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.

September 08, 2022, 7:00PM: Novice Presentation - Via Zoom

Observing Saturn

by Debbie Moran

Galleries | Saturn – NASA Solar System Exploration

On August 14, Saturn and Earth were in Opposition. This is when Earth and Saturn line up with the Earth between the sun and Saturn, In this alignment, the ringed planet is directly opposite the sun in our sky making it an excellent time to observe Saturn. Views of this beauty of the night sky  will be the best throughout August, September and October 2022. Novice Chairperson Debbie Moran will guide us in how to observe Saturn, and help us to make the best of our observing time. She will also point out the features of Saturn which should be visible through a typical amateur telescope.

September 09, 2022, 7:00PM: September Regular Meeting - Online via Zoom

“Giant Magellan Telescope and McDonald Observatory”

With: Prof. Taft Armandroff

Director, McDonald Observatory
The University of Texas at Austin

Taft with Struve Telelescope.jpgAbstract –  The Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) is under construction at Las Campanas Observatory in northern Chile. Its primary collecting area consists of seven 8.4-meter diameter segments, giving it about a 5 times larger collecting area than the largest optical/infrared telescopes available today. Dr. Armandroff will give a summary of the properties of the GMT and some of the most exciting science that is planned for the GMT. Two Texas institutions are among the 13 partners in GMT: The University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University.Dr. Armandroff will explain the positive impact the GMT is expected to have in Texas. He will also touch on what one can see during a visit to McDonald Observatory, especially what’s new. 


Our Speaker : Taft Armandroff serves as the Director of The University of Texas at Austin’s McDonald Observatory and a Professor in the Department of Astronomy. McDonald Observatory is one of the world's leading centers for astronomical research, teaching, and public education and outreach. The Observatory operates multiple telescopes undertaking a wide range of frontier astronomical research under the darkest night skies of any observatory in the continental United States, the largest of which is the Hobby-Eberly Telescope with its 10-meter mirror. McDonald Observatory also spearheads The University of Texas at Austin’s partnership in the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) that is being built in northern Chile. The GMT will be one of the world’s largest and most advanced telescopes.

Armandroff’s scientific interests include stellar populations in our galaxy and nearby galaxies, dwarf spheroidal galaxies, and globular clusters. He is passionate about advancing scientific discoveries via new telescopes, new instrumentation, and other observatory enhancements both large and small.

Prior to arriving at The University of Texas at Austin in June 2014, Armandroff served for eight years as Director of the W. M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii. During his leadership, the two 10-meter-diameter Keck telescopes played a key role in many astronomical discoveries enabled by powerful new instrumentation and adaptive optics systems, new support from federal agencies, significant private philanthropic
contributions, and expanded institutional partnerships. Prior to his work at Keck, Taft spent nineteen years at the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) in Tucson, Arizona, starting as a postdoctoral research fellow and culminating as a tenured astronomer and NOAO Associate Director.

A 1982 graduate of Wesleyan University, Armandroff holds a B.A. in astronomy with high honors. He continued his studies at Yale University, earning an M.S., M. Phil., and Ph.D., all in astronomy.
Armandroff serves on the Boards of Directors for the Giant Magellan Telescope Organization and the Hobby-Eberly Telescope (HET). He is currently Vice Chair of the GMT Board and Chair of the HET Board.

Starting out with One Shot Color; AP Corner September 2022

by Don Selle

m42-early.jpgWhen you are starting out in astrophotography (AP) and selecting the components of your imaging rig there are a lot of decisions you need to make. In my opinion your first imaging rig should be adequate for the task, straight forward and easy to use. Rather than acquiring top of the line equipment that well known imagers are using, you should aim to select equipment that is easy to use which will make completing your first images as straight forward as possible. 

For many beginning astroimagers, there can be a steep curve with new technologies that need to be mastered. As a result, for many, the first images completed are the most important. Early success is the surest prevention for the frustration and burn which leads many beginning astroimagers to throw in the towel. Your choice of camera can help make that early success possible.

Back in the day, the standard advice to newbies was that they start out with a good mount, and an 80 mm (or shorter) focal length refractor, still good advice today. Back then, the choice of cameras on a beginner’s budget was very limited. In the Early 2000s, monochrome CCD cameras were the thing, as CMOS camera technology was still in its infancy, and was considered not to have the sensitivity required for AP. 

Messier Objects for September

Original article appears in GuideStar September, 2020.

by Jim King

M17 M18 M23.pngThis 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 September.  Some months may have a special treat in addition to the Messier Objects.  Check the trailer. 

The Sagittarius Milky Way contains so many notable objects that it is easy to overlook some of the smaller treats.  M23, for example, all but hides in the southwest corner of a dark and inconspicuous valley that slices through the hub of our Galaxy.  Yet this open cluster of 150 or more stars spreads across 15 light years and is deceivingly dynamic.



The Summer Triangle’s Hidden Treasures

by David Prosper

Summer Triangle Treasures-web.jpg

Lie down on the ground with a comfortable blanket or mat, or grab a lawn or gravity chair and sit luxuriously while facing up. You’ll quickly spot the major constellations about the Summer Triangle’s three corner stars: Lyra with bright star Vega, Cygnus with brilliant star Deneb, and Aquila with its blazing star, Altair. As you get comfortable and your eyes adjust, you’ll soon find yourself able to spot a few constellations hidden in plain sight in the region around the Summer Triangle: Vulpecula the FoxSagitta the Arrow, and Delphinus the Dolphin! You could call these the Summer Triangle’s “hidden treasures” – and they are hidden in plain sight for those that know where to look!

This article is distributed by NASA’s Night Sky Network (NSN). The NSN program supports astronomy clubs across the USA dedicated to astronomy outreach. Visit nightsky.jpl.nasa.gov to find local clubs, events, and more!

Asterisms – Mini Coat Hanger

By: Steve Goldberg  (Posted 9/13/2019)

Asterism: a grouping of stars that form a recognizable pattern.
Constellation: Ursa Minor
Right Ascension:  16h 29m 37.9s
Declination: +80° 16' 19"
Magnitude: 9 to 11
Size:  20’ 
This month’s asterism is the “Mini Coat Hanger”. The more famous “Coat Hanger” is in Vulpecula, a nice binocular or low power asterism. The “Mini Coat Hanger” is just that, a mini version.





The asterism located just off a line from Zeta ζ Ursa Minor, a corner star in the bowl, and Epsilon ε Ursa Minor, the first bright star in the handle.








In this medium power eyepiece you can definitely see how the “mini” coat hanger resembles the “major” coat hanger.


Doing a Google search for “Mini Coat Hanger”, the first in the list points to our own Guidestar article from May, 2017, written by the Guidestar Editor, Bill Pellerin. The link is: https://www.astronomyhouston.org/newsletters/guidestar/shallow-sky-object-month-mini-coathanger


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