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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, 08 December 2018

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

New Astronomy with Gravitational Waves

Speaker: Peter Shawhan, UMD

Abstract: The exquisitely sensitive LIGO detectors succeeded in directly detecting gravitational waves for the first time in 2015, reaching a milestone in a new mode of astronomical observation. That first, remarkable signal told a story of two surprisingly heavy black holes spiraling into each other and merging. Further observing with LIGO and a similar European detector called Virgo has found five more black hole mergers so far, revealing a previously unseen population in our universe.

But not all gravitational wave sources are dark! In August 2017, LIGO and Virgo also captured the signal of two neutron stars spiraling around each other merging, and the final merger was followed about two seconds later by a gamma-ray burst detected by the Gamma-ray Burst Monitor on board the Fermi satellite. Quick analysis of the LIGO and Virgo data pointed to a 31-square-degree region of the sky, and within hours astronomers located a distinctive transient in the UV, visible and infrared. Later, radio and X-ray afterglows added to the view of this truly remarkable event. This talk will cover the rapid succession of discoveries and insights gained from the gravitational wave signals and the complementary astronomical data.

Bio: Peter Shawhan is a Professor in the University of Maryland Department of Physics, where he has been on the faculty since 2006. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago and then spent 7 years at Caltech as a Postdoctoral Fellow and Staff Scientist before moving to Maryland.

Dr. Shawhan has made gravitational wave detection his primary research focus since 1999 and has held numerous leadership positions within the LIGO Scientific Collaboration. He currently serves as Data Analysis Coordinator for LIGO and is a member of the LSC Executive Committee.

Shawhan received the Richard A. Ferrell Distinguished Faculty Fellowship from the UMD Dept. of Physics in 2016, and received both the University System of Maryland Board of Regents' Faculty Award for Excellence in Scholarship, Research, or Creative Activity and the Kirwan Faculty Research and Scholarship Prize in 2018 for his contributions to LIGO's breakthrough discoveries of gravitational waves and the development of multi-messenger astronomy.

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

NCA Documents

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Updated by E. Warner on 28 November 2018.