HAL News / Star Party and Outreach Reports
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2022 Star Party Reports
Members-only Star Party (Alpha Ridge) 5/21/2022
We had a delightful members-only star party Saturday night.
Although it was warm, it was clear at sunset. Neville Fernandes and
I opened up HALO for some observatory practice, and at least five
HAL members showed up outside. Neville and I had a great time
practicing on the
the Whirlpool Galaxy,
Bode's Galaxy (M81),
the Cat's Eye and
Owl nebulas and finally the
and Antennae interacting
The clouds finally rolled in
about 10:30 and we locked up the observatory and the outside folks
packed up their scopes and we all left. It was really nice to be
out under the stars on a clear Saturday night for a change,
especially with such good company. I hope this starts a new streak
of successful star parties!
Impromptu Star Party (Alpha Ridge) 5/17/2022
We had a very nice impromptu at Alpha Ridge last night. Cheryl, Atul
and I were in HALO for practice, and at least five other HAL members
stopped by outside to take advantage of the beautiful night. Using
HALO we were able to image the
globular cluster M3,
the galaxy pair M81/M82,
the Whirlpool Galaxy (M51),
the Cat's Eye Nebula (NGC 6543),
Markarian's Chain (M86 and many others) and the
Needle Galaxy (NGC 4565).
The Moon rose brightly but beautifully at 10:30 and Cheryl and
I locked up HALO and the park and left just before midnight.
The weather was just about perfect, it was cool but not at all cold
with calm winds and entirely clear with good transparency. I wish
we'd get weather anything like that good for our members-only star
party this Saturday night!
Impromptu Star Party (Alpha Ridge) 5/09/2022
Turned out to be an amazing night. Very little to almost no wind and
cool temperatures in the 50s. We had five HAL members join Alpha
Ridge last night, most of us arrived around 8PM.
The Waxing Gibbous
was almost directly overhead when we started the night. Huge thanks
to Bert for sharing an amazing view of the moon from his telescope. I
packed up around 1AM and locked the gate around 1:30AM after everyone
left. It was great to enjoy the clear skies last night with good
company. Looking forward to many more this summer as the weather
Public Star Party (Alpha Ridge) 5/07/2022
Last evening, Cheryl Kerr, Hannah Broder, David Stein, and I braved
the yucky weather and opened up HALO for a Girl Scout troop from
Columbia/Elkridge. We took turns taking about HAL, the capabilities
of the Illig scope,
eclipses, and more while fielding thoughtful
questions from the 7th graders working toward their Night Owl badges
by attending a star party and learning about the night sky. The
comments and questions dried up around 9:30. We locked up the park
Members-Only Star Party (Alpha Ridge) 4/30/2022
Approximately 15 HAL members arrived at Alpha Ridge Park to attempt
observing under largely cloudy skies. The clouds were thin for the most
part, but they were annoying nonetheless. The observational highlight
of the night for several of us, I think, was being able to see Mercury
above the western horizon, viewing through a cloud that was thick enough
to make the planet slowly wink in and out. That made observing the
challenging object even more challenging. Most people had departed
before 10pm, but a few were sticking it out a little longer, giving up
by about 10:30. We called it a night and I locked the gate at about
I enjoyed talking to all of the members, several of whom were at their
first star party; thank you all for coming!
Member-Only Impromptu Star Party (Alpha Ridge) 4/29/2022
We had an impromptu star party at Alpha Ridge this past Friday evening
(4/29/2022) so I thought I’d summarize how things proceeded - as we generally
tend to do afterwards. It turned out to be a fine night, with clear skies,
light winds and temperatures dipping down to around 50° F (I think). Several
HAL members set up their gear for imaging including Bert, Wayne, Shrikant and
Richard. We also had a telescope operator training session in the observatory
for Ken E. which Wayne joined once his rig was up and running. Later, in
HALO, I helped Arjun collect some image data on M44 for his asteroid hunting
project. I was ready to leave around 12:30 AM but Wayne was interested in
staying longer, so I handed over responsibility to close up the park to him.
When I left, Bert, Shrikant and I were in the process of wrapping up and Wayne
was still going strong.
Until next time,
After Victor left, Bert, Shrikant, and I continued our imaging. Bert and
Shrikant stayed for about another hour, and left me there in solitary communion
with the night sky. The night was pretty good -- my Sky Quality Meter
consistently reported a sky brightness of 19.75 mag/sq. arcsec -- with little
wind and only slightly cold temperatures. The seeing was rather poor, however,
even though the transparency was better than average. Some high, thin clouds
started to encroach at about 1am, but they held off until I finished at 2am and
collected my flats. I locked the gate at about 3:15am.
It was, overall, a very nice night of observing. Hopefully more people can
come out for the next impromptu.
Click image to expand.
Member-Only Impromptu Star Party (Alpha Ridge) 4/23/2022
We had a good impromptu last night. Five members (David, Cheryl, Richard,
Neville and Atul) showed up to do some training work inside the observatory
and a handful of others (Thorne, Bert, Shrikant and myself) set up their own
gear in the parking lot do their own thing. Arjun and family were also in
attendance, with Arjun using some HALO scope time (with some help from
Richard, David and myself) to do some asteroid hunting citizen science. Go
Arjun! The night was very calm, pleasant and clear. Around 1 AM, high thin
clouds started threatening, so we wrapped it up… except I stuck around a
little while longer until they actually rolled in. I got some images of the
region around M60 where
recently appeared (thanks to David for
alerting me to this!) and will share if the data looks any good.
Overall a good night under the stars. Regards,
Click images to expand.
Public Earth Day Celebration (Clarksville Commons) 4/23/2022
Today was a beautiful day at Clarksville Commons. Occasionally cloudy
but mostly sunny and clear. Three HAL members (Eric and Michelle
Hymowitz and Dominic Alfinito) were there with two telescopes.
We did not think to keep a formal count, but we estimate 75-100 people
came to look at sunspots and prominences through our telescopes, including
Howard County Executive Calvin Ball. About a dozen people were interested
enough that we talked about HAL, our meetings, and our star parties.
Public Star Party (Alpha Ridge) 4/09/2022
Last night's Public Star party was a success in spite of the
ever present clouds, with the Moon acting as the leading star
actor of the evening. Approximately 45 people attended the
party which included 2 local Girl Scout Troops from the Central
Maryland District, HAL members and the general public.
Tremendous thanks go to Hal members Bob Savoy and Chris
Miskiewicz. Bob set up his popular Solar System education
table and Chris set up two telescopes which provided incredible
views of the Moon all evening. Chris's telescopes were the
main attraction outside offering truly incredible close-up
views of the Moon's surface features. Additionally, Chris
provided everyone with great explanations of the telescopes and
imaging equipment he was using. Both Girl Scouts and other
attendees were able to capture fantastic souvenir cell phone
images from Chris's scopes. Phil Whitebloom provided an
educational walk and talk to the Girl Scouts with a Solar Walk
and talk, then they visited Bob's Solar educational set up and
talk and spent the remainder of their time looking at the moon
images on the big screen provided by the Illig Telescope. Phil
also assisted other attendees as well. Hannah Broder and Dale
Ghent manned the recently upgraded Illig scope and dome which
operated beautifully and, Victor Sanchez stepped in to answer
attendee's questions and lend technical assistance as needed.
Mike Krauss and I provided host reception duties for the
duration. We truly hope everyone enjoyed the evening as much
as we did.
Chris Miskiewicz added:
Big shout out to Mike Krauss who co-hosted from my setup as well.
He helped with a lot of the cell phone astrophotography.
More photos on HAL's Instagram account.
Member-Only Impromptu Star Party (Carrs Mill Park) 4/4/2022
After all the guessing on the potential cloud coverage and the tree line,
it turned out to be a successful early morning at Carrs Mill. It was just
James Willinghan and myself. We arrived at 4:00AM, spent some time planning
on where the best place would be to set up, and got started. There was not
a cloud in the sky and Venus, Mars, and Saturn cleared the tree line around
5:00AM and continued to rise at a good rate. James was using his 6" SCT on
a Celestron mount. He also setup a tripod with a DSLR camera (lens
unknown). I was using a Canon EOS Mark IV with a 200mm-600mm zoom lens. It
was setup on a Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer 2 mount on a tripod. Hopefully
there will be some good pictures to share. Visually naked eye it was very
cool to observe. The temperature was in the mid to low 30's. I am ready to
start complaining about the heat.
All in all it was definitely worth getting up early in the morning to see the conjunction.
See you next time. Clear Skies!
Was out this morning to catch the Saturn and Mars conjunction. Thanks
go to Phil for the impromptu at Carrs Mill. For members who
want to join in on impromptus, there is an option to get
on the impromptu email list to be alerted to these. Was a great early
morning with concerns over trees blocking our view to the ESE to SE,
but around 5:15am both planets popped out over the tree line much
sooner than I had expected so it was a go. Rings are visible in the
first image zoomed in, but upper air winds made seeing poor. I went
with my small 6 inch Celestron SCT with a Canon T7i camera and also
decided when Venus also rose to get some wider shots with my Canon XSi
on just a tripod. I still have some images to sort through and videos
to try and stack to see if I got anything better, but here are a few I
picked out and processed quickly.
Member-Only Impromptu Star Party (Alpha Ridge) 3/26/2022
After a day of rain, sunshine, sleet, sunshine, snow, sunshine, and
whatever else was not in the forecast but happened, Ken Everhart and I
braved the night to setup. A few other members stopped by to say hello, but
the clouds hung around and the wind gust were strong so we packed up and
went home knowing the skies would clear.
Member-Only Impromptu Star Party (Alpha Ridge) 2/20/2022
We enjoyed an unusually cloudless sky at Alpha Ridge Park last night --
there were no clouds visible from 5:15pm when I arrived until I locked
the gate at 4:10am. As many as 15 HAL members and their families were
enjoying the sky that gave us very good transparency but poor (or
worse!) seeing. The temperatures were pleasant for late February,
hovering within a few degrees of freezing all night. The breeze kicked
up a few times but it never actually got windy; it was just enough to
make it feel colder for a few minutes and make guiding a little rough.
The members who came out to observe did the usual mix of activities
including visual observing, imaging, and equipment
familiarization/checkout. Hannah opened HALO to use the Illig scope for
some imaging of various deep-sky objects -- she captured a particularly
nice image of the Orion Nebula. Others worked on projects like getting
images of every Messier object, or spent their time viewing the many
beautiful winter deep-sky objects. I spent most of my time collecting
images of a variable star to determine its light curve, and I
interrupted that project to grab an image of JWST as it orbits the
Sun-Earth L2 point.
The attached image is my observation of JWST, this time moving through
western Cancer, not too far from the Beehive Cluster, M44. I tracked
JWST for 20 minutes of exposure time (five 4-minute exposures) with my
8-inch RC. Because I tracked JWST, the stars are trailed while JWST
looks like a round(ish) dot in the center between the yellow marks.
JWST was barely detectable in a single 4-minute exposure, and I have
estimated it to be about magnitude 17.2 on the GAIA Gmag scale.
It was a very nice night of observing, with good conversation and
sharing of experiences. It was good to see everyone and meet some new
people, and it was especially encouraging to see the youngsters there
and actively observing. Hopefully we'll have some more clear nights in
the near future, and of course the scheduled star parties will be
starting with a Public Star Party on March 12!
Member-Only Impromptu Star Party (Alpha Ridge) 2/10/2022
Ten HAL members enjoyed the occasionally cloudy skies at Alpha Ridge
Park on Thursday night. The waxing gibbous Moon was high overhead in
Taurus, making it a good target for visual observing. Most attendees
were imaging, though, concentrating on bright objects typically due to
the moonlight. The temperatures were comfortable for mid-February, not
dipping to freezing until I closed up the park at 12:15, with a wide
line of clouds covering much of the sky.
Overall it was a nice night for observing. I was happy to see all of
you and hope to see even more members in the future. Thanks for sharing
Member-Only Impromptu Star Party (Alpha Ridge) 1/26/2022
The impromptu began prior to dark with Wayne, Kurt and myself arriving to set up during daylight hours.
Temperature upon arrival was 32 degrees. At approx. 9:00 pm the Park Ranger arrived for a routine Park
Check and stopped to chat with us. The skies were clear and bright making for decent viewing and
This evening provided me the opportunity to give first light to my new little William Optics RedCat 51
that I mounted onto my Sky Watcher/Star Adventurer Tracker. This was a bit of a learning curve and
challenge with recent eye surgery however, with Wayne's gracious and extensive knowledge and experience
suggesting my alignment might be off. I rechecked and found alignment was off and re-focused the little
scope and began to see a bit more detail in the image on the back of the camera. Anxious now to load
the images onto the computer to see if there is in fact anything decent. More learning to do!
By approx. 10:30-11 pm, Kurt and myself were packed and ready to leave. Night temperature at this time
was 22 degrees. Wayne decided to stay for further imaging so I left and locked Wayne in the park at 11
Member-Only Impromptu Star Party (Alpha Ridge) 1/11/2022
It was cold - below 20F all night. For a while there were high clouds -
but they dissipated after about an hour. The moon was bright - what's a
person to do? However, overall it was a very nice night at Alpha Ridge
Park in spite of these factors.
Steve Bilanow and I were the only HAL members to enjoy the night at
Alpha Ridge Park. Steve arrived just after sunset to view Saturn and
Mercury, and to watch the sky get dark. He left after an hour or so,
just as I really got started with my imaging. I spent the night doing
narrowband imaging of the
as part of HAL's Winter Imaging
Activity. I also did narrowband imaging of the
Monkey Head Nebula, and
some luminence imaging of JWST. More clouds started encroaching at
about 1:30am, so I finished up, collected my flats, and called it a
night. I locked the gate at about 3:10am.
The image at right shows the motion of JWST from 11:36pm - 12:15am. This
was captured as 20x2 minute exposures with my 8-inch RC through a
luminence filter. I estimate the magnitude of JWST to be 16 in the GAIA
If you're dressed appropriately, winter observing can be quite
enjoyable. The winter constellations are beautiful and there are many
interesting objects to observe. Hopefully more of you can and will give
it a try next time!
2021 Event Reports (full year)
Event Reports from Previous Years