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Letter from the President - January 2020

2020 – A Year for Involvement

37958651_10212934733226207_4498753830518784000_n.jpgHappy New Year and here’s to a healthy and prosperous 2020 ahead!

Before I begin, though, I’d like to take a moment to thank Don Selle and all of the previous year’s leaders for their commitment and dedication to the Houston Astronomical Society.  I know many of our leaders are continuing on in some capacity with the club in 2020, but their contributions in 2019 are very well appreciated, and they are the reason why the club is able to provide all of the great amenities it does for our membership.

The new year is a time for renewal and resolutions – an opportunity to reflect on the year that’s just passed and to commit to making things better in the upcoming trip around our sun.  Some of those resolutions we make are purely aspirational and are almost a byproduct of the calendar flip.  Heck, I’ve been saying that I’m going to lose those stubborn pounds at the gym every January for years now.  However, other resolutions are an opportunity to really focus on doing things that improve our lives or make us happy in some simple way.

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A few years ago, after some time away from astronomy, I vowed to spend more time observing when I could.  Work commitments and two very young children made it difficult to spend a full night at the dark site, but spending one night a month observing from my driveway was a vast improvement over what I had been doing (my poor telescopes had collected dust for several years). And so, one cool winter evening in 2012, I unpacked my LX200 telescope, set up in my driveway, and began observing Saturn.  I didn’t spend a long time observing that night – perhaps an hour in total – but getting a chance to look at the ringed planet for the first time in years rekindled the love I had for astronomy.  At that moment, I reconnected with the hobby I fell in love with as a kid. 

Though I’d been a member of the Houston Astronomical Society for at least 10 years at that point, it had been at least 7 years since I’d attended a meeting or reconnected with some of the people I had met in my early days as a member of the club.  I then attended the next month’s meeting at the University of Houston, met other members I hadn’t known before, and was reinvigorated for the hobby.  Several months later, I volunteered to help Debbie Moran at an outreach event for a Girl Scouts troop, and, well, the rest is history.

So, as we say goodbye to 2019 and wave hello to 2020, I ask those of you who haven’t been outside to observe in quite some time to make a resolution to do so more this year.  Attend a club meeting and get to know others in our society who will hopefully help inspire you to learn more about astronomy and grow as observers.  Find a good program from the Astronomical League, such as the Universe Sampler (created by our own Amelia Goldberg), or Beyond Polaris, and commit to completing the program.  And lastly, join a committee at HAS – whether it is Outreach, Membership, Field Trip & Observing, or anything else.  You will spend more time doing astronomy when you surround yourself with others who share the same interests as you.

We’ll talk more about volunteering with the club next month, but for now, get outside and look up.  I promise you won’t regret it!

Clear Skies,

Joe Khalaf
President, Houston Astronomical Society