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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.

Public transportation: Directions/maps to the UMD Observatory
Inclement weather: In case of severe weather (tornado/snow/impassable roads), a notice will be placed on the Observatory Website on the day of the meeting. (Be sure to refresh/reload the page to make sure you are seeing an updated page.)

Meeting Schedule for 2014-2015

Most meetings will be held at the University of Maryland Astronomical Observatory in College Park, Maryland.

Next Meeting Date: Saturday, 11 April, 2015

7:30 pm at the University of Maryland Observatory on Metzerott Road.

High Resolution Views of Planets and Disks

Speaker: Dr. Timothy Rodigas, Carnegie DTM

Abstract: While still a young field, the study of exoplanets and disks is booming. Each new discovery changes the way we think about fundamental processes like planet formation and evolution. Adaptive optics (AO) is a key tool in the discovery and characterization process. In this talk, I will discuss my work using the Large Binocular Telescope and Magellan AO systems to image nearby bright debris disks. These systems are the remnants of planet formation that are thought to continue to interact with nearby planets. Therefore their morphologies and chemical compositions can tell us about the planets we haven’t yet detected. I will show new high-resolution AO images of several iconic debris disks from the visible to the infrared. I will describe my efforts to model the chemical compositions of the disks' dust grains, in particular with regard to water ice and organics—the key ingredients for Earth-like life. I will also describe my theoretical work on the dynamical relationship between planets and disks. In particular, I will show how more massive planets create broader debris disks. This effect can be used by future observers to place dynamical upper limits on newly discovered planets’ masses. It can also be used to optimize target selection in future direct imaging surveys for young planets. Finally, I will show new images of an infant, forming planetary system obtained with a new advanced AO instrument, the Gemini Planet Imager.

Bio: I grew up in New York City, went to high school near Boston, MA, and attended college at the University of Virginia. I then went to Astronomy graduate school at the University of Arizona, graduating with my PhD in 2013. After that, I started a Carnegie Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Carnegie Institution of Washington, DTM, in DC. Most of my work revolves around high-contrast imaging of exoplanets and debris disks. In particular, I’m interested in deciphering the connection between planets and disks—both in what the disk shapes and morphologies can tell us about planets, and what the chemical compositions of the dust grains can tell us about the reservoir of life-essential ingredients (water, organics).

The life of a postdoc often involves bouncing around from institution to institution every few years. This year, I was awarded a 2015 Hubble Fellowship, generally regarded as the most prestigious fellowship in astronomy. This will allow me to continue my research on planets and disks at Carnegie for another three years. Because Carnegie has unprecedented access to the best telescopes in the world, this is the best possible outcome for me!

Weather-permitting, there will be observing through the telescopes after the meeting for members and guests.


Join Us for Dinner Before the Meeting

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 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 2015!

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.

Date Time Targets of Interest
18 Apr 8:30pm new moon
23 May 9:00pm 5-day moon
6 Jun 9:00pm no moon
11 Jul 9:00pm no moon
15 Aug 8:30pm 1-day moon
5 Sep 8:00pm no moon
17 Oct 7:30pm 4-day moon
07 Nov 7:00pm no moon
Exploring the Sky is a presentation of the National Park Service and National Capital Astronomers.

Star Parties

For NCA information by E-mail or phone

NCA Documents

NCA constitution and by-laws current as of August 28, 2005 they need some changes so we can continue to be a healthy organization.
NCA constitution and by-laws revision as of October 25, 2005 proposal.

HOME | Telescope Making Workshops | Exploring the Sky | Contact Info | Star Dust Archive | Links

Updated by E. Warner on 27 February 2015.