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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.

2017 General Meeting Topics / Speakers
January 19 HAL Annual Election & astrophotos, Wayne Baggett provides an update on the James Webb Space Telescope
February 16

Annual treasurer's report & members astrophotos plus special guest speaker.

Speaker: NASA Astrophysicist, Dr. Ira Thorpe

Title: The 100 Year History of Gravity Waves, and the LISA/LISA Pathfinder Missions 

Abstract: In September 2015, nearly a century after Albert Einstein’s publication of the theory of General Relativity, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) instruments detected gravitational waves produced by colliding black holes in the distant universe. While that feat marked the end of a nearly six-decade quest to make the first direct detection of gravitational waves, it marks the beginning of a new an exciting field of astronomy that will use gravity, not light, to explore and understand our universe and the strange phenomena that inhabit it. Just as electromagnetic astronomers have developed a suite of instruments to cover a wide range of that spectrum, gravitational wave astronomers are developing instruments that are sensitive to different frequencies of gravitational waves. One of the most promising bands, expected to be rich in both number and variety of sources, is the milliHertz band, which is only accessible to a space-based observatory. 

In 2015, the European Space Agency launched LISA Pathfinder, a technology demonstrator for the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) concept. LISA Pathfinder’s primary objective is to demonstrate that a test mass can be placed in near-perfect free-fall and that it’s acceleration can be precisely measured using a laser interferometer. In this talk Dr. Thorpe will describe LISA Pathfinder, its key technologies, NASA’s role, and the preliminary results to date. He will also provide a look forward to the prospects for realizing LISA and the tremendous science output that it will achieve.

March 16 Speaker: Elizabeth Warner gives a talk entitled: "Education, Public Outreach and Research at a Small Observatory". The UMD Observatory was dedicated in 1964 and was established as a teaching facility. A public program was added and those Open Houses continue today. While maintaining the existing educational and public outreach portions, Elizabeth Warner has also established new outreach initiatives since taking over in May 2002. A challenge from a student and a change in the program she mentored led to starting a research program with undergrad students.
April 20 Dr. Adam Szabo, Chief of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center's Heliospheric Phyics Labratory, will be speaking to us about the Earth and Solar Wind Science Observations of the DSCOVR Mission.
May 18

In addition to the recurring meeting elements, the talk for May is:

Eclipse 2017: Through the Eyes of NASA
The August 21, 2017 eclipse will be the first time a total solar eclipse has traversed the Continental US since June 8th, 1918. This talk will outline NASA’s science education  plans, unique science, and show how scientists and the public can get involved.

Speaker: Lou Mayo
Lou Mayo is a planetary astronomer working for ADNET Systems at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. He is Program Manager for NASA's 2017 Eclipse Science Education Program and Heliophysics Education Consortium and professor of astronomy at Marymount University.

June 15

Guest Speaker HAL Member and UMBC Professor Bob Provine:

The Perception of Color in Astronomical Objects

The human eye has been displaced as the sensor of choice of astronomers, but astronomers and other physical scientists still refer to red and blue light as a shorthand for long and short wavelengths and make fallacious assumptions about the nature of the perceptual world, neglecting that there are differences between the physical world and our perception of it. Data from neuroscience indicate we descendants of hunter-gathers are not ideal astrophysicists. Issues of color are also significant for amateur astronomers trying to describe and understand what they see. What is responsible for the color the point sources of stars and the distributed sources of nebula? Why do the stellar
pairing double star Alberio look especially blue and gold? Why does the companion of Aldebaran look green, a unique hue for stars? Why does color disappear from landscapes after sunset? 

In describing these and other phenomena, Bob will demonstrate that color is not a property of the physical universe, but is generated by the brain to provide an additional dimension of image contrast. There is no red, blue, or green in the cosmos. Building on Land's Retinex Theory, he will provide evidence that color must involve more than simply wavelength perception, otherwise there would be no stability of color under different conditions of illumination. Perceived color is the result of ratios of reflectances of wavelengths off different surfaces, not of specific wavelengths. he will also provide demonstrations of these phenomena. Although his data reflect accepted color theory, they are startling when encountered for the first time."

July 20  
August 17  
September 21 Member's solar eclipse reports and photos
October 19 In addition to the recurring meeting elements, the talk for June is:
Exoplanet Detection via Microlensing
by Dennis M. Conti
Chair, AAVSO Exoplanet Section

Microlensing is one of several techniques used by astronomers to detect and characterize exoplanets, as well as double star systems. Microlensing is possible due to the warping of spacetime, as predicted by Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity. One of the advantages of microlensing over other detection techniques, such as the transit method, is that microlensing can detect the existence of earth-size planets. However, the rarity and small time scale with which microlensing events occur presents its own challenges.

This presentation will review how microlensing takes place and the light curves produced by microlensing events. The observation with a backyard telescope of an actual microlensing event will be discussed, as well as how amateur astronomers can contribute to such events.
November 16  
December 21 Holiday Potluck

2013 Meetings - Speakers and Topics

2014 Meetings - Speakers and Topics
2015 Meetings - Speakers and Topics

2016 Meetings - Speakers and Topics

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