The Howard Astronomical League Observatory at Alpha Ridge Park
Observatory Director - Joel Goodman (Contact info at bottom of "About
HAL holds a number of public outreach events at Alpha Ridge Park from March through November and supports additional
public events at other Howard County venues.
The Howard Astronomical League Observatory (HALO) at Alpha Ridge Park is the center piece for supporting HAL's public outreach programs. These programs provide the community with direct, hands-on astronomical experiences. We believe these experiences are crucial in helping people enjoy and appreciate one of our most valuable natural public resources - our beautiful night sky. Direct astronomical experiences are crucial for inspiring people of all ages to learn more about space and astronomical science. HAL's programs are the perfect hands-on complement to the scientific theories and concepts being taught in our public schools. Seeing the glowing remains of a dying star in person, through a telescope, helps bring astronomy textbook subjects to life.
The observatory provides one large permanently-mounted telescope plus storage space for support equipment. Public outreach events ae supplemented with additional telescopes supplied by HAL members.
Alpha Ridge Park has been upgraded to provide additional parking, a red light system for safe navigation without harming night vision, and an excellent rest room structure.
As detailed in its organizational history, HAL was founded
in part to establish an observatory. The structure's design is a 15 foot diameter dome on
a square, 18x32 foot structure, 8 feet tall. Inside the observatory is an independent
concrete pier, topped by a steel pier on which the telescope is mounted. HAL's large dome support structure and the adjacent area provide the observatory with space around the telescope in
order to allow the building to hold small groups of people, house the HAL Library, etc.
New "Illig" Telescope
In over two years of operation, the original Watson telescope, while a beautiful piece of astronomical workmanship, proved difficult to use for HAL's desired operational scenarios. At the beginning of 2018 the HAL Board of Directors formed a new telescope committee to weigh various options and costs. Then along came HAL members Leona and David Illig with an offer to donate a Takahashi "Tak" 150 6" Refractor and fully computerized Astro-Physics mount plus high-end monochrome SBIG Camera with filter wheels. HAL installed this new telescope in late May / early June 2018 and introduced it on June 16, 2018. This telescope allows HAL's star party attendees to view more objects, more quickly. It also provides a astrophotograhy capable for HAL Members to use for their own observations.
HAL's Dome & Observatory Facility
Several years ago HAL purchased a 2nd hand 15 foot diameter
"ProDome" from a gentleman in Ohio and trucked it back to Maryland. ProDome is manufactured by Technical
Innovations in Orlando, FL (http://www.homedome.com). It
is made of thick fiberglass, has a base diameter of 15 feet, an inside height of
8’6”, and weighs a total of 650 lbs. It includes manually operated rotation and vertical shutter
Refurbishing and installing this dome on the observatory was a large project itself as complex as refurbishing the telescope. HAL members and former officer Victor Sanchez headed up this effort supported by many hours of labor from Wayne Baggett, Steve Jawiorwsky, Chas Rimpo, Garry Ingle, Eddie Crawford, Tim Waterman, Joel Goodman, Chris Miskiewicz, Jim Johnson, Mike Krauss, Bob Savoy, and Phil Whitebloom.
Even though this team started out its charter as the "Dome Committee" they turned into the "Observatory Committee" after the dome was completed and installed. They then installed the telescope, painted the inside walls, built the pier cover, Installed the A/V system, and generally helped outfit the interior of the observatory.
NOTE: HAL members are currently upgrading the dome hardware so that it will automatically move with the telescope as objects are tracked across the sky for long durations.
About Paul Watson
The origina observatory telescope is named after its first owner, Paul Watson. More information about Paul and the telescope can be found in these documents: