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 via Zoom the first Friday of each month for the General Membership Meeting and the first Thursday of the month for the Novice Meeting. 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.

December 03, 2020, 7:00PM: HAS Novice Presentation - Via Zoom

Novice to Novice

Advice, Tips and Tales About Getting Started in Astronomy

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Tonight we will hear stories of the triumphs and pitfalls of getting started in astronomy. Craig Lamison will lead off with his advice. Novices, please bring your questions and cautionary tales.  Experienced astronomers, please bring your expertise! Lets help each other and HAVE SOME FUN

Challenge Object December 2020 - NGC 891

By: Stephen Jones

NGC-891 Spiral Galaxy in Andromeda

RA 02h22m33.4s Dec +42deg 21’03”

Size 14.3’x2.4’ Vmag 10.8

NGC 891 is an edge-on spiral galaxy located 30 million light years from us, within the local supercluster.  It was discovered by William Herschel in 1784.  It is one of the brightest and best-known edge-on galaxies, exceeded in impressiveness only by the Sombrero galaxy M104, and NGC 4565.  However, when I first viewed it several years ago I found it to be a bit more difficult to see than I expected for such a well-known galaxy.  Nonetheless, once it is located it isn’t too hard to see even in a smaller telescope.  I first observed it in 2014 in my 10” dob at 48x and I descibed it simply as “thin streak, with a dark lane in the middle.”  I re-observed it in my 16” just weeks ago at 131x and logged “much lower surface brightness than anticipated, but easily seen direct vision; long and thin, tapering to the points from the central bulge; very obvious dust lane directly down the center; no bright central nucleus; pretty much uniform in brightness; a few stars superimposed.”  NGC 891 can be seen in considerably smaller telescopes than these, though it will be more challenging, and clear dark skies certainly help (both of my quoted observations here were from the HAS dark site).  Key details to notice include the long thin overall shape, and the dark dust lane bisecting the long axis of the galaxy. 

Time to Renew Your Membership for 2021

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Time to RENEW YOUR HAS MEMBERSHIP so you can take your 2021 Dark Site Training January 1st and get the new gate code before it changes on March 6th! HAS memberships run from 1 January to December 31. Fortunately, renewing your membership is fast and easy!

Membership dues are a bargain. Dues amounts:

  • Regular - $36/year
  • Associate - $6 (lives at same address as regular member)
  • Student - $12 (full-time student)
  • Sustaining - $50 or more (if you want to give a little extra to keep the club strong)

Two ways to renew:

  1. Renew online with PayPal - Login to your account at https://www.astronomyhouston.org/members/renew
    We greatly appreciate if you pay by PayPal because it automates the process. With 650 members and counting, it saves us a lot of work.
  2. Mail a check the old-fashioned way to Treasurer, Houston Astronomical Society, PO Box 6657, Katy, TX 77491.

We hope that you will continue to support HAS and look forward to seeing you at our next meeting or event at the Columbus dark sky site! — Mike Edstrom

Shallow Sky Object of the Month: The Clear Daytime Sky

Original article appears in GuideStar November, 2020.

HoustonSky.PNGby Bill Pellerin

Object: The Clear Daytime Sky
Optics needed: Unaided eye

Why is the sky blue instead of some other color, or no color? Most of us know why, in general, the sky is blue, don’t we?  The short, quick answer is that it has something to do with the scattering of blue light from the by the atmosphere.

SO, WHAT HAPPENS BETWEEN THE TIME THE LIGHT LEAVES THE PHOTOSPHERE OF THE SUN AND THE TIME IT REACHES US? THE MOST SIGNIFICANT EVENT IN THAT JOURNEY IS THE LAST 10 OR 20 MILES OF ITS TRIP, IN THE ATMOSPHERE OF PLANET EARTH.

Light of different colors is electromagnetic radiation of different wavelengths. You may remember the name Roy G. Biv from school… the name was to help you remember...

Messier Objects for November 2020

Original article appears in GuideStar November, 2020.
Jim King, Field Trip & Observing Chair

This is a series of columns primarily revolving around observing the Messier Catalogue.  The intent is to provide the reader a 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 November.  Some months may have a special treat in addition to the Messier Objects.  Check the trailer. 

M31: Spiral Galaxy (Andromeda)M31.PNG

Messier notes: (Observed August 3, 1764) The beautiful Nebula in the belt of Andromeda shaped like a spindle.  Messier examined it with several instruments but was unable to see any stars.  It resembles two cones or pyramids of light joined at their bases, and the axis of which lies northwest to southeast.  The two points of lights are perhaps some 40 minutes of arc apart. The common base of the two pyramids is about 15 minutes. 

NGC note: Magnificent object, extremely bright, extremely large, very much extended.

Data: Messier 31 aka NGC 224
Con: Andromeda Mag: 3.4
RA: 00h42.7m Dec: +41.16
Dist: ~2.5 million ly

M32: Dwarf Elliptical Galaxy (Companion to M31)

To the true romantic of Astronomy, M31 will always be known as the “Great Nebula in Andromeda” – a name bestowed on it before spectroscopy revealed that this luminous mist was not the protoplasmic soup of a solar system in formation, but a distant island universe like our own Milky Way.  An enormous pinwheel of dust and gas, the Andromeda Galaxy contains some 300 billion stars spread across 130,000 lightyears.  It is rushing towards us at 185 miles per second.

M31 is among the largest galaxies known and is by far the largest member of our local group of galaxies, which includes our Milky Way and some two dozen smaller systems.   

Messier notes: (Observed August 3, 1764) Small nebula without stars, below and a few minutes away from the nebula in the belt of Andromeda.  This small nebula is circular, its light fainter than that in the belt.    

NGC note:  Remarkable, very bright, large round, suddenly much brighter in the middle to a nucleus

Data: Messier 32 aka NGC 221
Con: Andromeda Mag: 8.2
RA: 00h 42.7m  Dec: +40.52
Dist: ~2.5 million ly           

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