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.

Novice amateur astronomers wanted!

beyondPolaris.JPGAre you an “early novice” in astronomy? Join President Joe Khalaf as he leads us through Beyond Polaris, an Astronomical League observing program tailored for beginning beginners. The group will get together on Zoom once every two weeks or so to ask questions and keep each other accountable—like a book club. If you're interested, email Joe directly so he can get things ready.   

Joe’s targeting the evening of Thursday, May 28 for the first meeting so contact Joe soon. Not yet a member? Join now: https://astronomyhouston.org/join

Meeting announcements

President Joe Khalaf conducted the first General Meeting via Zoom of the stay-at-home order due to COVID-19 on May 1st. At the meeting, the membership voted to reschedule the first Friday July 3, 2020 meeting to July 10, 2020. The vote was conducted online in real time.

The next General Meeting is scheduled for June 5. All meetings going forward will be conducted via Zoom and/or Facebook until further notice. Joe also presented an update to the rules in place to keep us safe during this time.

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Clear skies at the VSIG

It was a great time discussing all things visual at the VSIG meeting. Participants discussed current observing projects and shared observing tips and tricks. If you are into visual astronomy, beginner to advanced, there’s room for you, too. Contact Ed Fraini to be added to the VSIG list, the Visual Special Interest Group.
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The group will continue meeting monthly via Zoom on the Monday following the monthly General Meeting. Dates may change when near new moon so check the schedule posted by VSIG Moderator Stephen Jones on the Upcoming Events calendar.

Armchair Astronomy - May 2020

Original article appears in GuideStar May, 2020.

You can find astronomy courses on the larger distance learning websites. These sites like The Great Courses, edX, Coursera and OpenLearn generally have several introductory to intermediate level astronomy courses from various universities, which include both the video lectures and other class content such as quizes, worksheets and problem sets. With the exception of The Great Courses these sites offer most of their astronomy courses free of charge if you want only to monitor the course. A “verified” certificate of completion however will cost you typically $50. All of the Great Courses however are pay for courses, though many times, individual courses are put “on sale” for a deep discount. I have taken courses from both Coursera and The Great Courses that have been quite good. However that has not kept me from scouring the internet for truly free courses that are just “out there”...

Messier of the Month - May 2020

Original article appears in GuideStar May, 2020.

This is the third installment of 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 May.  Some months, like May, will have a special treat in addition to the Messier Objects.  Check the trailer.

Interesting note: 1) Apparently ole Charlie Messier was not superstitious by our standards.  The dates of these observations were all on Friday, April 13th, 1781.  A very productive night indeed...  

Become a Citizen Scientist with NASA!

Original article appears in GuideStar May, 2020.

NSN.pngThis article is distributed by NASA Night Sky Network

Ever want to mix in some science with your stargazing, but not sure where to start? NASA hosts a galaxy of citizen science programs that you can join! You’ll find programs perfect for dedicated astronomers and novices alike, from reporting aurora, creating amazing images from real NASA data, searching for asteroids, and scouring data from NASA missions from the comfort of your home. If you can’t get to your favorite stargazing spot, then NASA’s suite of citizen science programs may be just the thing for you...

Asterism of the Month - May 2020- Little Orion

Original article appears in GuideStar May, 2020.

This asterism is composed of 7 stars that form a “little” constellation Orion. It is located near the star Deneb in Cygnus. Deneb is the “tail” of Cygnus the Swan.

 

In this view with a 10” scope and 32mm eyepiece, you can see the 3 “belt stars” with 2 bright stars on either side representing Betelgeuse, Bellatrix, Rigel and Saiph...

Visual Challenge Object - May 2020

Original article appears in GuideStar May, 2020.

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NGC 4567/4568 – the “Siamese Twins” 

NGC 4567 and NGC 4568 are a pair of spiral galaxies in the Virgo cluster of galaxies that are in the beginning stages of collision with one another.  They were discovered by William Herschel in 1784.  They were first referred to as the “Siamese Twins” by 19th century astronomer L.S. Copeland.  They do not show any actual visual evidence of interaction and it was once thought they may just be a line-of-sight alignment, but 21st century studies using infrared data are beginning to see evidence that the galaxies are truly interacting...

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