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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, 9 May, 2015

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

Saturn’s Great Northern Storm of 2010-2011: from storm clouds to hot vortices

Speaker: Dr. Brigette Hessman, UMD/GSFC

Abstract: The massive eruption at 40º N on Saturn in December 2010 produced significant and lasting effects on the temperature and on the abundances of chemical species in the atmosphere in Saturn's northern hemisphere. When the storm clouds erupted into the troposphere of Saturn, they were sheared, and over the next 3 months they wrapped around the entire planet. This eruption sent waves into the stratosphere, heating it significantly. In 2011 and 2012 the Cassini spacecraft observed the effects of the storm, at many wavelengths and on multiple occasions. The Composite Infrared Spectrometer (CIRS) on Cassini “chased” the storm, in order to follow the unexpected changes in the normally quiet stratosphere. This talk will discuss the “beacons” in the stratosphere that resulted from the storm, how these beacons changed over time, the changes in the amounts of hydrocarbons, and what effects Cassini was able to “see” in the northern hemisphere long after the storm clouds subsided.

Bio: Brigette Hesman is an Assistant Research Scientist at the University of Maryland, working at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Her research focuses on the chemical composition of the atmospheres of the giant planets in the Solar System. Currently she is analyzing data from the Cassini spacecraft, which is in orbit around Saturn. She earned her PhD from the University of Saskatchewan in 2005, and started as a post-doctoral researcher at Goddard that same year. She has worked as part of the Cassini’s Composite Infrared Spectrometer (CIRS) team, doing both operations and science. Brigette's recent research has focused on using infrared spectra to investigate the effects that Saturn's storm systems have on Saturn's atmosphere.

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 1 May 2015.