National Capital Astronomers

About NCA

Serving 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. For 2023-24, meetings will be held in-person at the University of Maryland Astronomical Observatory in College Park, Maryland (directions/map) AND online via Zoom (details below). Seating is limited, so we are encouraging folks to attend via Zoom.

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 2023-2024

The meetings for this year will be HYBRID (online via Zoom AND in-person), unless otherwise noted!

With permission of the speakers, most meetings will be recorded. Once available the audio and video will be linked.

Online Meeting Information

National Capital Astronomers will be holding its 2023-2024 meetings online via Zoom and in-person. This year, the Zoom meetings have been set up so that there is no registration required. This is the direct Zoom link, it is the same for everybody for every meeting this year (2022-23). If we have problems with Zoom bombing at a meeting, then the link will be canceled and a new one created that will require registration for subsequent meetings.
As usual, the Zoom room "doors" open at 7pm ET with the actual meeting starting on time at 7:30pm! While you do not need to sign in right at 7pm, please do not wait until 7:35pm!! And since we are not registering folks, it will be important that you have a recognizable name showing so that I can let you in from the virtual waiting room.

Finally, as last year, with the permission of the guestspeakers, we will be recording the meetings.

Join Zoom Meeting: NCA Monthly Zoom

Zoom Etiquette

These guidelines will be updated as needed.

What Killed the Wooly Mammoth? An Astronomical Suspect

Sue Bassett

Next Meeting Date: Saturday, 13 Apr 2024

7:30 pm

Abstract: During the Pleistocene, the ecosystems of most of Earth's land masses were dominated by huge animals collectively known as megafauna - giant lions, sloth, camels, wolves, and, most importantly, lots of species of mammoths, mastodons and true elephants. Then, about 13,000 years ago, nearly all of these large animals suddenly vanished.

The traditional explanation has been that early humans caused these extinctions by overhunting, although a minority opinion blamed a sudden climate change known as the Younger Dryas. But in 2007, Richard Firestone et al. proposed that the megafaunal extinctions were caused by a comet impacting the earth. While still controversial, there is accumulating evidence supporting this Impact Hypothesis.

I will be discussing the pros and cons of these three competing hypotheses and how the extinctions of these giants paved the way for modern civilization.

Bio: My interest in astronomy was sparked by growing up in a rural area of Illinois where the night skies were very dark. I have had a lifelong interest in the subject, although it was never my profession.

In high school, I took a course in the ecology of the tall grass prairie, and I became interested in how Illinois had been shaped by the actions of Pleistocene glaciation. After graduating from Illinois State University with a B.S in biology with chemistry minor, I spent eleven years mainly doing analytical chemistry. I then switched fields, got my M.S. in Computer Science from Johns Hopkins, and spent the rest of my career in that field.

Interesting jobs have included twelve years at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine (seven in cardiology research and five in immunogenetics), seven years at Goddard Space Flight Center, and a stint as sys admin for NOAA's weather predicting supercomputer. Now retired, I enjoy researching science topics I did not have time to study while I was working.

Weather-permitting, there will be observing through the telescopes after the meeting for members and guests.

Telescope-Making and Mirror-Grinding

Jan 2024

The telescope making, maintenance, and modification workshop with Guy Brandenburg is held in the basement (wood shop) of the Chevy Chase Community Center which is located at the intersection of McKinley Street and Connecticut Avenue, NW, a few blocks inside the DC boundary, on the northeast corner of the intersection. The workshop is open on Tuesdays & Fridays, from 6:00 to 9:00 PM. For information visit Guy's Website. To contact Guy, call 202-635-1860 or Email Guy.

Come See the Stars at Exploring the Sky 2024!

Exploring the Sky is a joint program between the National Capital Astronomers and the National Park Service Rock Creek Park Nature Center and has been run since 1948 at this location, the field at the corner of Glover and Military Roads in the District. There is an adjacent parking lot. It is free and all are welcome who have an interest in observing the heavens. It's not an ideal dark sky location but we can still see solar system objects (even the occasional comet), open and globular clusters and maybe a fuzzy galaxy or two.

Questions? Call NCA at 202-635-1860 and leave a message.

Download the flier

Date Time Things of interest
06 Apr 8:00pm Jupiter, Uranus, M45, Orion
04 May 9:00pm M44, Leo, Arcturus, M13
01 Jun 9:00pm Leo, Bootes, Hercules, M13
13 Jul 9:00pm Venus, Mercury, Moon, Hercules, M13, Summer Triangle
10 Aug 8:30pm Venus, Moon, Hercules, M13, Summer Triangle, M57
07 Sep 8:00pm Venus, Moon, Summer Triangle, Great Square of Pegasus
05 Oct 7:30pm Summer Triangle, Great Square of Pegasus, M31, Saturn
02 Nov 7:00pm Venus, Summer Triangle, Pegasus, M31, Saturn
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