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HAL NEWS Plus Star Party and Outreach Reports

October 18, 2018

After our meeting last night, three of us went out to get some practice time in the observatory.  We got there about 9:30.  It was a beautiful clear night and not as cold as I had feared.  Two intrepid observers, Joe and Jessica, came out to join us.  Ken and Joel had to get up in the morning so we locked up the observatory around 11:00.  Jessica finished up her search for Uranus and left about 11:30 and I sadly said good night to the stars and locked up the park and went home.  I wish we could have that weather more often!

Clear skies,


October 6, 2018 Members Only Star Party

Hello Everyone:

Despite the promise of a few hours of clear skies, the sky remained 100% overcast.

No other members attended.

I did not open HALO and left at 7:18 pm after confirming with park personnel that they would be locking the restrooms and front gate.

Respectfully Submitted

Ken Everhart


September 30, 2018 Impromptu, CM

Eight people showed up in all, including two first timers. The skies started out mostly clear, with Saturn and Mars showing themselves off well. Jupiter mostly remained hidden by clouds. There were intermittent clouds all evening long, but the skies were never without enough clear areas to find at least something to look at. You just had to be open minded!

Personally, my best view of the night was the globular cluster M92 in Hercules. Beautiful!

The sky started to cloud over completely at about 9:30, and we all packed up and left. All in all, I heard no complaints. We all got a healthy dose of photons.

 Bob (Prokop)


September 29, 2018 Impromptu, AR

We had a great evening at Alpha Ridge last night.  The sky was clear and the temperature was cool and pleasant, although for those who set up outside there was a lot of dew.  I was inside the observatory where there was not any dew, but I think we had about a dozen people come out.  During the evening, using the Illig scope we took images of the Ring Nebula (M57) (30 minutes), NGC7331 (Deer Lick Group and Stephens' Quintet) (60 minutes) and NGC6946 (Fireworks Galaxy) (60 minutes).  For those interested in astrophotography, all the data is available for download at:

along with Dark and Bias frames (sorry no Flats).  I'd love to see what pictures folks can get out of this data and also compare notes on how they did it. I'm a total novice, but I hope to have time this afternoon to try some picture-making myself using Deep Sky Stacker.  If I do I'll post my pictures here, and I hope other people will post their own results too.

Clear skies,


September 15, 2018 Public Star Party

Well last night was cloudy with some clear spots around but that didn't stop our dome operators. Mike & Dave had the scope running with images of the moon,mars,saturn and M27 when the clouds parted. I saw at least fifty cars in the parking lot with all  the action centered around the dome. Around 10pm when almost everyone had departed it cleared up, hardly any clouds anywhere. Mike & Dave tried different setting to see what produced better results on the screen of M27. Lets hope for clear skies on our next star party,


August 23, 2018 Impromptu

We had a very nice impromptu last night at Alpha Ridge.  We had seven scopes going (not counting the work that Jim and Chas were doing on HALO) and about a dozen members came out to enjoy the beautiful night. Personally, I enjoyed seeing Europa and then Io move in front of Jupiter, along with beautiful views of the Moon, Saturn and Mars.  Everyone packed up and left by 11:00 PM, so I locked up and left hoping that this is just the first of many great nights to come this fall.

Clear skies,
David (Stein)

August 11, 2018 Public Star Party

We had a surprisingly good star party last night. There were enough breaks in the clouds to let us observe all of the bright planets and a handful of deep sky objects. Jim and Chas worked the observatory, and Bob Savoy did his solar system talk using the model. Paul Bird and I had scopes set up outside for the 50 or so guests; we both always had lines.

The evening started with an unusual observation. In bright twilight I saw a bright star high in the south, and I couldn't immediately identify it. I swung my scope over to it and had trouble getting a good focus, until I realized it was a weather balloon, with it's instrument package swinging wildly below it. I showed it to everyone who was standing around, and we watched it until it got lost in the clouds.

Also, while Jim was getting the Illig scope up and going about 20 minutes before sunset, we were able to easily see Venus from inside the dome, with the scope being a good pointer. We shared that experience with the handful of guests who had already arrived.

Anyway, we had a successful outreach event in spite of the weather forecast. Hopefully the next star parties will be even better.

Wayne (Baggett)


July 28, 2018 Impromptu Star Party & Star-B-Q

We had a very nice impromptu star party last night at Alpha Ridge.  There were about a dozen scopes going and we had good views of Jupiter, Saturn and Venus at sunset, and eventually the Moon and Mars came up as well. 

Early in the evening the Celestial Searchers were around and we had an impromptu "public" star party with lots of children and family members looking through our scopes and sharing their excitement. 

As it got fully dark, it became a more usual impromptu with a lot of quiet astronomy going on.  The clouds finally rolled in just before midnight, and Wayne was kind enough to volunteer to lock up for me. 

It was great to see so many new and longtime HAL members again!

Clear skies,
David (Stein)


A HUGE thank you to all the HAL members who graciously showed off the planets to the attendees of our rescheduled Celestial Searchers Star-B-Q last night. Both kids and parents were delighted and couldn’t stop chattering about the telescopes and seeing planets up close.

Celestial Searchers today - HAL members tomorrow.

Joel (Goodman)

July 21, 2018 Public Star Party

Members and Guests,

Last night’s star party was a complete wash out. It was pouring rain the whole time, but I opened the observatory to cover the unlikely event that someone might stop by.

One gentleman stuck his head in the door and I gave him my elevator speech on HAL and the observatory, and he left within two minutes. Other than two ladies who were looking for something that might have happened at Alpha Ridge earlier in the day, that was it.

Big thanks to Joel Goodman, Chuck Cynamon, Ken Everhart, and Paul Bird who came out – I certainly enjoyed their company and conversation.

I locked up and left in the rain at 9:55 pm.


July 14, 2018 HCR&P Annual Solarfest

What a night! 200 youngsters plus their parents enjoyed a multitude of STEM related activities at SolarFest. Moon rocks, meteorites, solar scopes, and the project manager of JWST were all represented. David Stein shared live views from an H-alpha scope in Chile on HALO’s flat screen.. Thanx to HAL members David Stein, Wayne Baggett, and Forest Arnold for their time and patience tonight. The event is supposed to be over in 10 minutes, but folks are still lined up at Wayne’s scope craving views of Venus and Jupiter. 

Joel Goodman
HALO Observatory Director

July 8, 2018 Members Impromptu Star Party

We had a really nice impromptu star party at Alpha Ridge last night.  I thought the weather was every bit as good as Saturday night.  There was a good turnout for a weeknight of maybe a dozen members with perhaps six scopes in use (counting Joel's use of the observatory).  Personally, I was easily able to see the Jupiter shadow transit with a lot of banding detail on the planet.  I also had a great view of Saturn showing the Cassini division very clearly, and a view of Mars low in the sky as a big boiling red blob around 11:30.  We packed up and left around midnight.

I think that was a pair of back-to-back nights as good as any I remember in Maryland in mid-summer.  I hope it happens again soon!

Clear skies,

July 7, 2018 Members Star Party

We had beautiful skies last night!  I was in the observatory and didn't get a count of how many members showed up, but it seemed like quite a few scopes were running.  Many people stopped by to see the Illig scope in action, including one of the founding members of HAL and someone who had just moved to the area, a combination which seemed to sum up the continuing vitality of our club.  Our next star party is July 21, which will be a public star party.  I hope we can have similar weather!

Clear skies,

June 16, 2018 Public Star Party

Tonight's HAL Public Star Party was rain-free and well-attended. I closed the gates at 11:30pm. I counted 54 cars and Jim Johnson counted people, well over 100. There were lots of scopes and people, with numerous family groups as well as Scouts. No one had to wait long to get a look through one of the numerous scopes. There were no large scopes but this was not a good night for deep sky. The Moon and Venus were low and often obscured by clouds, but Jupiter put on a decent show, although there was no Red Spot or moon transit. The evening's highlight was the introduction of the Illig Tak apo refractor on its AP 1200 mount, a lovely and important instrument and generous gift.

Some people showed up well before the official HAL event time of 8:30pm, responding to the HC Parks and Recreation announced time of 7- to 9, or some such. In the future, we need to avoid miscommunication start and closing times.

A high quality black extension tube was found after tonight's event, lost either tonight or during a recent AR session. The tube was put in the Observatory desk drawer. Contact me or other HAL officer to arrange pickup during a future HAL event.

Clear skies,

Bob Provine
Public Star Party Host

June 15, 2018 Impromptu Star Party @ Alpha Ridge Park

We had a great impromptu at AR last night. There about 10 scopes and 15 people, and everyone had a good night.  The conditions were nearly ideal, just a little damp and a bit cool.  As promised, we stayed late with the last of us leaving at about 2am.  HALO was used by a group to prepare for tonight's public star party.  The Illig scope was performing well, with an impressive image of Jupiter and several DSOs. 

Hope to see many of you at tonight's public event!

Wayne (Baggett)

June 14, 2018 Impromptu Star Party @ Alpha Ridge Park

It was like old times. I lost count of the number of people who showed up at Alpha Ridge tonight. You'd almost think it was a scheduled star party instead of just an impromptu. Amazing what a few planets and some clear skies will do!

Bob (Prokop)

I counted 9 scopes (10 with the observatory) and at least a dozen HAL members.  It was a perfect evening, we got great pictures with the observatory and when I left after midnight Wayne and Ken were still going strong.  One of the best nights I've seen in Maryland with absolutely delightful shirtsleeve temperatures, clear skies and no dew or wind.  The planetary seeing didn't seem bad either in the few minutes I looked at Jupiter before it got dark enough to do deep sky with the Illig scope.

David (Stein) HAL Events Coordinator

June 9, 2018 Members Star Party

Unfortunately we were clouded out last night.  Let's hope for better weather for next week's public star party!

David (Stein)

May 24th, 2018 Impromptu (Members Only)

We had a great impromptu last night at Alpha Ridge.  The weather was cool but not cold, the sky was clear and had periods of excellent stability, and the Moon and Jupiter were bright.  We had nine members attend, including two past presidents of HAL.  I saw some great views, including the Great Red Spot as it rotated into view on Jupiter.  The sky was getting even better at midnight and I hated to leave, but I couldn't stay awake any longer.  Garry kindly agreed to stay later and lock up for me.

It would be wonderful to get weather like that for our next (members only) star party on Saturday June 9!

David (Stein)

May 19, 2018 HAL Public Star Party

Despite total cloud cover, fog and light rain, eight (!) people (three family groups) showed up, a very positive sign of astro interest in Howard County. All want to come to our next public event. Cloudy nights are a good chance to discus the club, observing, and telescope tips.


Bob Provine

April 21, 2018 HAL Public Star Party

Well the clouds did clear somewhat last night at AR for our public star party. The moon was our only good target but our HALO operators Mike Kraus and Dave Stein had a beautiful image of the moon on the screen inside the dome.

I saw around 30 to 40 cars in the parking lot but failed on the head count. Lines on the scopes were not to bad of a wait.

Not sure who did the solar system walk for the crowd but boy were they in for a walk around AR (i got tired just watching) but sure they got lots of information.

While we were closing up for the night a family arrived late and asked were they might find a place were the kids could lay on blankets and look up at the sky. Our dome operators stepped up and turned the light off and stayed awhile longer just for the kids, three cheers for those two.

Crossed fingers for our next events coming in May.

Eddie (Crawford)

Greenfest April 21, 2018

Great time and lots of sunshine at HCC and GREENFEST yesterday. Chris Miskiewicz, Phil Whitebloom, and I talked to 60 to 80 people who stopped by to experience safe solar viewing, learn about gravity at Chris’ gravity well, and talk about the Solar System over the model.

The pictures are: Phil with H Alpha scope; Chris with his H Alpha and white light filter scopes; Chris’ gravity well; Phis had a series of books and material about the Sun; and the HAL section on the quad.

Sent by Bob Savoy

April 4, 2018 HAL Members Only Star Party

Weather reports earlier in the day were mixed but ten members believed in the group observing together with good weather. We setup around HALO and waited for the sky to darken and clear, oh did it clear. We were treated to final views of the winter constellations, the ISS fly over, and Venus. Then, we started to take in star clusters and galaxies as the night continued. Some light clouds starting to come in around 11 so we called it a good night for observing and packed up. 

Chris Miskiewicz

April 14, 2018 Solar Observing at Clarksville Commons

A very successful outreach event was held at Clarksville Commons. Bob Savoy and I set up white light and H-Alpha scopes as part of the Center’s Earth Day celebration a week early. Even though there is not much visible activity on the Sun right now, views of our home star still brought wows from kids and adults alike, and we had fun talking about the newly observed coronal hole (unfortunately only visible in UV).

Joel "StarDoc" Goodman

March 24, 2018 First Public Star Party

Whoever said you can not have a great night of outreach and observing with clouds in the sky. The cold weather and snow melting did not hold back the 86+ people from attending last night! The moon was swimming in thin cloud cover but it didn't keep people from observing at the eyepiece.

For many, it was the first view from a telescope and everyone was very impressed with the views of the different craters and contrast along the terminator.

Outside we had three telescopes setup and the Watson shared views inside along with short presentations on all things fun related to astronomy. We all looked up to observe the International Space Station transit which capped off the evening. 

Looking forward to another great night. 

Clear Skies, or in this case even think cloud cover!
Chris Miskiewicz

March 17, 2018 First Member's Only Star Party

Only three HAL members showed up, I stayed till 5am and got to see Venus, Mercury, Jupiter, Mars and Saturn all in one night.

James Stack

March 2, 2018 Outreach Report

This past Friday night, Bob Savoy, Bob Dutilly, and I represented HAL before and after the family and adult planetarium shows at the Robinson Nature Center. We had a variety of refractors, reflectors, and H-alpha scopes to display and talk about.. We handed out HAL cards to the receptive crowd and touted our public star party season opening on Saturday, March 24th.

For anyone new to HAL and looking for opportunities to conduct outreach besides at our public star parties, the HAL Board accepts a limited number of invitations to be featured as a club elsewhere besides Alpha Ridge.  Check the HAL calendar for events the Board has committed to well in advance, or keep an eye out for an email call for volunteers in the days just before an  outreach event.

Joel Goodman
Observatory Director

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