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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 2015-2016

Most meetings will be held at the University of Maryland Astronomical Observatory in College Park, Maryland (directions/map).

Next Meeting Date: Saturday, 14 May, 2016

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

Magnetars: the Extremes of Nature

Speaker: Chryssa Kouveliotou, GWU

Abstract: Magnetars are neutron stars (NSs) with extreme magnetic fields (B~1014 - 1015 Gauss). Their existence was theoretically predicted in 1992, and was observationally confirmed in 1998. Magnetars are very rare: to date only 28 sources are confirmed. Magnetars occur in several classes of neutron stars, but are mostly Soft Gamma Repeaters (SGRs) and Anomalous X-ray Pulsars (AXPs). Their population seems to be rather diverse: recently PSR J1846 - 0258, a rotation-powered young X-ray pulsar (B=4.9x1013 Gauss), was found in 2008 to emit SGR-like outbursts; SGR J0418+5729 has a much weaker inferred dipole magnetic field (B=6x1012 Gauss); and PSR J1622-4950, was found to have the strongest magnetic field among radio pulsars (~3x1014 Gauss). Magnetars are permanent X-ray sources that undergo random outbursts, during which they emit from tens to thousands of very brief (0.1 - 1.0 sec), soft (3.0 - 50.0 keV) gamma-ray bursts in brief periods lasting days to months. On rare occasions magnetars emit extremely energetic Giant Flares; as yet only three have been observed. I will describe how magnetars were discovered, their characteristic properties, and how understanding magnetars can give us unique insights about the properties of matter at extreme densities and in extreme magnetic fields.

Bio: Chryssa Kouveliotou is an Astrophysics Professor at The George Washington University in Washington, DC, where she leads a multi-wavelength team in Time Domain Astronomy under the Astronomy, Physics, Statistics Institute of Sciences (APSIS). Prior to joining GWU, she was a Senior Technologist at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, where she retired from in 2015. Chryssa has been a member of the science teams of the ISEE-3, SMM, CGRO, Fermi, Swift, NuSTAR space missions , and is a Co-Investigator in new proposals (PRAXyS, ISS-Lobster). She earned her PhD at the Technical University of Munich/Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, on high-energy transient phenomena, such as Gamma-Ray Bursts (GRBs) and Solar Flares. She then joined the University of Athens, Greece, as an Assistant Professor until 1994, when she moved to MSFC in Huntsville, Alabama, to work on the Burst And Transient Source Experiment onboard the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory. She has made major discoveries in the transient Universe, such as: the establishment of two distinct classes of Gamma-Ray Bursts (GRBs) in 1993, the discovery of the Bursting Pulsar (GRO J1744-28) in 1996, the discovery of magnetars in 1998, the establishment of a single component Synchrotron afterglow origin from late optical to multi-GeV wavelengths for one GRB in 2013, among others. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

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 2016!

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
2 Apr 8:30pm
7 May 9:00pm
4 Jun 9:00pm
9 Jul 9:00pm
6 Aug 8:30pm
3 Sep 8:00pm
1 Oct 7:30pm
5 Nov 7:00pm
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 13 May 2016.