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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 2017-2018

Next Meeting Date: Saturday, 10 March 2018

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

Why send spacecraft to comets?

Speaker: Dr. Ludmilla Kolokolova, UMD

Abstract: Comets are small cosmic objects, which revolve around the Sun on elliptical orbits. When comets approach the Sun, they develop a huge atmosphere that often elongates in the anti-solar direction, forming the famous cometary tail. Although there are numerous small bodies in the Solar system - asteroids, Kuiper Belt Objects, planetary satellites - the comets are visited by spacecraft more often than any other small body. Starting from 1986, when a set of spacecraft visited comet Halley, there were 11 successful missions to comets (compare with 5 missions to asteroids, 3 missions to Venus, and 5 to all outer planets). What attracts scientists and space agencies to comets? The answer that scientists gave some years ago was "comets provide clues to the origin of the Solar System, and to origin of life." Since the early missions to comets, this answer has broadened, when it became apparent that each comet is unique, and the differences between them are so huge that our understanding of comets and information we gain from studyiing changes dramatically after each space mission. I will briefly characterize the comets studied by spacecraft, showing what new knowledge about comets we gained from various space missions, and how those missions changed our understanding of the formation and evolution of the solar system. I will focus on the results of the Rosetta mission - the first spacecraft that spent a long period of time in a cometary environment, and whose module, Philae, accomplished the first landing on the cometary nucleus.

Bio: Ludmilla Kolokolova is a Principal Research Scientist in the Department of Astronomy at the University of Maryland (UMCP). She received her PhD from the Main Astronomical Observatory of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences (Kiev, Ukraine), and then continued there for several years studying the characteristics of asteroids, by using theoretical and laboratory modeling of regolith surfaces. Later she was invited to work at the Max-Planck Institute for Solar System Research (Göttingen, Germany), where her research was focused on cometary dust. That activity included participation in designing a dust instrument for the Rosetta mission. In 1997, she was invited to join a team at the University of Florida (Gainesville), to design an instrument called the Planetary Aerosol Monitor/ Interplanetary Dust Analyzer (PAM/IDA). At the University of Florida she returned to the lab modeling of light scattering by cometary dust, using the Microwave Analog-to-Light Scattering Facility. In 2004 she moved to the University of Maryland, where she became the manager of the Small Bodies Node of the NASA Planetary Data System (PDS), an archiving facility that preserves the data acquired by space missions and ground-based observations of comets, asteroids, and interplanetary dust. As a part of PDS, and as a scientist, she has participated in numerous space missions, among them Stardust, Deep Impact, EPOXI, Cassini, New Horizons, and Rosetta. She is the author of more than 200 papers, including books on cosmic dust and light scattering by particles and surfaces.

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 2018!

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
7 Apr 9:00pm Orion nebula, Beehive cluster
5 May 9:00pm Jupiter, Beehive cluster
2 Jun 9:00pm Jupiter, M13
14 Jul 9:00pm Jupiter, Saturn, M13o
11 Aug 8:30pm Jupiter, Saturn, M13
1 Sep 8:00pm Jupiter, Saturn, Mars
6 Oct 7:30pm Saturn, Mars
17 Nov 7:00pm Saturn, Mars, Uranus, Moon
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 19 Feb 2018.