July 2020

Field of View - August 2020

Original article appears in GuideStar August, 2020.

Field of View

By Don Selle  HAS Guidestar Editor

Pool Pano-sm.jpg

It’s pretty clear by now that the Covid-19 is going to be here with us for a while longer.  We have changed our behaviors to adapt (as people for countless generations before us have done) and are still actively pursuing our love of the night sky, even if things are a little different now. While due to cancellations, there is no replacing the star party experience many of us enjoy each year, or the absence of face to face outreach events, we are still finding ways to get out and do astronomy.

Summer Triangle Corner: Deneb

Original article appears in GuideStar August, 2020.


This article is distributed by NASA Night Sky Network

The Night Sky Network program supports astronomy clubs across the USA dedicated to astronomy outreach. Visit nightsky.jpl.nasa.gov to find local clubs, events, and more!

by David Prosper


The Summer Triangle is high in the sky after sunset this month for observers in the Northern Hemisphere, its component stars seemingly brighter than before, as they have risen out of the thick, murky air low on the horizon and into the crisper skies overhead. Deneb, while still bright when lower in the sky, now positively sparkles overhead as night begins. What makes Deneb special, in addition to being one of the three points of the Summer Triangle? Its brilliance has stirred the imaginations of people for thousands of years!

Shallow Sky Object - August 2020

August 2020 Visual Observing Challenge

Original article appears in GuideStar August, 2020.

The Moons of Saturn

by Stephen Jones

This month for the challenge object we’re really going to change things up and go for something closer to home than the deep sky challenges we’ve been putting up there.  Anyone in this group really get into looking for the moons of the planets?  I know we all probably love the four bright moons of Jupiter and have observed them plenty, but before I rejoined the club several years ago I hadn't ever put much thought into the others.  Saturn has a lovely set of moons, and while none of them are as bright as Jupiter's big four, a great many of them are brighter than any of the OTHER moons of Jupiter.  Titan and Rhea are visible in pretty small telescopes, and an 8-inch should also easily pull in Dione, Tethys and Iapetus.  What struck me to mention this today is that recently at the Dark Site with my 16", I accomplished my first certain observation of Enceladus, and my first even suspected observation of Mimas.  That brings me to 7 moons of Saturn observed.  Quite a nifty observation.  


Messier Objects - August 2020

Original article appears in GuideStar August, 2020.


By Jim King

This is a series of columns primarily revolving around observing the Messier Catalogue.  The intent is to provide the reader a sampling of the Messier objects each month that are most visible in the time frame the column is published.  Hence, these deep sky objects should be easily identifiable in and around the month of August.  Some months may have a special treat in addition to the Messier Objects.  Check the trailer. 


M21: Open Cluster

The 2 degree-wide expanse of Milky Way encompassing M08, M20, and M21 is the most dramatic Messier field in the entire sky. At 23x, these objects and several other clusters and nebulous patches (both bright and dark) fill the field. 

Asterisms: ET, NGC 457, Owl Cluster, Caldwell 13, Kachina Doll Cluster

Original article appears in GuideStar August, 2020.

By: Steve Goldberg

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

Constellation: Cassiopeia
Right Ascension: 01 h, 19 m 35s
Declination: 58o 17’ 12”
Magnitude:  5.1
Size: 15’ (minutes)

This cluster, NGC457, was discovered by William Herschel in 1787, and lies over 7,900 light years away from the Sun. The asterism is also commonly known as the Owl Cluster. After the movie “ET-The Extraterrestrial” was released the name “ET” was also given to this asterism.




Looking at this image you can see 2 bright stars, which are the eyes of ET. A horizontal line of stars under the “eyes” are the outstretched arms, with another line of stars going downward for the legs.


At public outreach events where children are present this object is a big hit.






Letter from the President - August 2020

Original article appears in GuideStar August, 2020.

When the leadership team met in January to plan out our upcoming year’s activities, one of the things I really wanted to focus on in 2020 was member engagement.  I’ve heard from others during the time I’ve spent on the leadership team here that, while the Houston Astronomical Society has a great number of amenities for members available to them, we could do more to interact with our members outside of our monthly meetings.  During that planning session, I had a series of member events - socials at bars and restaurants, field trips, and so on - that I wanted to start arranging for this year and beyond, and I had challenged all of the leaders to help us ideate on other things we could do to help in this endeavor.  I wanted to make sure that we were doing more to pull people in – especially our new members – to this hobby we all love.  I don’t think I’ve ever run across anyone who wasn’t absolutely fascinated by space and wanted to learn more about it but taking that next step into a real lifelong journey into learning about the cosmos was always the hardest part.  That’s where a club of like-minded individuals, like the Houston Astronomical Society, could help novices take that leap into becoming lifelong amateur astronomers.

Update on COVID-19 Dark Site Policy

As we continually re-evaluate our policies as it relates to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have made a change to the bunkhouse closure we enacted several months back. 


Starting Friday, July 17, we will reopen the families/women's and men's bunkhouses, with the following rules and restrictions in place to maintain safety:

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