January 2017

April 07, 2017: April Meeting - The Byurakan Observatory of Armenia

Novice Meeting: 6:30PM
Novice Meeting Topic: 
Novice Meeting Speaker: 
Justin McCollum, aka Professor Comet
General Meeting: 7:15PM
General Meeting Topic: 
The Byurakan Observatory of Armenia
General Meeting Speaker: 
Larry Mitchell
About the General Meeting Presentation

Business Meeting: Vote to move May meeting to Mendenhall Community Center and begin at 7 p.m. because of UH final exam schedule. 

Parking and Directions (View Map)

Meetings are held at the Trini Mendenhall Community Center, which is located at 1414 Wirt Rd, Houson, TX 77055.

PARKING INFORMATION: Free parking in the lot in front of the TMCC.

Map to Trini Mendenhall Community Center

See Asteroid “Rerun” Live on Slooh

A Second Asteroid in Three Weeks Passes
Between Earth and the Moon Just Days
After Discovery

For the second time in just three weeks, an asteroid the size of a house will pass between the Earth and the Moon just days after its discovery, causing consternation across the globe. Asteroid 2017 BX, nicknamed Rerun in honor of the beloved, late actor Fred Berry, will make its close approach just before midnight Eastern on Tuesday night. Just a few hours before, at 5:30 PM EST, Slooh will point their telescopes in the Canary Islands toward the skies to catch a glimpse of the asteroid as it approaches. During the broadcast, Slooh Astronomers will be on hand to answer questions about the newly discovered asteroid. They’ll discuss its size, speed and makeup, while also exploring why smaller asteroids like Rerun and its larger cousin so often go undetected until just days before they reach their closest point to the planet.

You can go to Slooh.com to join and watch this live broadcast, snap and share your own photos during the event, chat with audience members and interact with the hosts, and personally control Slooh’s telescopes. ...

March 03, 2017: March Meeting: Inspiring Lifelong Learners

Novice Meeting: 6:30PM
Novice Meeting Topic: 
Astronomy Online: Using NASA's Spitzer Infrared Images and an online Telescope
Novice Meeting Speaker: 
Jimmy Newland, Bellaire HS
General Meeting: 7:15PM
General Meeting Topic: 
Inspiring Lifelong Learners
General Meeting Speaker: 
Amy Jackson, Starry Sky Austin
About the General Meeting Presentation

Amy Jackson

What draws people into wanting to learn astronomy? And, more importantly, what can we do to keep them learning? Amy will discuss her personal experience teaching astronomy informally to children and adults and her recently published children's book about the night sky.

Amy is the founder and director of Starry Sky Austin. Amy attended the University of Houston where she earned her Bachelor of Physics. There she learned about astronomy and helped to re-open the University of Houston observatory. After graduating from UH she attended Rice University and graduated with a Master of Science Teaching degree and her Texas Teaching Certificate in Science grades 4-8. She taught at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, in private and public schools. A mother of 3, Amy has years of experience teaching and working with the public. She has spent the past decade following her passion by inspiring Austin and the surrounding communities with hands-on astronomy classes and has recently published a children's book about the night sky. She is also currently employed as an astronomy educator at Travis County Milton Reimers Ranch Observatory.

At the Novice Session

This is a talk everyone will enjoy including experienced amateur astronomers. There are many online resources that can be used to create images and for study.  Jimmy Newland has recently been using IRSA, the NASA/IPAC Infrared Science Archive based on the Spitzer Space Telescope to create images and he will also introduce the Las Cumbres Online Global Telescope System.  Jimmy teaches astronomy at Bellaire High School and runs a useful web site for not only his students but others interested in astronomy.

Parking and Directions (View Map)

Meetings are held at the Trini Mendenhall Community Center, which is located at 1414 Wirt Rd, Houson, TX 77055.

PARKING INFORMATION: Free parking in the lot in front of the TMCC.

Map to Trini Mendenhall Community Center

Call to Action: LED street light fight

Photo is an example of warm white, 17-watt, LED street lights. Note how the streetscape is evenly lighted with few shadows. High energy, sodium lighting in the backround is what is being replaced. The right street light gives homeowners a choice on how to light their homes; low wattage is plenty in a low glare environment. Street lights like those shown combined with motion detectors detect intruders while allowing the good sleep hygiene recommended by the American Medical Association. By comparison, Houston is using 45-watt, harsh white, LED street lights. Hemet, CA warm white 17 watt LED

We are losing the LED street light fight here in the Houston area even though we do have some supporters on City Council.  The problem is that Council members continue to hear from residents who like the lighting as soon as they see one or two usually buried in trees. 

What can we do?

Call and/or write your City Council rep as well as all five of the at-large members and Mayor Turner. Each Council member has a link to a map of the district. Council link: http://www.houstontx.gov/council/; [email protected][email protected] through [email protected] (this is Councilman Jack Christie, our most ardent supporter); [email protected] through [email protected]

Here is a sample letter:

Dear Councilman Martin,
We understand that the American Medical Association has called for cities to move to warmer colored lower glare LED street lights for better visibility and fewer health problems now pointed to by thousands of studies.  We support Houston joining Los Angeles, New York City and Chicago in listening to the AMA and using better designed street lights.  The money saved by using low glare street lights that do not impair vision could be better spent on more police officers. 

Thank you very much. 


Shallow Sky Object of the Month: Aldebaran – The Eye of the Bull

Original article appears in GuideStar January, 2017.

Moon Occults Aldebaranby Bill Pellerin

Object: Aldebaran (SAO 94027)
Class: Orange giant star
Constellation: Taurus
Magnitude: .87
R.A.: 04 h, 35 m, 55 s Dec: 16° 30’ 30”
Size/Spectral: K5 (4100k temperature)
Distance: 65 ly
Optics needed: Unaided eye

Aldebaran is close enough to the ecliptic that there are times when the Moon occults (moves in front of) the star. There’s an occultation of Aldebaran on March 4, 2017 beginning at 7:53:22.9 Central time and ending on March 5, at 00:04:50.5 Central time. For this occultation, the Moon will be at first quarter. This is a long duration occultation because the star goes almost directly behind the moon.

Usually, when a star is occulted by the Moon it simply winks out. It’s there one instant and in the next instant it’s not there. Aldebaran is .02 arc-seconds on the sky and has been reported by observers to not wink out in the same way that other stars do, perhaps taking as much as .02 seconds to disappear. Can you see this?

In the finder chart associated with this article, note that the ecliptic (blue line) is north of Aldebaran. As we all know, the Moon’s path through the sky is close to, but not on the ecliptic...

President’s letter

Original article appears in GuideStar January, 2017.

The January letter is the one I most look forward to. I’m writing this in mid-December so it’s natural to look back wistfully at the previous year and with renewed excitement for the coming one.

What’s new for 2017

What’s new for 2017? I can hardly wait to find out myself. What I do know about is a new program from our Telescope Committee Chair, Allen Wilkerson. Catch Allen’s article in this GuideStar. The Publicity Committee is taking another look at our communication model. Ditto for Web Technology and our move to Google G Suite. The Observatory Committee is always up to something—in a good way. As for E&O, don’t forget about their Great Winter Outreach Challenge. And in February, thanks to Audio/Visual, our meeting speaker will present to us via Skype. The other new programs introduced in 2016 were wildly successful so be watching the calendar for upcoming FT&O and WSIG events. (E&O, FT&O, WSIG? Check the HAS Directory on p. 4 of this GuideStar.)

I have one final project that I’d like to make happen this year, my last as president. A full weekend star party complete with lectures, hands-on equipment tutorials, swap meet, HAS t-shirts, and, of course, food.

I didn’t mention observing. The only thing I can’t order up is good weather. Unless… Would you be willing to attend a Flash Mob Star Party based on observing conditions? Ideas about how this could work later, but do let me know your thoughts. Happy 2017!


Renew Your Membership in HAS

HAS annual membership period is from Jan 1 to Dec 31. With the advent of the New Year – its time for you to renew your membership for 2017!!!! 

 As a renewing member you will continue to be part of one of the most active astronomy clubs in Texas and continue to have access to our member benefits including:

  • Supporting our active outreach programs which show the night sky to school children and the public, and encourages interest in STEM activities
  • Our safe - controlled access dark sky observing site in Columbus
  • Active Novice Astronomer programs including Nite Sky Labs at our Dark Sky site which teach you how to use your telescope and navigate the night sky
  • Our growing library of online videos of presentations of interest to both Novice and Seasoned Astronomers alike
  • Being part of the most fun Astronomy club in Texas!

As always there are three ways to renew your membership:

  • Pay online with PayPal - Login to your account at http://www.astronomyhouston.org/members/renew.  We greatly appreciate if you pay by PayPal because it automates the process.  With over 600 members, it saves us a lot of work.
  • Pay using cash or check at a monthly meeting.
  • Mail a check the old-fashioned way to Treasurer, Houston Astronomical Society, PO Box 800564, Houston, TX 77280.

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)

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!

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