Members at a meeting

Upcoming Meeting

Sunday, November 12, 2017; 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm
Speaker: Dr. Russel A. Howard

Topic: Observations of the White Light Solar Corona


The solar physics group at the Naval Research Laboratory has developed a number of space borne white light coronagraphs to observe the solar corona beginning about 1971 to the present. A quick overview of the evolution of this development to two upcoming unique space missions will be given. These missions will be flying closer to the Sun than we have ever gone before – The NASA Parker Solar Probe will fly up to 0.05 AU from the Sun in the ecliptic plane and the ESA Solar Orbiter will fly up to 0.28 AU from the Sun in an orbit inclined 33° from the ecliptic plane. The space coronagraphs flown up to the present have produced a number of absolutely unique observations, some of which will be highlighted – coronal mass ejections, sun-grazing comets, and the F-corona/zodiacal light. For example, we have recently found that the center of the circumsolar dust (F-corona) is not at the center of the Sun but is offset by about 0.5 solar radii from Sun-center toward Jupiter.

Speaker Bio:

After receiving his PhD from the University of Maryland in Chemical Physics in 1969, Dr. Russell Howard received a National Research Council Fellowship in 1969 at the Naval Research Laboratory in UV Spectroscopy.  He then joined the white light coronagraph group at the Naval Research Laboratory in 1971 and has been performing research in solar physics with emphasis on coronal studies of coronal mass ejections and the active Sun until the present.  He is currently the Principal Investigator (PI) of the Large Angle and Spectrometric Coronagraph Experiment (LASCO) on the ESA/NASA SOHO mission, launched in 1995, and the Sun Earth Connection Coronal and Heliospheric Investigation on the NASA STEREO mission, launched in 2006.  He is also the PI of Solar Orbiter Heliospheric Imager for the ESA Solar Orbiter (SolO) mission and of the WISPR instrument for the NASA Parker Solar Probe (PSP) mission. The PSP will be launched in July 2018 and SolO will be launched in Feb. 2019

Location: Research Hall, Room 163

NOVAC’s general meetings are open to club members and the general public alike, and are held on the campus of George Mason University (directions) in Fairfax, Virginia. Research Hall is easily identified by the observatory attached to the side of the building. Paid parking is available in the Shenandoah parking structure. Some members have also chosen to park across the street in the far reaches of the Patriot Center’s parking lot, then walk up the path to Research Hall.

Meetings start at 7:00 PM, generally on the second Sunday of every month (with the exception of May, when we meet earlier or later to avoid a conflict with Mother’s Day). If you come earlier you can do a little socializing. The first part of the meeting is club business, during which the officers make reports about their activities and areas of responsibility. The next part of the meeting usually includes:

  • Show and Tell, where members share gadgets, books, techniques, etc.
  • The Observing Report, describing the astronomical events for the next month.
  • Q&A, where beginning astronomers are encouraged to ask questions to be answered by more experienced members.
  • The Sky Tour, describing what’s where in the sky for the next month.

The final part of the meeting is a program, usually by one of the members, but sometimes by “outside experts”. We’ve had presenters from all aspects of Astronomy.  Here is a listing of upcoming speakers, a listing of past speakers, their lecture topics, and copies of slideshow presentations and video coverage where available.

There’s a good deal of socializing before and after meetings, allowing members to put faces with the voices they’ve heard in the dark.

Whether you’re an longtime club member, a new or prospective club member, or simply an interested member of the public, you’ll be warmly welcomed at our meetings.

Please Join Us For Dinner!

Meeting attendees (and their guests) are invited to come out for our informal pre-meeting dinner. We have recently been meeting at Oh George! (in University Mall across from GMU at 10659 Braddock Rd) at 5:30 p.m. The pre-meeting dinner is an excellent way to meet club members, welcome newcomers, and renew old friendships.

If you’d like to join us, stop by the restaurant at 5:30 PM. See you there!

NOVAC Dinner


PARKING is available at the Shenandoah parking deck (enter via Sandy Creek Way) for $3/hr, up to a daily maximum of $14. Though the club recommends the use of the paid parking deck, we’ve also had members report success parking in Lot A (a permit-only lot also associated with the Patriot Center) without trouble on Sunday evenings (tickets are $85, however, so assess your own risk tolerance before considering this option).