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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). For 2020-2021, the meetings will be held online via Zoom. Attendees must register to get a Zoom link.

Meeting Schedule for 2020-2021

The meetings for this year will be VIRTUAL and not in-person.

With permission of the speakers, most meetings will be recorded. Once available the audio and video will be linked.

Online Meeting Registration

National Capital Astronomers will be holding its 2020-2021 meetings online via Zoom. Although you do not need to be an NCA member to participate, you will need to register to get your unique link to the Zoom session.

Zoom Etiquette

Given the newness of doing this, these guidelines are likely to be updated as needed.

Next Meeting Date: Saturday, 10 April 2021

7:30 pm ONLINE.

IMAGINE'ing Galactic Magnetic Fields

Speaker: Dr. Tess Jaffe, GSFC

Abstract:Magnetic fields are ubiquitous in the Universe, from compact objects to intergalactic space, and they play a central role in a variety of astrophysical processes. Surprisingly, the Galactic magnetic field (GMF) in our own Milky Way remains poorly understood because of the challenges of observing it and the complexity of the phenomena we use to study it. Though we still have too many models that might fit the data, this is not to say that the field has not developed in the last few years. Radio observations have been used since the 1970's to study the GMF and remain one of the most useful tracers. More recently, surveys of polarized dust have given us a new observable that is complementary to the more traditional radio tracers. A variety of other new tracers and related measurements are becoming available to improve current modeling. In this talk, I will summarize: the tracers available; the models that have been studied; what has been learned so far; what the caveats and outstanding issues are; and one opinion of where the most promising future avenues of exploration lie.

Bio: Tess Jaffe earned a PhD in astrophysics from the Ludwig-Maximilians University of Munich in 2006, studying the morphology of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation. She used this tracer to study the shape of the Universe, but this led to a parallel interest in the Galactic foreground emission. In addition to the information about the early Universe, the microwave bands have diffuse Galactic emission from the magnetized interstellar medium (ISM). She then took a postdoctoral research at the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics at the University of Manchester in the UK to focus on this these Galactic processes. She developed an infrastructure for simulating and modeling the Galactic magnetic field (GMF) using radio and microwave-band tracers. This joint analysis was able to constrain the GMF including its turbulent component for the first time. She continued this work as a collaborator on the Planck mission at the Institute de Recherche en Astrophysique et Planétologie in Toulouse, France, before moving to NASA in 2016. She is currently the Chief Archive Scientist for the High Energy Astrophysics Science Archive Research Center, supporting the community through maintaining and improving the infrastructure and data access tools for data from NASA astrophysics missions. She helped create he IMAGINE Consortium, bringing together the diverse theoretical and observational experts whose work relies on - and provides insight into - the GMF, from radio emission to ultra-high energy cosmic rays. The project's ambition is to bring together all of the data sets that contain information about the GMF into a self-consistent and robust Bayesian analysis that will inform studies of diverse phenomena in the ISM.

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 Tuesdays & 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 2021!

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. !

Exploring the Sky 2020 Status: Because of the ongoing pandemic, EtS sessions have been canceled for the remainder of the year. Please check back in Spring 2021.

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 9 April 2021.