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Alpha Ridge Star Parties Canceled.
Meetings Virtual Until Further Notice

HAL NEWS Plus Star Party and Outreach Reports

Members Only Impromptu (Carrs Mill Park) 8/8/2020

We had six HAL members come out to Carrs Mill tonight.  I think most everybody was focused, pun intended, on the comet for Imaging or visual observation with Joel also looking out for Perseids.

The comet is most definitely much dimmer and harder to find these days.  Most of us got good glimpses/photos of Neowise, but neighboring Panstars was much more elusive. (The dew and horizon glow certainly didn't help).

Everyone packed-up more or less with the moonrise and I closed the park, with John Gladden kindly waiting-by to keep me company as I locked the gate, around 11:45 pm.



Members Only Comet Impromptu (Alpha Ridge Park) 7/18/2020

Six or seven members met at Alpha Ridge Park Saturday night for an impromptu star party.  The weather wasn’t great – it was quite warm, no breeze, and high, thin clouds were present over most of the sky all evening.  Most of us were there to observe Comet NEOWISE, but a couple of us hung around later doing some general imaging; I closed the gate at about 3:15am.  In spite of the conditions, it was fun and I look forward to seeing the images that were taken.  Thanks to the members who stopped by to observe; it was good seeing, and meeting, all of you.


Members Only Comet Impromptu (Carrs Mill Park) 7/18/2020

We had a great social distancing impromptu at Carrs Mill. There 12 people including 9 telescopes and three people observing with binoculars. The highlight of the show was definitely Comet Neowise. There were some concerns going in about the tree-line to the NW. However, it was not an issue as the comet was significantly higher than the tree-line. Jupiter and Saturn were also excellent views.

We dealt with a very faint clouds for most of the night which started getting worse just after midnight. We were packed and gone around 12:30AM. 

Thanks to all who came out to observe. It was great to get together in person. 

Clear Skies!

Stay Healthy!

Members Only Comet Impromptu (Carrs Mill Park) 7/15/2020

I opened up Carrs Mill at 3am today.  Four members arrived shortly thereafter and set up equipment. Scattered clouds suggested that I would be thwarted once again, but around 3:45am, James found the comet just clearing the trees.  Yeeha!  Best comet since Hale-Bopp. Easily visible with 10x42 binoculars. 

Clouds rolled in around 4:30am and obliterated most of a bright ISS pass. 

We are all heading home.  It’s 5am.  Evening apparitions should be much less fatiguing.


Members Only Comet Improptu Fail (Carrs Mill Park) 7/14/2020

I left home with a single line of high clouds passing by.  With these clouds I hoped the skies would clear and proceeded with the scheduled impromptu.  I opened the gates at 3:00 AM.

Two people joined me, James Willinghan and Gene Handler. We arrived to find the skies quite clouded over with the moon peeking between the openings. The weather satellite showed localized clouds forming over the Carr's Mill area with clear skies to the north.  After about 35 minutes we decided the clouds were not going to dissipate so we called the event and left.  

I locked the gate at 3:40 and arrived home to clear skies. 

Until next time.
Cheryl Kerr

Members Only Comet Impromptu (Carrs Mill Park) 7/12/2020

I opened the gate when I arrived at 3:30AM

In total about 10 members showed up.  The sky condition was even better than Thursday.

James first spotted the NEOWISE above the trees around 3:50AM, which made observation much easier for the rest of us.

The NEOWISE is definitely brighter than I observed on Thursday.  Jim and I were lucky enough to capture a meteor in the same frame of the NEOWISE.

The social distance was excellently practised with about half of the folks wearing masks.  I think Carrs Mill may hold up 2 or 3 more cars for social distance capacity.

I locked the gate at 5:30AM.

Richard Ren


I took almost 100 frames of the comet this morning, but this one with a meteor in it leaves me speechless...

Thank you Richard for opening Carrs Mill. It was good to be in the field with HAL members again!

~Jim Johnson


Thanks again to Richard for volunteering to open up Carrs Mill this morning. To add to everybody else's comments, Venus, the Moon, and Mars were also excellent views. For me, the approximate 60 minutes of observing this morning was more eventful and fun than some good nights that lasted many more hours. I also enjoyed seeing everybody with slightly different rigs for observing and imaging. I did not get any pictures of the comet. I did take some pictures of Venus and the horizon at sunrise. I will see how that turned out later today. The view of NEOWISE through my 10.5 X 70 binocular was great. Nice closeup view and I could see the comet and the visible tail to the end in the field of view.

It was definitely worth getting up early and getting out.

Phil Whitebloom

Members Only Comet Impromptu (Carrs Mill Park) 7/9/2020

I opened the gate just about the rise of Venus. Four members showed up.  The sky was clear and the humidity was moderate.

NEOWISE raised above NE horizon at about 4 am and was visible by naked eye from 4:15 to 4:50, before the sky was too bright.  It's my first time to literally see a comet.

James was able to capture some nice photos by his scope with short exposures. I took some long exposure pictures with my D750.  The star trail by 5-second exposure was barely tolerable.

We locked the gate around 5:20AM. 


Members Only Impromptu (Carrs Mill Park) 5/12/2020

Just Ben and I showed up. Our fortune ended at 9:30PM, when I just finished the polar alignment. More than 80% of the sky was covered by clouds. I locked the door and left around 10:40PM after hopelessly waiting for about an hour.

When I came home, it appeared that the condition in Ellicott City was better: about 50% of cloud coverage with Virgo spared.

I tend to give another try on 5/13. I will give a definitive answer around evening.


Members Only Impromptu 3/8/2020

3 members brought out their telescopes to join me with my cameras under March's lovely Worm Moon (which was a super moon, as well).

We started set-up at 5:45PM, observed the moon rising around 6PM under smoky skies from a managed fire in Virginia.  The smoke cleared as darkness arrived and, with bright skies we were able to see a number of great targets.  

With the moon rising higher in the sky we closed the park and locked the gates a 11PM.

Cheryl Kerr

Members Only Impromptu 3/7/2020

We had a nice , although somewhat short, night of observing at Alpha Ridge Park on Saturday night.  Thorne Ransom, Bob Prokop and I set up under very transparent skies and a nearly-full moon with cold, but not terribly cold, temperatures.  The moon was nice to look at with Bob's scope, and Bob checked out a new eyepiece.  Thorne did some imaging, and I fought my computer.  We closed up by about 10pm mainly due to the bright moon and my misbehaving computer.

The highlight of the evening for Thorne and myself (I'll presume to speak for Thorne here, but he is free to disagree) was sighting Venus well before sunset.  I first spotted the planet at 5:33pm, a full 34 minutes before sunset, while still wearing sunglasses.  Thorne arrived a few minutes later and he was able to see Venus, too.  The hard part of seeing Venus in bright skies is getting a good focus with your eyes -- it really helped when high-flying airplanes passed near the planet since they gave your eyes something to focus on.

Bob found a very pretty crater with a central peak right on the terminator of the moon.  Gotta hand it to him: the moon can be a nice object to observe, and the much-neglected "left side" of it does contain some interesting features.

We also had two non-members show up for a while.  They had stopped by Company 7 in Laurel to look at binoculars, and Marty shared with them about HAL and gave them a brochure and a business card.  They stayed around for a while until they got cold (lesson learned!) and departed.

Wayne Baggett, host

Members Only Impromptu 2/22/2020

No Report from Alpha Ridge Park

Chris Miskiewicz, host

Members Only Impromptu 2/21/2020

No Report from Alpha Ridge Park

Chris Miskiewicz, host

Members Only Impromptu 1/12/2020

Short, but sweet. 11 cars showed up, and at least two of those had more than one passenger, so there a minimum of 13 people out at Carrs Mill tonight.

Conditions were far from perfect, but they promised to be the best for the foreseeable future. Spectacular sunset (which of course meant clouds), but Venus was beyond beautiful.

As it grew darker, the Winter Milky Way was out in all its glory. I myself stuck to old warhorses (the Pleiades, the Hyades, M35, 36, 37 and 38, the Crab Nebula, and the Great Nebula in Orion). Richard Orr found a comet in Perseus, and there was a lot of testing of new equipment going on. I stupidly left my star charts for finding Uranus at home, so I never even tried to observe it.

By 7 PM, the clouds started rolling in, and the sky was pretty much overcast even before moonrise at 7:20. But it was certainly worth getting out this evening! I don't know when we'll get another chance like this.

Bob (Prokop)

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