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.

Slate of Candidates for 2022

The following candidates have been presented to the H.A.S. Board of Directors by the Nominating Committee for the upcoming election at the General meeting on November 5.

President                                 Joe Khalaf
Vice President                         Stephen Jones
Secretary                                 Rob Morehead
Treasurer                                 Bonnie Neuren
Audit                                        Bill Flanagan
Education & Outreach             Jim King
Field Trip & Observing            Rene Gedaly
Membership                             Doug McCormick/Martiel Luther
Novice                                      Debbie Moran
Observatory                             Chris Ober
Program                                   Don Selle
Publicity                                   Bram Weisman
Telescope                                 Allen Wilkerson
Director-at-Large                     Allen Wilkerson
Director-at-Large                     Mark Ferraz
Director-at-Large                     Doug McCormick
Director-at-Large                     Don Selle
Director-at-Large                     Kay McCallum
Director-at-Large                     Walt Cooney  

Farewell to the Forums. Hello to Improved Web Technology

Rene Gedaly, WebTech Team

A lot of what makes HABBS.pngS run so well and able to offer so much is due to our web technology. WebTech Chair Mark Ferraz keeps the society's technological infrastructure stable, flexible, and innovative. In fact, we are in the midst of one of those innovation changes now. 

Part of moving forward involves saying farewell to the website Forum as we transition to other technology. The forums have not seen much traffic for a while now, but you may have files or postings that you'd like to save. 

For one week, the forums will remain available at the location below so you can collect what you'd like to save:
             https://www2.astronomyhouston.org/forum/ 
This server will be decommissioned Friday morning, October 29, 2021. RIP HAS Forums!

Letter from the President - October 2021

Original article appears in GuideStar October, 2021.

Joe at Scope.png October is here, and that means the weather should start to be a little cooler (maybe), night time comes a little earlier, and more importantly, fall star party season is upon us!  As I write this message, the UBarU star party was held just a few weeks ago, the Okie-Tex Star Party is happening this upcoming week, and in a month, the Eldorado Star Party will be in full swing.  For many of us, it’s a great time to get away under dark skies with many other kindred spirits to observe, take astrophotographs, enjoy great speakers, and otherwise enjoy the time away from the hustle-and-bustle of the big city.

For many people, the lead-up to their first “real” star party can be a bit of a nervous time. “What if my gear malfunctions?”  “What if I forgot a critical piece of equipment and now, I’m hundreds of miles from home?”  Or, perhaps the most intimidating thought of all, “what if I’m the one person who happens to ruin everything by committing the dreaded light violation?”

Star parties can be a bit overwhelming the first time you visit one.  The first time I visited the Texas Star Party, there were hundreds of other astronomers there, all seemingly more knowledgeable about astronomy than I was, and all with much better telescopes than what I lugged out to Fort Davis (this is certainly an exaggeration, but that’s how I felt the first time).  The terrain is dusty, the air is dry, and if the animals around there don’t kill you, the plants certainly seem like they will.

November 04, 2021, 7:00PM: Novice Presentation - via Zoom

            “Star and Galaxy Hopping.

           with Justin McCollum
 
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One of the key skills that a new astronomer needs to learn is how to navigate the night sky in order to find objects of interest. Long before the advent of GoTo technology, astronomers relied on good star charts and a technique called star hopping to get then where they wanted to go in the sky. At times, when brighter stars are not available, such as toward the Galactic poles where most galaxy clusters are found, it can become convenient to use known galaxies as signposts in the sky.

November 05, 2021, 7:00PM: HAS Monthly Meeting - via Zoom

 The Art of Visual Observing and Preserving your Observations

by Stephen Jones

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Abstract –  One of the most frequently cited reasons many newcomers to astronomy give for wanting to get into astrophotography rather than visual observing is because they want to be able to show others what they looked at.  What many folks don't realize is that visual observations can be easily preserved as well, even without much artistic skill, with the right logging techniques.  Additionally, careful observation with the intent of making a good log can also improve your observational skills itself.  Stephen will discuss the fundamentals of making a good visual observation, and how to make a good record of your observations

Renew Your Membership for 2022

A little help—renew early!

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A little help! Did you know we are closing in on 800 members? You can help by renewing your 2022 dues now. Fortunately, renewing your membership is fast and easy!

Two ways to renew:

  1. Renew online with PayPal - Login to your account here  https://www.astronomyhouston.org/members/renew
    We greatly appreciate you renewing by PayPal. It semi-automates the process on our end.
  2. Mail a check the old-fashioned way to Treasurer, Houston Astronomical Society, PO Box 131282, Spring, TX 77393

 

Membership dues are a bargain:

  • 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)

We hope that you will continue to support HAS and look forward to seeing you at our next meeting or event at the dark sky site! — Bonnie Neuren, Treasurer

New Research Suggests Biblical Catastrophe Caused by a Meteor Airburst

Original article appears in GuideStar October, 2021.

By William Sager

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The key to the mystery was the discovery of a peculiar layer, up to 1.5 meters thick, at Tall el-Hamman dig sites. Most of the layer contains pulverized debris including melted and unmelted mudbrick fragments, melted and unmelted roofing clay, ash, charcoal, burned seeds, burned textiles, bones, plaster fragments, broken and melted pottery shards. This is topped by thin layers of windblown fine debris, charcoal, and ash. The authors call this the “destruction layer” and they interpret that it records the destruction of the Bronze Age city. Radiocarbon dating of charcoal from this layer gives an age of 1650 BCE (BCE, “before common era” is an archeological standard and means years before 1950 or about 3650 years before present). This layer is unusual and not found at other archeological sites outside the area. The layer contains no weapons, such as sling stones or arrow points, so it does not represent destruction by war.

 

AP Corner - Polar Alignment

Original article appears in GuideStar October, 2021.

Polar Alignment

By Don Selle

A picture containing textDescription automatically generatedAfter a brief hiatus (life seems to intrude on my astronomy) this installment of Astrophotography Corner concerns one of the two important mechanical requirements for getting good image data, polar alignment. Next to autoguiding (which we cover in the next installment), getting your mount well polar aligned is essential.

So what exactly is polar alignment? Simply put, it is the process whereby one of the two axes of your mount is aligned as closely as possible to be parallel with the Earth’s axis of rotation. The term polar alignment comes from the fact that this axis, by definition, runs through the Earth’s north and south poles. The axis of rotation also points at the locations in the sky that (also by definition) are known as the North and South Celestial poles (NCP &  SCP).

Shallow Sky Object - October 2021

Weird Ways to Observe the Moon

Original article appears in GuideStar October, 2021.

Weird Ways to Observe the Moon

David Prosper

You can observe the Moon whenever it's up, day or night! While binoculars and telescopes certainly reveal incredible details of our neighbor’s surface, bringing out dark seas, bright craters, and numerous odd fissures and cracks, these tools are not the only way to observe details about our Moon. There are more ways to observe the Moon than you might expect, just using common household materials.

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