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National Capital Astronomers

About NCA

NCA logoServing science and society since 1937. The National Capital Astronomers (NCA) is a non-profit, membership supported, volunteer run, public service corporation dedicated to advancing space technology, astronomy, and related sciences through information, participation, and inspiration, via research, lectures and presentations, publications, expeditions, tours, public interpretation, and education. NCA is the astronomy affiliate of the Washington Academy of Sciences. We are also members of the Astronomical League, in fact NCA members helped form the Astronomical League a long time ago.

NCA has for many years published a monthly newsletter called Star Dust that is available for members. Besides announcement of coming NCA meetings and a calendar of monthly events Star Dust contains reviews of past meeting and articles on current astronomical events.

NCA is a very unusual astronomy organization. All are welcome to join. Everyone who looks up to the sky with wonder is an astronomer and welcomed by NCA. You do not have to own a telescope, but if you do own one that is fine, too. You do not have to be deeply knowledgeable in astronomy, but if you are knowledgeable in astronomy that is fine, too. You do not have to have a degree, but if you do that is fine, too. WE ARE THE MOST DIVERSE local ASTRONOMY CLUB anywhere. Come to our meetings and you will find this out. WE REALLY MEAN THIS!

Our Meetings

Monthly Meetings with Educational Presentations are Free and Open to the Public

NCA has regular monthly meetings September through June on the second Saturday of the month. Most meetings are held at the University of Maryland Astronomical Observatory in College Park, Maryland (directions/map). For 2021-2022, the meetings will be held online via Zoom.

Meeting Schedule for 2021-2022

The meetings for this year will be VIRTUAL and not in-person.

With permission of the speakers, most meetings will be recorded. Once available the audio and video will be linked.

Online Meeting Information

National Capital Astronomers will be holding its 2021-2022 meetings online via Zoom. This year, the Zoom meetings have been set up so that there is no registration required. This is the direct Zoom link, it is the same for everybody for every meeting this year (2021-22). If we have problems with Zoom bombing at a meeting, then the link will be canceled and a new one created that will require registration for subsequent meetings.
As usual, the Zoom room "doors" open at 7pm ET with the actual meeting starting on time at 7:30pm! While you do not need to sign in right at 7pm, please do not wait until 7:35pm!! And since we are not registering folks, it will be important that you have a recognizable name showing so that I can let you in from the virtual waiting room.

Finally, as last year, we will be recording the meetings.

Join Zoom Meeting: NCA Monthly Zoom

Zoom Etiquette

These guidelines will be updated as needed.

Next Meeting Date: Saturday, 08 Jan 2022

7:30 pm ONLINE.

Planetary Magnetic Fields: Generation, Detectability, and Habitability

Speaker: Dr. Peter Driscoll, Earth & Planets Laboratory of the Carnegie Institution for Science

Abstract: Planetary magnetic fields are thought to be critical to the long-term habitability of rocky planets but are difficult to study due to their inaccessibility deep within planetary cores. Only three requirements are needed to generate a magnetic field by dynamo action: 1) planetary rotation, 2) a large volume of electrically conducting liquid, and 3) an energy source to drive convection. The first two are common planetary features but the third, convection, is more challenging to maintain over long time-scales. In this talk I will overview the magnetic fields of the solar system and the history of the geomagnetic field, and describe how dynamos generate magnetic fields in planetary cores. Finally, I will speculate on how the magnetic fields of exoplanets might be important for their habitability and remotely detectable.

Bio: Dr. Peter Driscoll is a Staff Scientist in the Geophysics Group at the Earth and Planets Laboratory of the Carnegie Institution for Science, Washington, D.C., studying the dynamical evolution of Earth and planetary interiors. He earned a B.S. in Physics and Astronomy from Dickinson College in 2003, a M.S. in Physics from San Francisco State University in 2006, and a M.A. and Ph.D. in Earth and Planetary Science from Johns Hopkins University in 2008 and 2010, respectively. He went on to become a Bateman Postdoctoral Fellow at Yale University from 2010-2013 and a NASA Astrobiology Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Washington, Seattle, from 2013-2015. He joined Carnegie Science in 2015 where his research relies on large-scale numerical simulations to investigate the dynamics and evolution of the planetary interiors.

Telescope-Making and Mirror-Grinding

Telescope-making and mirror-making classes with Guy Brandenburg at the Chevy Chase Community Center, at the intersection of  McKinley Street and Connecticut Avenue, NW, a few blocks inside the DC boundary, on the northeast corner of the intersection, in the basement  (wood shop), on Tuesdays & Fridays, from 6:30 to 9:30 PM. For information visit Guy's Website  To contact Guy, use this phone #: 202-262-4274 or Email Guy.

Come See the Stars at Exploring the Sky 2021!

Exploring the Sky is an informal program that for over sixty years has offered monthly opportunities for anyone in the Washington area to see the stars and planets through telescopes from a location within the District of Columbia.
Sessions are held in Rock Creek Park once each month on a Saturday night from April through November, starting shortly after sunset. We meet in the field just south of the intersection of Military and Glover Roads NW, near the Nature Center. A parking lot is located next to the field.
Beginners (including children) and experienced stargazers are all welcome-and it's free!
Questions? Call the Nature center at (202) 895-6070 or check: Exploring the Sky @ Rock Creek. !

Exploring the Sky 2020 Status: Because of the ongoing pandemic, EtS sessions have been canceled for the remainder of the year. Please check back in Spring 2021.

Exploring the Sky is a presentation of the National Park Service and National Capital Astronomers.

For NCA information by E-mail or phone

NCA Documents

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Updated by E. Warner on 07 Jan 2022.