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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, 10 Dec, 2016

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

Rumbling Sky: The New Astronomy of Gravitational Waves

Speaker: John Baker, GSFC

Abstract: Earlier this year, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) team announced the first direct observation of gravitational waves, providing long-awaited direct confirmation of a century-old prediction of Einstein's general relativity. At the same time, these new astronomers revealed and precisely measured a previously unobserved population of black holes, having masses tens of times that of the Sun. This is the first major discovery enabled by a new tool, namely, the ability to measure, or "hear", the vibrations of space-time from distant cataclysms. This tool is now available to aid astronomers in their enduring quest to understand the Universe through careful and ever more precise observations. I will review the basic principles of gravitational wave astronomy, describe the results of these first gravitational-wave observations, and will discuss some of the questions they have raised for astronomers and astrophysicists. Then I will discuss the prospects for further observations in the years and decades ahead, and will sketch what we expect to learn as we continue to advance our ability to listen to the rumbling sky.

Bio: John Baker is an astrophysicist in the Gravitational Astrophysics Laboratory at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD. John has worked as a NASA civil servant astrophysicist since 2004. In 2005-6 his team developed computational techniques that finally enabled effective numerical simulations of black hole mergers. They then computed the first predictions for the gravitational-wave signals from those events, as confirmed by the observation of GW150914 last year. John continues to explore black hole merger phenomenology through numerical simulations, and also develops time-domain astrophysical data analysis techniques and aspects of gravitational-wave mission design, in support of a future space-based gravitational-wave instrument. Currently John serves on NASA's L3 Study Team helping to explore a role for NASA in the European Space Agency's future L3 gravitational-wave mission.

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 a presentation of the National Park Service and National Capital Astronomers.

For NCA information by E-mail or phone

NCA Documents

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

Updated by E. Warner on 28 Nov 2016.