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General Meeting Topic
Exoplanet Formation - Process and Conditions
General Meeting Speaker
Dr. Andrea Isella
Novice Meeting Topic
The Life Cycle of Sun-Like Stars
Novice Meeting Speaker
Jimmy Newland

Dr. Andrea Isella is Assistant Professor of Physics & Astronomy at Rice University. He leads the Planet Formation and Circumstellar disks research group at Rice since July 2014. This group is a very recent addition to the Dept. of Physics and Astronomy at Rice University!

Prior to coming to Rice, he was a postdoctoral researcher and Faculty Member at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena, California. His primary area of research and interest in Planetary formation which requires the use and application of the world’s largest telescopes to penetrate deeply into the realm of newborn stars, protoplanetary disks, and similar physical phenomena to understand the processes for which newborn planetary systems come into existence. This a very recent addition to the Dept. of Physics and Astronomy at Rice University!

Several of his ongoing research projects focus on the analysis of new and exciting ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter Array) observations of protoplanetary disks. These observations have been made in order to understand the formation of planets by observing the environment where planets form, namely, the gas and dust-rich disks surrounding young stars, also known as protoplanetary disks.

Dr. Isella will delve into the processes and conditions in which planetary systems are formed and how exoplanets are born!

How's the weather at the Dark Site?

feb15.JPGMembers, you can see in real time what the weather is like at the Dark Site via the sky cam. Login to the website and click Columbus Current Weather. The big blue link is hiding in plain sight along the right-side menu column.

Here’s how it looked Feb 15. Good seeing, good transparency, a wonderful evening to observe. You do have your grab-and-go bag packed, right?

Skynet Junior Scholars - A new program for high-school aged kids

The Houston Astronomical Society and Bellaire High School are collaborating on a cool project called “Skynet Junior Scholars” where high-school aged amateur astronomers will be able to remotely control research-grade telescopes and collaborate on research projects.

In Skynet Junior Scholars (SJS), kids study the Universe using the same tools as professional astronomers. With SJS, you get to BE the astronomer. You will feel great when you command a robotic telescope to take a picture of YOUR object!

With just an internet connection, Skynet Junior Scholars gives you:

  • Access to world-class optical and radio telescopes.
  • An image gallery to share pictures and publish results.
  • Communication with astronomers and engineers.

Each meeting, you’ll:

  • Explore the Solar System, Milky Way Galaxy and the Universe!
  • Earn digital badges as you gain expertise.
  • Collaborate on big projects with other Scholars.
  • Learn astronomy with fun hands-on activities.
  • Design your own investigations!

To learn more about SJS, visit:

By: Steve Goldberg

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

Constellation: Orion
Right Ascension:  05h 22m 24.0s
Declination: +07° 07' 00"
Magnitude: 7 to 8
Size:  13’ (minutes)

This asterism, Dolidze 17, in Orion contains 5 stars in a unique pattern.   It is located at the shoulders of Orion right next to star Bellatrix (Gamma γ).

The asterism comprises of 6 stars. Three that form a triangle and the other 3 form a straight line next to the triangle.

The bright start to the right is Bellatrix (Gamma γ).


The circle is the eyepiece view of a 10” telescope with a 40mm eyepiece giving a 1.5 degree Field of View (FOV).



by Jim King, Field Trip & Observing


Jan 31, 2018, O dark thirty
Blue Moon/Total Lunar Eclipse, Fulshear, TX, Cross Creek Ranch

Well, this one was a way different experience from the Solar last August.

 Woke up about 0600, and with the help of my wife, who is NOT an enthusiastic amateur astronomer; but, who never-the-less is tacitly supportive of my efforts, convinced our 16 year old Shih Tzu, Weasel, that, no, he really did not want to go with me where ever I was headed.

I hopped into the car and did a quick reconnaissance for the best observation point westward.  I settled quickly on east side of our front lake.  The view was completely unobstructed of a huge, full Moon and the western horizon.  The Moon was clear and bright…higher magnitude stars were quite visible…Saturn and Mars were sitting comfortably over my left shoulder. The Moon was beautifully reflected in the quiet waters.

The @%$#%^ streetlights were on display.  At least they are low-sodium and shielded and not nearly as bad as a full Moon.

I grabbed my 15x70’s and hit the trail to my second favorite park bench. On the way, I startled a Great Blue Heron from it’s sleep, who returned the favor in spades as I walked by.  For those who are unfamiliar with Great Blues, they are a big as a middle-sized dog and twice as noisy when aroused….ten times on a quiet morning.  And worse, the trail at that point is only three feet from the water.  We were quite close to one another, literally hand-shaking distance, when it let me know I was not welcome.

I checked my pants, then planted myself more-or-less comfortably on the slightly damp bench at 0640. I observed the full, “Blue Moon” just starting to enter the eclipse phase…a slight shadow was at the top of the orb.  That observation put me rapidly to work on the geometry of the shadow going from top to bottom.  Fortunately, having finally understood the west-to-east solar shadow last August, this was a piece of cake…  click read more