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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.

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 2014-2015

Most meetings will be held at the University of Maryland Astronomical Observatory in College Park, Maryland.

Next Meeting Date: Saturday, December 13, 2014

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

Habitable Extrasolar Planets to be Discovered by the TESS Mission

Speaker: Dr. Drake Deming, University of Maryland

Abstract: The first extrasolar planet found to orbit a solar-type star was discovered in 1995, from the motions toward and away from us that the planet produced in the star that it orbits. A few years later, another exoplanet - which had been discovered by the same technique - was found to periodically pass across the face of its star, because its orbit happened to be nearly edge on, as seen by us. The planet is said to transit in front of its star. Measurements of a transit tells us the radius of the exoplanet, and also eliminate ambiguitiy about its mass, so they also tell us the exoplanet's average density. Transits also allow us to measure the composition of the exoplanet's atmosphere.

The Kepler mission has discovered thousands of transiting exoplanets, including many "super-Earths". Although the planets observed by Kepler are too distant to allow us to characterize their atmospheres, the TESS mission - to be launched in 2017 - will survey the entire sky for nearby transiting super-Earths. TESS will find super-Earths in the habitable zones of nearby stars, and we will measure the molecular content of their atmospheres using the James Webb Space Telescope.

Bio: For more than 30 years, Dr. Drake Deming was a NASA research scientist at the Goddard Space Flight Center, working on planetary and stellar astronomy. With the discovery of extrasolar planets in 1995, Drake began working on the problem of detecting light from those distant worlds, and to characterize their atmospheres. In 2005, he led one of two teams that made "first light" observations of exoplanets using the Spitzer Space Telescope. He received the Beatrice Tinsley Prize from the American Astronomical Society for that achievement. In 2011 he joined the faculty of the University of Maryland at College Park, where he is now Professor of Astronomy. Drake is a Co-Investigator for the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), to be launched in 2017.

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 2014!

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 Targets of Interest
05 Apr 8:30pm Winter constellations; Jupiter in Gemini
03 May 9:00pm Saturn rising in the east; Astronomy Day 5/10
21 Jun 9:00pm Solstice 6/21; possible meteors (June Boötids)
19 Jul 9:00pm Summer Triangle; Mars has just passed Spica
23 Aug 8:30pm Andromeda rising; Perseid meteor shower
20 Sep 8:00pm Andromeda Galaxy rising; equinox 9/23
18 Oct 7:30pm Possible meteor crash on MArs 10/19
01 Nov 7:00pm Pleiades and winter constellations appear
Exploring the Sky is a presentation of the National Park Service and National Capital Astronomers.

Star Parties

For NCA information by E-mail or phone

NCA Documents

NCA constitution and by-laws current as of August 28, 2005 they need some changes so we can continue to be a healthy organization.
NCA constitution and by-laws revision as of October 25, 2005 proposal.

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

Updated by E. Warner on 19 November 2014.