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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 2018-2019

Next Meeting Date: Saturday, 9 February 2019

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

Using Pulsar Timing Arrays to Detect Supermassive Black Hole Mergers

Speaker: Dr. Elizabeth Ferrara, UMD/GSFC

Abstract: The Fermi-LAT Collaboration participated in localizing the source of the gravitational waves that were detected from the first observed merger of neutron stars, and also participated in monitoring the changing electromagnetic emissions that resulted from that merger. The Pulsar Search Consortium (PSC) is a group of gamma-ray and radio astronomers who search for new pulsars by combining data from space-based gamma-ray and X-ray telescopes with data from large single-dish radio observatories. Some of the pulsars they discover are now being used to search for gravitational wave emissions from mergers of mutually-orbiting Super-Massive Black Hole Binaries. In order to make these detections, researchers are using the pulsars themselves as a Galactic-scale instrument, called a Pulsar Timing Array, that is sensitive to very-low-frequency gravitational waves. Dr. Ferrara will discuss her work discovering new pulsars, and her work with NANOGrav, the North American Nanohertz Observatory for Gravitational Waves.

Bio: Dr. Elizabeth Ferrara obtained her PhD in 2000 from the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Georgia State University. Her PhD thesis studied the variability properties of optical emissions from a class of Super Massive Black Holes, and compared them with X-ray variability from the same objects. Since then her research has focused on the emissions associated with Super Massive Black Holes, and later, also on the emissions from neutron stars, such as pulsars. In 2001, she began working at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, as part of the mission operations division. She has been involved in launching three separate missions, the most recent in 2008 with the launch of the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. In 2009, Dr. Ferrara moved to the University of Maryland when she joined the Fermi science team Fermi at Goddard. (The US Department of Energy also participates in operating Fermi.) In addition to extensive scientific research with the Large Area Telescope (LAT), which is the primary instrument on Fermi, Dr. Ferrara is also a member of the Fermi-LAT Collaboration, the Pulsar Search Consortium, and NANOGrav.

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 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 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

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

Updated by E. Warner on 11 Jan 2019.