Social Security Administration. He is currently serving as HAL’s 2nd vice-president and has been a member of the club since 2014. As a long-time member of the Association of Lunar & Planetary Observers (ALPO) he is currently serving as their Assistant Coordinator for the Online section where he processes the images and sketches submitted by observers around the world. He also pens an astronomy blog, Shallow Skies, where he offers his take on the joys and challenges of exploring the night sky amid Bortle 8 light pollution.

Sept 15

Thursday, September 15, 2022 beginning at 7:00PM

Topic: I Thank My Lucky Stars

Presenter: Al Nagler, Founder - Tele Vue Optics

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

Al put his lifelong love of amateur astronomy to work as a professional optical designer in 1958. But, it was his involvement in designing NASA lunar landing simulators (as seen in the movie "Apollo 13") that most directly influences Tele Vue products of today. Al wanted his own observing equipment to deliver that seemingly limitless vista created for the astronauts. Producing wide, full-field sharpness and high contrast images are the keys.

Al's "Nagler" series heralded its own revolution in eyepieces. Called "remarkable" by the author of "Telescope Optics", it has an 82° apparent field, and 10 times the field sharpness of any previous eyepiece. Nagler eyepieces approached the realization of Al's dream for "spacewalk" viewing, even more so with the long eye relief Nagler Type 4 models, long focal length Type 5 models, and short focal length Type 6 models. The next generation Nagler, Al's son David (full time at Tele Vue Optics for more than 25-years and currently company President) took the next step in the "spacewalk" experience by laying the conceptual ground work for a 100° eyepiece to be designed by Al's in-house protégé Paul Dellechiaie. The result is everything a Tele Vue eyepiece represents. It's the Tele Vue Ethos.

Also, look at the celebrated Panoptic eyepieces for "tack-sharp," low power, 68° fields. And, the 72° Delos series and 62° DeLite eyepieces both with 20mm eye relief, offer the most performance possible for eyeglass wearers. These, along with many other long eye-relief Tele Vue eyepieces accept DIOPTRX, the unique optical "missing link" between you and your equipment. It corrects your eyesight astigmatism so you can replace your eyeglasses for the best possible visual experience. Planetary enthusiasts can enjoy the Nagler Zoom with a constant 50° field and parfocal, 3-6mm focal length zoom range.

Al Nagler, Tele Vue Optics
Oct 20

Thursday, October 20, 2022 beginning at 7:00PM

Topic: What is the Best Telescope and Mount For You?

Presenter: Phil Whitebloom and HAL Members

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


A question we hear quite often is; "What is the best telescope for me"? On Thursday, October 20th, beginning at 7:00PM EDT we are going to be addressing that question and many related questions. If you are considering your first telescope, adding another telescope, upgrading to a more advanced system, this is the meeting for you. It is also a meeting for our more experienced HAL members to participate. I will be looking forward to your added input to what could be a complicated subject as we work to simplify the answer. This is not only going to be a fun and informational session, it could also help you to build your holiday wish list. We will also be featuring timely news and your astro-images, sketches, artwork, and more.

Nov 17

Thursday, November 17, 2022 beginning at 7:00PM

Topic: Cometary DUIs: Detected Under the Influence (of the Sun, that is)

Presenter: Dr. Lori Feaga, Research Professor at University of Maryland

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

Comet C/2017 K2 (PanSTARRS) will make its closest approach to the Sun on December 19, 2022. A distantly active comet discovered in 2017, C/2017 K2 will not be visible to the naked eye, but long-term community-wide studies of this comet through its apparition will shed light on what drives distant cometary activity, how that activity shifts as the comet nears the Sun, and which primordial ices comprise a cometary nucleus that has been stored in the cold outer Solar System for millions of years. One of the unique properties of C/2017 K2 is that it was discovered in 2017 at distances beyond Saturn, where it was already shedding gas and dust. Most cometary activity is very minimal at these distances from the Sun because the comets are not yet warm enough for their ices to change into the gas phase. Additionally, many comets are known to have large concentrations of water and much less carbon monoxide or carbon dioxide, which are activated at colder temperatures. Observations have shown that C/2017 K2’s activity is being driven at least in part by carbon monoxide at large distances and continuing studies will show how that behavior evolves as the comet gets closer to the Sun, water turns on, and then recedes again. New advanced telescopic assets like the James Webb Space Telescope, as well as many large and small telescopes around the world, have been and will continue to observe C/2017 K2 and contribute to the understanding of what makes this comet different than others. I will share recent results about C/2017 K2, putting it into context with the general comet population, and will describe some other temporal studies of comets as well as look to the future for comet missions.

Dr. Lori Feaga received her Bachelor of Science degree with High Honors in Astronomy from the University of Maryland in 1997. She then continued her education at the Johns Hopkins University where she successfully defended her doctoral thesis and received her Ph.D. in Astrophysics in 2005 studying the atmospheric composition and variability of Jupiter’s moon Io. Currently a Research Professor at the University of Maryland, Dr. Feaga is a planetary scientist focusing on the molecular composition and distribution of ice and gas surrounding small bodies in the Solar System (e.g., comets, asteroids, and Kuiper Belt objects) and how they relate to the protoplanetary disk from which the Earth formed. Her observing techniques include ultraviolet to infrared spectroscopy, visible imaging, and time-domain surveys. Dr. Feaga has extensive NASA mission experience, having held instrument, science, and outreach roles on the Deep Impact, EPOXI, Comet Hopper, and Rosetta missions, and intends to lead her own small satellite mission in the future. From an early age, Dr. Feaga received encouragement and support from her family to pursue a career in astronomy and enjoys sharing her own science, promoting science literacy, and inspiring others to enter the STEM fields.

Dr. Lori Feaga
Dec 15

Thursday, December 15, 2022 beginning at 7:00PM

Holiday Party at Robinson Nature Center

Detail TBA

Christmas LightsChristmas Lights

Watch this space for details.

Jan 19

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

Topic: The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) Mission

Presenter: Dr. Nancy Chabot, DART Coordination Lead at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab

Zoom link will be posted in early January 2023.

Dr. Nancy Chabot

On September 26, 2022, NASA’s DART mission successfully impacted the asteroid Dimorphos and made history as the first test of asteroid deflection. As a part of NASA’s overall planetary defense strategy, DART’s impact with the asteroid Dimorphos, which poses no threat to Earth, demonstrated a mitigation technique for potentially protecting the planet from an Earth-bound asteroid in the future, if one were discovered. Following DART’s impact with Dimorphos, the DART Investigation Team, composed of scientists from around the world, has been working to observe the results of DART’s impact with telescopic facilities, to analyze the returned spacecraft images, and to model the impact event, resulting ejecta, and asteroid dynamics. This presentation will share some of the latest results relating to DART’s impact event and discuss what that means for potentially applying this technique in the future, if such a need should arise.

Dr. Nancy L. Chabot is a planetary scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, MD, USA. She is the Coordination Lead on NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission, the Deputy PI for the Mars-moon Exploration with GAmma rays and NEutrons (MEGANE) instrument on the JAXA Martian Moons eXploration (MMX) mission, and an Interdisciplinary Scientist on the joint ESA-JAXA BepiColombo mission. Previously on NASA’s MESSENGER mission, she served as the Instrument Scientist for the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS) and the Chair of the Geology Discipline Group. She has been a member of five field teams with the Antarctic Search for Meteorites (ANSMET) program, is a Fellow of the Meteoritical Society, and asteroid 6899 Nancychabot is named in her honor. She has served in community leadership positions such as Chair of NASA’s Small Bodies Assessment Group and Chair of the Panel on Small Solar System Bodies for the 2023–2032 Planetary Science and Astrobiology Decadal Survey. Dr. Chabot earned an undergraduate degree in physics at Rice University and a PhD in planetary science at the University of Arizona.

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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

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Last modified: November 21, 2022 @ 18:31 EST