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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).

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 2016-2017

Next Meeting Date: Saturday, 13 May 2017

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

Snapshots of Planet Formation

Speaker: Alycia Weinberger, DTM

Abstract: In the first days of our Solar System, dust and gas that surrounded our young Sun in a disk slowly accumulated into planetesimals that grew into protoplanets and eventually planets. Much is still not known about how volatile molecules, such as water and organics, survived the heat and collisions of the planetary formation process. Obviously, they somehow found a way to Earth, which supports life. This talk will focus on how the initially ubiquitous disks of gas and dust around young stars form the diversity of observed mature planetary systems.

The talk will discuss how advanced instrumentation and data processing techniques on the ground and in space enable ultra-high spatial-resolution images of disks to probe their dynamics and compositions, including where and how ices and organics exist throughout disk evolution. It will also show how the Large Binocular Telescope Interferometer can search for faint remnant disks that reveal the presence of planetary systems like our own and highlight stars that will be fertile hunting grounds for habitable planets. Finally, it will demonstrate how Atacama Large Millimeter Array data in conjuction with optical/infrared data show where comets and asteroids populate disks and how they may reveal the locations of planets that sculpt their orbits.

Bio: Alycia Weinberger is a staff member at the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, DC where she observes young Milky Way stars and their disks. She also looks for and studies extrasolar planetary systems.

Weinberger received her B.A. in physics from the University of Pennsylvania and her Ph.D. in physics from Caltech. Before joining the Carnegie scientific staff in 2001, she was a NICMOS postdoctoral researcher and astrobiology postdoctoral fellow at UCLA. She is an active user of ground and space telescopes, including being the principal investigator of current programs with the Hubble Space Telescope, Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, the Atacama Large Millimeter Array, and Carnegie's telescopes at Las Campanas Observatory. Her awards include the Annie Jump Cannon Prize of the American Astronomical Society, the Vainu Bappu Gold Medal of the Astronomical Society of India as well as lectureships as the Beatrice Tinsley Visiting Fellow at University of Texas at Austin and a Distinguished Visitor at Haverford College.

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 2017!

Please check back in early 2017 for the 2017 schedule.

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. Download the flier!

Date Time Things of interest
29 Apr 9:00pm Winter constellations last gasp; Mars setting
20 May 9:00pm Jupiter near Spica; Big Dipper high
17 Jun 9:00pm Saturn and Jupiter visible; Vega rising
1 Jul 9:00pm Summer Triangle; First quarter moon and Jupiter in Virgo
12 Aug 8:30pm Saturn prominent; Andromeda rising
16 Sep 8:00pm Vega overhead; Saturn closing on Antares
21 Oct 7:30pm Summer triangle is directly overhead
18 Nov 7:00pm Pleiades and winter constellations appear
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 13 June 2017.