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.

Membership Renewals and New Member Adds on Hold

Hello all,

We’re almost done with our website migration, so to make sure we transition everything over properly, we’re putting all membership renewals and new member processing on hold until January 9.  Please bear with us as we get through the migration.  We will announce when you may renew your membership when the migration is over.  Thank you very much for your cooperation.

Regards,
Joe Khalaf
HAS President

Buying a Telescope for Christmas – Some Observations and Tips

by Will Sager

It’s that time of year again. The Halloween candy has been consumed, the turkey is gone, and the mall is playing Christmas carols (endlessly). Once again many people will think that purchasing a telescope as a Christmas gift for a budding astronomer would be the perfect thing. If you are in this group of well-meaning people, we are going to have a tough conversation here and my goal is to strip away the gauzy rose-colored filter from your blurred vision. There are myriad ways to mess this up and plenty of retailers who would love to take your money. But do not despair, I know many amateur astronomers in this very organization whose love of astronomy started in just this way (myself included). 

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An example of a high power telescope ad from 1952. Criterion actually made some good telescopes in the 1960s and 1970s, but this was probably not one of them.

I have started and restarted this article several times because it rapidly bogs down in telescope details. What makes a good telescope? How do you recognize one that is not? Let me start by repurposing an old saying: there are good telescopes and there are cheap telescopes, but there are no good cheap telescopes. Of course, this depends on your definition of “good” and “cheap”. Start this debate at a star party and it will provide amusement for hours. The motivation here is that nobody (except cheap telescope sellers) wants you to buy a “hobby killer”: a telescope so frustrating that it kills your neophyte’s interest before it can bloom. There are so many variables in this quest that it is difficult to give foolproof suggestions. I will try to give some perspectives based on many years of looking through telescopes, but your mileage may vary.

 

Field Trip & Observing: Looking up

ReneGSheadshot60x60.pngRene Gedaly
Field Trip & Observing
Houston Astronomical Society

HAS field trip to the George Observatory  

Review of 2022. We were so ready to get out and observe this year. Socialize, too. The FT&O year kicked off with a Messier Marathon, we traveled solo to the Texas Star Party but met up for coffee and ice cream, we took a field trip to the George Observatory and camped overnight at Brazos Bend SP, and we signed up for the annual picnic in numbers exceeding those of a major star party. 

Do we rinse and repeat for 2023? Maybe. What worked? What needs tweaking? The club enjoyed the field trip to the George; 113 of us bought tickets. Far fewer were ready to camp overnight in the summer. The Messier Marathon was a hit, twice. That is, we got bumped in March for weather but luckily had a good showing in April. We chatted with HASers at TSP that we hadn’t yet met in Houston. And our special interest groups, the SIGs, were out in force on the observing field. That is, depending on the weather. November weather also put the kibosh on what would’ve been a truly epic annual gathering.

Let’s regroup. A lot of prep work has already been done by FT&O and the SIGs and is in safe keeping. We can republish resources to the website and dust off workshops, observing lists, and show and tells. The picnic area and Dob Shed are cleaned, stocked, and ready to go. We know how to do this. We just need the weather to cooperate.

What if we chucked the calendar? Many of us have a “grab and go” astro bag ready with essentials for whenever the weather looks promising. Can we do the same for field trips to the dark site? I think we can. More in the January 2023 Looking Up.

Binoculars: A Great First Telescope

by David Prosper

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Do you want to peer deeper into the night sky? Are you feeling the urge to buy a telescope? There are so many options for budding astronomers that choosing one can be overwhelming. A first telescope should be easy to use and provide good quality views while being affordable. As it turns out, those requirements make the first telescope of choice for many stargazers something unexpected: a good pair of binoculars!

The Ryan Observatory

by Daniel M. Roy and Debbie Moran

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These shielded LEDs in a restaurant garden in Las Cruces, NM are warmer and put light exactly where it is needed

Imagine an electricity generating company building an observatory, encouraging STEM education within the community as well as heightening the community’s interest in limiting light pollution.    This is what the Exelon Corporation (now Constellation Energy) did in 2016 by building an observatory in the Muddy Run Recreational Park in southeastern Pennsylvania at a goldilocks distance from Lancaster.   To quote from a 2020 edition of 50+ life, “This part of southern Lancaster County lies in truly dark skies, away from the light pollution of much of the surrounding area. But it is sufficiently close to Lancaster to attract a curious public.   It is by far one of the most innovative and well thought-out and technologically sophisticated projects of its type in Pennsylvania.”

Asterisms - Rocket Ship

By: Steve Goldberg

 

In honor of the Artemis 1 mission, we feature an asterism that looks like a rocket ship. This asterism, sometimes labeled as an open cluster, is located in Pisces, near the border with Aquarius.

 

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