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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, 14 February, 2015

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

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and our New View of the Moon

Speaker: Dr. John Keller, NASA/Goddard

Abstract: The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has been in orbit about the Moon for over five years. During that time a remarkable transformation of our understanding of Earth's nearest neighbor has taken place. Prior to LRO and other recent missions, both from NASA and other space faring nations, the Moon was thought to be inactive, with changes taking place over long time scales as result of the solar wind and meteoric impacts. We now know that the Moon is still geologically active; that it contains sufficient water to be used as a resource for future explorers; that areas of the poles are sufficiently cold to trap volatiles over geological timescales; the trapped volatiles may provide a record of volatile delivery to the Earth. Likewise, the Moon retains the impact history of the Earth-Moon system, and provides clues to formation of the Earth and the evolution of the Solar system. Planning for LRO began in 2004 as part of the President's Vision for Space Exploration: to extend human presence across the solar system, starting with a human return to the Moon. This in preparation for human exploration of Mars and other destinations. The mission was part of NASA's Exploration Systems Mission Directorate (ESMD). Its goals were to produce accurate maps and high-resolution images of future landing sites, to assess potential lunar resources, and to characterize the radiation environment. The ESMD mission was completed after one year. Since then LRO has transitioned from being a reconnaissance to being a science mission, under NASA's Science Mission Directorate. Major accomplishments from the LRO mission include:

The LRO mission has been extended for an additional two years. During the extended mission we will continue to explore the Moon, with a focus on the five following themes, each of which build on prior observations from LRO and other missions: 1) Transport of Volatiles, 2) Contemporary Surface Change, 3) Regolith Evolution, 4) Probing the Interior from Observations of the Surface, and 5) Interactions with the Space Environment.

Bio: John Keller is the project scientist for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission. Prior to LRO he worked on instrument development on numerous missions, including WIND, POLAR, and DSCOVR. His training is in physical chemistry, with a Ph.D. from the University of Maryland. He maintains an active laboratory research effort in which he simulates the interaction of the solar wind with planetary 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 2015!

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.

Date Time Targets of Interest
18 Apr 8:30pm new moon
23 May 9:00pm 5-day moon
6 Jun 9:00pm no moon
11 Jul 9:00pm no moon
15 Aug 8:30pm 1-day moon
5 Sep 8:00pm no moon
17 Oct 7:30pm 4-day moon
07 Nov 7:00pm no moon
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 26 January 2015.