National Capital Astronomers

About NCA

Serving 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. For 2023-24, meetings will be held in-person at the University of Maryland Astronomical Observatory in College Park, Maryland (directions/map) AND online via Zoom (details below). Seating is limited, so we are encouraging folks to attend via Zoom.

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 2023-2024

The meetings for this year will be online via Zoom AND 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 2023-2024 meetings online via Zoom and in-person. 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 (2022-23). 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, with the permission of the guestspeakers, we will be recording the meetings.

Join Zoom Meeting: NCA Monthly Zoom

Zoom Etiquette

These guidelines will be updated as needed.

Investigating the Chemical Ingredients that Make Planets

Dr. Dana Anderson, Carnegie Institution for Science Earth and Planets Laboratory

Next Meeting Date: Saturday, 09 Sep 2023

7:30 pm

Abstract: Planet-forming gas and dust that surrounds young stars provides insight into the early development of planets and planetary systems, including the Earth and our own solar system. Studying proto-planetary materials helps us understand where our Solar System came from and how it may differ from the wide variety of extrasolar planetary systems that form around other stars across our galaxy. Using astrochemistry, we can learn about how extrasolar planets form, what they are made of, and if they could host Earth-like life by investigating the chemical ingredients that are present during the early stages of planet formation. In this talk, I will present the results of our investigations into the major carriers of carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen across a range of planet-forming regions using a combination of computational models and telescope observations.
By tracking these chemical elements, we estimate how much proto-planetary material is available for planet formation around a typical young star and how long these materials persist. We also compare the chemical composition of proto-planetary materials to the compositions of fully-formed planets to reveal physical and chemical processes occurring during planet formation and evolution.

Bio: Dr. Dana Anderson is a postdoctoral researcher at the Carnegie Institution for Science Earth and Planets Laboratory in Washington, D.C. Prior to arriving in D.C. in September 2022, Dana did postdoctoral research at the University of Virginia. She earned her B.S. in chemistry and interdisciplinary physics from the University of Michigan and PhD in planetary science from Caltech. Dana's research focuses on the blending of astronomy and chemistry ('astrochemistry') and investigating the origins of planets and planetary systems.

Telescope-Making and Mirror-Grinding

The telescope making, maintenance, and modification workshop with Guy Brandenburg is held in the basement (wood shop) of the Chevy Chase Community Center which is located at the intersection of McKinley Street and Connecticut Avenue, NW, a few blocks inside the DC boundary, on the northeast corner of the intersection. The workshop is open on Tuesdays & Fridays, from 5:00 to 7:30 PM. For information visit Guy's Website. To contact Guy, call 202-635-1860 or Email Guy.

Come See the Stars at Exploring the Sky 2023!

Exploring the Sky is a joint program between the National Capital Astronomers and the National Park Service Rock Creek Park Nature Center and has been run since 1948 at this location, the field at the corner of Glover and Military Roads in the District. There is an adjacent parking lot. It is free and all are welcome who have an interest in observing the heavens. It's not an ideal dark sky location but we can still see solar system objects (even the occasional comet), open and globular clusters and maybe a fuzzy galaxy or two.

This year, as an added feature, you can come one hour early and see a planetarium program in the Nature Center and then come to the field to observe. Also, if the sky is cloudy or it's raining there will be a planetarium program at that one hour earlier time so Exploring the Sky will no longer be canceled! Planetarium programs can be found at: You can also search "astronomy", "dark skies" or call the Nature Center at: (202)-8985-6070.

Questions? Call NCA at 202-635-1860 and leave a message.

Date Time Things of interest
15 Apr 9:00pm Venus, Orion
20 May 9:00pm Venus, Mars, M13
17 Jun 9:00pm Venus, Mars, M13
15 Jul 9:00pm Venus, Mars, M13, Summer Triangle
19 Aug 8:30pm Moon, Venus, Mars, M13, summer triangle
23 Sep 8:00pm Moon, M31, Venus, Mars
21 Oct 7:30pm Moon, Jupiter
18 Nov 7:00pm Jupiter, M45, outer planets
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