Welcome to Houston Astronomical Society

Founded in 1955, Houston Astronomical Society is an active community of enthusiastic amateur and professional astronomers with over 60 years of history in the Houston area. Through education and outreach, our programs promote science literacy and astronomy awareness. We meet on the first Friday of each month at the Trini Mendenhall Community Center. Membership has a variety of benefits, including access to a secure dark site west of Houston, a telescope loaner program, and much more. Joining is simple; you can sign up online, by mail or in person at a monthly meeting.

Observing in the time of COVID

Original article appears in GuideStar July, 2020.

Rene Gedaly, Membership Co-chair

We amateur astronomers have it easier than most at being able to pursue our hobby during the pandemic. Ours is often a solitary endeavor. With access to the dark site, or with a dark enough backyard, we can keep on going when the weather allows. 

What of those new to the hobby though? If you’re one of them, welcome again. Quite a few of you are interested in astro-imaging, and more and more, this club is getting you covered—check out last month's novice talk. Also appreciated is all the good astro-info available “in person” at the monthly Zoom meetings: novice, general membership, and special interest group. You can also find the website library of recorded presentations to sample at leisure. 

But what about those of you who joined because you wanted to look up, wanted a guide to help you, and then got hit with the pandemic? 

TentSkies.PNGThe day after the state parks reopened, a new member and I took a trip to some of the darkest skies we have in Texas at Colorado Bend State Park, just 4.5 hours away. It’s a gorgeous park, and a good way to hedge your bets. If you come for the skies and get clouded out, you won’t be disappointed by the springs, falls and caves to explore by day. Social distancing is observed by all and masks are worn in line at the chemical toilet restrooms with sanitizer.

Our second night we set up in the parking lot of a scenic overlook. Earlier we’d asked about the Stargazing Area shown on the park map. It had been closed for some time, we were told, now gated off and used for equipment storage. What a disappointment, what a travesty! We devised a plan for ratting them out to the IDA-International Dark-Sky Association. But that evening was magical. In camp chairs with red flashlights, binoculars, and the National Audubon Society Field Guide to the Night Sky, we took a toNaked-Eye-Deep-sky-M6-M7-June-10_2018-ANNO.jpgur of the heavens. Maggie, a brand new star gazer and a natural, took no time at all mapping the sky overhead to the charts in her lap, turning the field guide to the correct orientation and flipping pages to the individual constellations to identify more stars.

We started at Polaris, where else? and panned the sky, west to east, along great circles north to south. Maggie took the lead to stop at things she wondered at or had heard about years before. As Scorpius continued to rise, I wondered whether I should wrap up the observing session. If I didn’t we’d surely stay all night and we had a lot of packing the next morning. Maggie turned in my direction, and flipping the pages, she landed on Scorpius unaided. This time she didn’t point out star names and Greek letters but open circles and circles with crosses. She’d noticed the Messier objects and was about to go deep sky in her first observing session. Messier 7 and Messier 6 jumped out at me naked eye. I asked if she’d like to see a Butterfly, and we observed for another half hour.

Note: Texas Governor Greg Abbott has issued an executive order requiring all Texans to wear a face covering over the nose and mouth in public spaces. Posted 07/02/2020.

July 2020 Field of View

Original article appears in GuideStar July, 2020.

Field of View

By Don Selle
Guidestar Editor

By ESA - European Space Agency & Max-Planck Institute for Solar System Research for OSIRIS Team ESA/MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/RSSD/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA -

Summer begins in earnest in July, with high daytime temps and matching levels of humidity. This might discourage some from outdoor activities, but July is one of the best months of the year for astronomy.

Shallow Sky Object of the Month: A Trio of Double Stars in Lyra

Original article appears in GuideStar July, 2020.

By Bill Pellerin

Originally Published in the July 2016 Guidestar

Lyra.jpg

Object: Three double stars
Class: Stars
Constellation: Lyra, the Lyre (musical instrument)
Magnitude: See text
R.A.: 18 h, 50 m, 24 s (constellation)
Dec: 36° 49’ 12”
Size/Spectral: See text
Distance: 150 ly
Optics needed: Unaided eye, binoculars, and a small telescope

It’s now officially summer, as of June 20. The Sun has traveled as far north as it’s going to go this year and is beginning its long trek back south toward the winter solstice (December 21). It seems so far away now. While the hours of daylight are getting fewer now, it’ll take some time before we see significantly earlier sunsets.

Daylight saving time doesn’t help (don’t get me started on this topic). Amateur astronomers are obliged to wait later into the night (clock time) to view their favorite objects and the buzzing of the mosquitoes does not facilitate a relaxing observing session. Bug spray, anyone?

July 2020 Challenge Object NGC 6210 Plus a Bonus Southern Object

Original article appears in GuideStar July, 2020.

July Challenge Object

by Stephen Jones

NGC6210.jpgNGC-6210 Planetary Neb in Hercules
The Turtle Nebula
RA 16h44m30s Dec +23deg 48.0’
Size 48”x30” Vmag 8.8
 
NGC 6210 was discovered in 1827 by the famous double star observer F.G.W. Struve.  Its estimated distance from Earth is estimated at around 6500 light years, though distances to planetary nebulae tend to be rather uncertain.  It is a small object, particularly if you haven’t studied planetary nebulae much.  However, it is very bright.  It should be easily visible at just about any power, with most telescopes. 

July 2020 Messier of the Month

Original article appears in GuideStar July, 2020.

Messier of The Month

July 2020

By: Jim King

This is a series of columns primarily revolving around observing the Messier Catalogue.  The intent is to provide the reader a small sampling of the Messier objects each month that are most visible in the time frame the column is published.  Hence, these deep sky objects should be easily identifiable in and around the month of July.  Some months may have a special treat in addition to the Messier Objects.  Check the trailer. 

Asterisms: The Teaspoon and The Lemon in Sagittarius

Original article appears in GuideStar July, 2020.

Originally Published in the August 2017 Guidestar

by Steve Goldberg
Asterism: a grouping of stars that form a recognizable pattern.
Constellation: Sagittarius  
Right Ascension: 19 h, 04 m
Declination: -24º 44’
Magnitude:  Naked eye
Size: 8o x 4o

TheLemon.PNGIn the constellation Sagittarius, the Teapot, there are two asterisms that share common stars: The Lemon and The Spoon. These asterisms comprise the line of stars to the “upper left” of the Teapot, attached to the “handle” of the Teapot.




 
 
 
 
   
The “Lemon” is thSagittarius.PNGe lower 3 stars: Pi π, Omicron ο and Xi ξ. 
 







TheTeaspoon.PNGThe “Spoon” includes the “Lemon” with 2 additional stars at the top. Starting with the “highest star”, they are: Rho ρ, 43 Sgr, Pi π, Omicron ο and Xi ξ.
 
 
 
 
 
Since the Teapot’s spout is spewing steam or hot water creating the Milky Way, you need a Teaspoon to put the Lemon in your tea.

 

Mars’s Latest Visitor: NASA’s Perseverance Rover

Original article appears in GuideStar July, 2020.

    NSN.png

This article is distributed by NASA Night Sky Network

The Night Sky Network program supports astronomy clubs across the USA dedicated to astronomy outreach. Visit nightsky.jpl.nasa.gov to find local clubs, events, and more!

Mars’s Latest Visitor: NASA’s Perseverance Rover

David Prosper

NASA’s latest Mars rover, Perseverance, is launching later this month!  This amazing robot explorer will scout the surface of Mars for possible signs of ancient life and collect soil samples for return to Earth by future missions. It will even carry the first off-planet helicopter: Integrity. Not coincidentally, Perseverance will be on its way to the red planet just as Mars dramatically increases in brightness and visibility to eager stargazers as our planets race towards their closest approach in October of this year.  

Astronomy at HAS is for All

Joe Khalaf, HAS President

Since before taking over as the president of H.A.S. in January, I've had a strong focus on making our hobby and our club accessible and inclusive to anyone who had a desire to explore astronomy. That was a goal I laid out for our club when I became the Outreach chairperson and it's never been more true than it is now. As a minority and a person of color myself, some of the most fulfilling experiences I've had in astronomy and in life were when we brought our telescopes to traditionally underserved and underrepresented minority communities and had a chance to interact with our visitors, with exploration and discovery being the common bond that brought us together those evenings.

The events we've seen on TV recently with the killing of George Floyd have been horrific, and point to a broader and more systemic problem in our society. However, I'd be naive to state it cannot exist in our local astronomy clubs. Though I have never experienced it at H.A.S. or any other local club myself, I have experienced it in other places outside of astronomy. And I do recognize that my experiences alone do not encompass the collective experiences of anyone who has been a member in the past or today.

While I cannot speak for the broader collective of clubs in the Houston area or the hobby in general, let me state this, unequivocally, for our club - RACISM AND OTHER FORMS OF DISCRIMINATION OR BIGOTRY HAVE NO PLACE IN THE HOUSTON ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY, AND AS LONG AS I AM PRESIDENT AND CAN DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT, IT WILL NOT BE TOLERATED HERE. As is the case with anyone who feels they've experienced racism or discrimination, they can come to me in confidence so that we can address the problem. There's no reason to suffer this alone or to feel isolated from the club because of it. If there is something more systemic in our club that I'm unaware of, please let me know and we will tackle it at the leadership level.

Science is not devoid of racism and bigotry. There are too many examples of discrimination based on race, religion, gender, and other identifiers that many qualified scientists deal with on a daily basis. It wasn't too long ago when the issues of widespread sexual harassment by Berkley astronomer Geoffrey Marcy came to light, after decades of simmering under the surface and complaints being swept under the rug. Countless similar examples of racism exist in the same academic and scientific settings. But acknowledging them isn't enough. We must do all we can to eliminate all forms of racism, discrimination, and bigotry wherever we can.

The heavens above are there for the enjoyment of all humankind, and our club's mission is to make sure that anyone - regardless of race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity, can find safety and comfort in exploring this hobby without discrimination. We will always strive to make the Houston Astronomical Society not just a place of inclusion for all of our members, but one where everyone is treated equally. Not only is this my mission, but I can speak for the rest of the executive leadership and the board in saying it's theirs, as well.

If anyone has any comments or concerns, please address them directly to me, [email protected], and I'd be happy to discuss them further with you. In the meantime, let us all strive to be kind to one another and to do our small part to make the world a better place, one person and one organization at a time.

Did you know?

from the bylaws of the Houston Astronomical Society

Article III: The [Houston Astronomical Society] is formed for educational and scientific purposes for individuals and groups, of all races, creeds and ethnic backgrounds without regard to sex, for the primary purposes of

  • developing and implementing programs designed to foster awareness in individuals and in the community with regard to astronomical developments and achievements as well as promoting the science of astronomy, and
  • making available to individuals and the community educational resources concerning astronomy.

HAS Observatory use during COVID-19

Although the observatory roof has been fixed, only those already trained on observatory use can reserve time on the observatory telescopes. In addition, only two telescope operators—one on each telescope—is permitted to enter and use the observatory at a time. The bunks in the chartroom are not allowed to be used. The Observatory building is not yet open for in-person training. 

Observatory / Dark Site Rules

  • The observatory is open only to previously trained operators as described above. Bring your own eyepieces – the observatory eyepiece case is not available.
  • The observatory building is not open for in-person training 
  • Dark Site observing pads, RVs, private observatories, and restrooms are open
  • The bunkhouses are closed
  • Tent camping in the designated camping area is permitted
  • All other rules covered in online site training apply

To reserve time on an observatory telescope, email [email protected]. For questions about the observatory and use of the dark site facilities, email [email protected]. To take online site training, log into the website and click button Start Your Training near the bottom of this page https://astronomyhouston.org/about/has-observatory

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