June 2017

Asterisms - Coat Hanger, Collinder 399

Original article appears in GuideStar July, 2017.

Posted: 2/18/2020
By: Steve Goldberg

Asterism: a grouping of stars that form a recognizable pattern.

Constellation: Vulpecula
Right Ascension: 19 h, 26 m 12s
Declination: 20o 06’ 00”
Magnitude:  3.6
Size: 60’ (minutes)

The “Coat Hanger” is a group of stars in the constellation Vulpecula, between Cygnus and Sagitta. It is easily located between the star Albireo in Cygnus and the 2 brightest stars in Sagitta: Alpha and Beta. This open cluster has the official names of Collinder 399 (CR 399) and OCL 113 (Open Cluster). ... click read more button

Gulf Coast Weather and Astronomy

Original article appears in GuideStar June, 2017.

by Stephen Jones

On multiple occasions, usually upon hearing how much observing I’ve been able to do in a relatively short time, people have asked me “how do you know it’s going to be clear when you head out to the dark site?”  To be honest, frequently I don’t!  Here on the Gulf Coast, our weather is notoriously volatile. 

In the winter months though, usually clear skies are pretty predictable.  Watch your local weather forecast for a cold front, look at when it’s going to pass, and head to the site the next night (assuming there’s not another front right behind it!). 

Summer is a completely different beast, however.  In summer, the parade of fronts that we see in the winter stays to the north of us, and we are instead treated to a daily cycle of the sun heating the gulf, generating a bunch of storms which then drift over land and dump some rain on us.  These storms are generally quite small in area and isolated.  One time I distinctly remember driving less than a mile from my home to the store, and it wasn’t raining either at my home or the store, but I drove through pouring down rain on the trip… click the read more button

Deep Sky Object of the Month: M101

Original article appears in GuideStar June, 2017.

by Stephen Jones

Object: M101
Constellation – Ursa Major
Type: Spiral Galaxy
Magnitude: 7.9
Discoverer:  Pierre Méchain, 1781
Equipment necessary:  For most observers, at least a 6-inch telescope.

Spiral structure in galaxies was first noted by Lord Rosse when he turned his massive telescopes on M51, the Whirlpool Galaxy; not long after this, he saw the same in M101.  Face-on spirals like M51 and M101 can be among the most interesting galaxies to observe with medium-to-large sized amateur telescopes under a dark sky, as it is easiest to see the spiral arms when the galaxy has its face toward us… click the read more button

"A" is for Asterism

Original article appears in GuideStar May, 2017.

A is for Asterism

by Bram D. Weisman

It was April 10, 2016, a bit past 1:30 a.m. I was star-hoping to a Galaxy cluster, NGC3156 and friends. Star-hoping is not to be confused with star-hopping. The later is a visual stroll that begins on an easy target and proceeds to nearby waypoints leading up to the desired object. The former is desperate meandering around a region of the sky, hoping to stumble across the intended target after a failed attempt at star-hopping.  

Technical note:  
There are three popular search patterns for star-hoping…

  1. Spiral method, best when controlled by a computer
  2. Strip method, also best when controlled by a computer
  3.  Spastic method, best I can muster on my own

Anywho, there I was cruising the sky in my spastic search pattern when I saw something cool.  Five stars, neatly arranged in a kind of an inverted V, well more like an A to be precise.  There were other stars in the field, but these five were close enough in magnitude to strike me as a set, though they actually vary significantly in distance to earth.  The first thing that came into my mind was “Eiffel Tower”.  More on that later.  I wanted to know what this object was, so I checked the coordinates on my Synscan controller.  Even though I was star hopping, earlier I did do a Go-To star alignment to ensure good tracking and to bail me out of trouble.  ;-).  So my Synscan coordinates should have been good.  I also put a “skymark” into SkyTools for me to research at home.  I was able to see the Asterism perfectly rendered in SkyTools.

click read more button


Join the WSIG

Did you know we have a growing number of clubs within HAS called SIGs, Special Interest Groups? So far we have a VSIG, KSIG, and the one that started it all, the WSIG: Women's Special Interest Group.

We're all about astronomy, mostly visual. We've had a few socials, a few classes out at the dark site, we've even banged a few nails, plastered and painted to help get our own bunkhouse built at the dark site. We’re women and girls who’d like to socialize and share astronomy with other women and girls.

Coming WSIG Events: (1) An in-town social at a member's home in July called Pizza and Planets; (2) An observing class at the Dark Site Observatory Saturday July 15 where we'll cover the summer list of the Texas 45 Observing Program; (3) A Forum on the website where we can post events, ask questions and get answers, keep track of discussions, and share files. Done! Check out our new WSIG Forum!

So, is the WSIG for you? Email Rene Gedaly to get added to the WSIG.

Shallow Sky Object of the Month: Mini-Coathanger

Original article appears in GuideStar May, 2017.

by Bill Pellerin

OBJECT: Mini-Coathanger
CLASS: Asterism
MAGNITUDE: 9 – 11 (stars)
R.A.: 16h 28m 42.0s
DEC: +80° 17' 00"
OPTICS NEEDED: A small telescope

You have probably heard of, and seen, the Coathanger asterism (Collinder 399) in Vulpecula. I wrote a ‘Shallow Sky’ article about this object in the June 2007 GuideStar. This time, we’re looking for the Mini-Coathanger, another asterism for which the arrangement of the stars looks like a coat hanger. The first time I looked for the original Coathanger I expected a triangle with a hook at the top of the triangle, but the asterism looks like a straight line of stars with a hook near the middle.

Likewise, the Mini-Coathanger looks like a line of stars with a hook near the middle. You can easily star hop to this asterism as follows:

  • Find the Little Dipper (itself an asterism in Ursa Minor, the
  • little bear). The end of the handle of the Little Dipper is the
  • North Star, Polaris.
  • From Polaris, count two stars in the direction of the bowl.
  • Draw a line from that star to the bowl star.

The asterism is about 1/3 of the distance along this line and about ½ degree away from this line in the direction of the bowl. The asterism is about 20’ (1/3 of a degree) in size and the stars are relatively bright so it should jump out at you... click read more button

Kids Program

Hey, I’ve got kids.  What’s this all about?

KIDS Dob.pngTo introduce HAS children to the joys of Astronomy via:

  •     Kid friendly, quality instruments under dark skies
  •     With seasoned Astronomers as their mentors
  •     And structured observing programs with a rewarding, positive end goal (certificates and pins)

November 03, 2017: Annual Membership Meeting at UH

Novice Meeting: 6:30PM
Novice Meeting Topic: 
The Hunt for Red Stars in October
Novice Meeting Speaker: 
Ed Fraini
General Meeting: 7:15PM
General Meeting Topic: 
Space Radiation 101: Why is it important?
General Meeting Speaker: 
Dr. K. B. Beard, NASA Johnson Space Center - Space Radiation Analysis Group
About the General Meeting Presentation
At the Novice Session

This novice session we will be looking into one of the most colorful objects
in the night sky we can observe, Carbon Stars. These bright colored objects
have many fascinating characteristics that we can explore.HuntforRedOctoberStars.PNG

In the presentation we will discuss the challenges of seeing them, why they display the red color and point out some of the best we can see. Our goal is to tweak your interest and make hunting carbon stars a routine part of your observing sessions.  

Join us for our presentation “The Hunt for Red Stars in October.”

At the Annual Meeting

At the Annual Meeting we will vote on bylaws, elect the 2018 leadership, and pull tickets for the door prizes shown. The grand prize is a copy of The Sky X Professional, the same software used to control the C14 in the HAS Observatory. 


At the Main Seminar

While we are all familiar with the ionizing radiation we encounter on Earth, it is not at all representative of what one encounters in space. Space radiation is a window on our universe and may reveal the secrets of dark matter, but its dark side is its threat to man and machine.

In the past few decades, our understanding of space radiation has increased greatly; it presents a challenge, especially for human explorers beyond low Earth orbit. The JSC Space Radiation Analysis Group (SRAG) is dedicated to predicting, analyzing and working to ameliorate that threat to human explorers.This talk will describe some of RAG's work, describing the physics spanning from the very large to the very small and how that work is done.

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

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