January 2021

AP Corner - February 2021

Original article appears in GuideStar February, 2021.

AP Sig Revs Up!

by Don Selle

If you take pictures of the night sky, even if it is only occasionally, you might want to join the HAS Astrophotography Special interest group or APSig for short.A galaxy in spaceDescription automatically generated with low confidence The APSig is an email listserv and currently boasts over 60 members. The experience of APSig members span the gamut of experience, from those who are just starting out, to some of our most accomplished astrophotographers.

Have a question about the pros and cons about equipment? Need some help with autoguiding, or processing your latest image capture? The APSig is the place to ask it.

Show off your latest image. APSig members are always supportive and will share their experience with you.

Though the APSig is loosely organized, moderators Chris Ober and Don Selle are there to help organize activities that will be of interest to the group. As an example, we recently had an image processing challenge where a single dataset was shared and individual members worked on the same data and shared their results with the group. This led to spinoff discussions of image processing software and workflows that were of benefit to APSig members.

The APSig has also just started holding a monthly HAS Image of the Month competition, which is open to APSig members. Submit one of your finished images for consideration, and your fellow APSig members as well as interested HAS members will vote to select what they think should be the Image of the Month.

Landing On Mars a Tricky Feat!

Original article appears in GuideStar February, 2021.

NSN.pngThis 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!


Landing On Mars: A Tricky Feat!

by: David Prosper

PlanetMarsAugust262020.pngThe Perseverance rover and Ingenuity helicopter will land in Mars’s Jezero crater on February 18, 2021, NASA’s latest mission to explore the red planet. Landing on Mars is an incredibly difficult feat that has challenged engineers for decades: while missions like Curiosity have succeeded, its surface is littered with the wreckage of many failures as well. Why is landing on Mars so difficult?

Eye in The Sky

Original article appears in GuideStar February, 2021.

First published in the February 1983 edition of the Sky Scanner, the newsletter of the Brevard Astronomical Society.

Eye in the Sky

by: Walt Cooney

Ghost of Jupiter.jpgEditor’s Note – This article was the inspiration for my February 2021 Field of View column entitled “Observe”. It exactly illustrates the point I was trying to make there that learning to observe astronomical objects is a doorway to continuous learning and can’t help but affect how you view the world around you. DS.


I know as an amateur astronomer I have a tendency when I go out at night with my telescope to stay observing in the brighter constellations because they still hold lots I have not seen yet, and it is also a little easier to find things there because of the brighter star patterns.  Another tendency of mine is to skip over the little planetary nebula symbols on my charts because often they are so faint, small, and difficult that I would be wasting my time endeavoring to find them. 

Messier Column - February 2021

Original article appears in GuideStar February, 2021.

by Jim King

Diagram, engineering drawingDescription automatically generatedAs we move further into 2021, with this column, we are fast approaching the 1/3 mark of observing the Messier Catalogue.  As COVID hangs on, I feel compelled to introduce more objects each month as enforced solitude continues to raise its ugly head.  Those of you who are more motivated or experienced in observing can go to the HAS website, click on “Programs”, and then click on the “Messier Challenge”.  A seasonally-oriented program will pop up enabling one to observe the Messier Catalogue as each seasonal group becomes easier to find.  The advantage to this system is one can obtain the best views, finish the catalogue in one year, and have the time to observe the objects rather than simply check it off a list.  Please note while some of the data may appear dated, the time of the year and the location data is still very usable.  It is my intention to update that program shortly.

Utilizing the Messier Challenge on the HAS website would be a quicker, systematic way to qualify for a Messier Astronomical League (AL) Messier Observing Award.  One must, however, become familiar with the AL requirements and reporting specifications.  Simply go to the AL website…https://www.astroleague.org/observing.html… go to observing programs, search on Messier, and study the outline of the program desired…AL has more than one Messier Award program available.

Starting this month, ~six Messier objects will be presented.  Each of them will be at their most observable during the current month as published.  Sky Tools has a rating scale giving some idea of how difficult an object is to observe.  I will be including this scale in each brief description below along with a numerical rating (1 to 8, with 8 being the most difficult) since some of the difficulty descriptions may be a little fuzzy in one’s mind if one is not familiar with their system.

Field of View - February 2021

Original article appears in GuideStar February, 2021.


by Don Selle

HAS Guidestar Editor

HAS MW.jpgIf you are new to amateur astronomy, you may have noticed that as a group, amateur astronomers use the words observe or observation more than most people. If you are now saying “yeah I had noticed that” you are very observant yourself, and If you hadn’t noticed, don’t worry, amateur astronomy will help make you a better observer.

But what does it mean to observe or be observant? Dictionary.com can help here. To observe is

   *   to see, watch, perceive, or notice

   *  to regard with attention, especially so as to see or learn something

   *  to watch, view, or note for a scientific, official, or other special purpose.

For visual astronomers, observing is the name of the game. Accomplished visual observers will see more and dimmer details than those just starting out. They also use the “O” word all of the time, more so than astro-photographers typically do.

But don’t be fooled, accomplished astro-photographers are also very keen observers. That’s how they have become accomplished. They have improved their finished images over time by observing the data they capture, learning what it takes to gather the best data possible, and what works best when assembling a finished image.

Asterisms – Dolidze 17

Original article appears in GuideStar February, 2021.

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).



Letter from the President - February 2021

Original article appears in GuideStar February, 2021.

by: Joe Khalaf

HAS President

Observing Valentine’s Day

When I think of February, I think of Valentine’s Day two weeks into the month.  Actually, if I’m being completely honest, I probably end up dreading Valentine’s Day more than anything other “holiday” there is.  On February 14th, I run around town trying to pick up roses, chocolates, perfume, jewelry, or anything else that’s readily available in the shortest amount of time possible, because, as usual, I wait until the last minute to buy these gifts.  Also, because I have a young daughter, I’ve got to pick up a gift for her, too.  And not to be left out, my 11-year-old son will likely want chocolates, as well.  I think the holiday card companies knew they needed to inject some anxiety in a period where there was very little in the later winter months.

Val Heart.png

So while we probably won’t be able to avoid the commercial aspect of Valentine’s Day, there is a free resource to we all have access to that we can share with loved ones on this day – the heavens above!  Sure, most of us are familiar with books, movies, or TV shows that use the full moon to set the scene for a romantic night, but with a telescope, there are other “romantic” celestial objects you can share with your significant other.  Here are a few:

Adventures in Outreach

by Jim King

I miss outreach events.  Most all have been cancelled due to COVID and have been for about a year.  Even so, I have managed to have several small gatherings within my subdivision.  Last year presented some unique opportunities that simply could not be missed.HAShero.png

Still, I miss the excitement of young, inquisitive minds with glowing eyes of anticipation.  I miss the adventures.  Getting to some of the remote locations can be an adventure in itself.

One outreach stands out in my mind, and likely always will.  A few years ago, several of us had gathered at a downtown Houston public park to share the night sky.  As usual, there were scads of folks wandering in and wanting to participate.

Along about 9:00, I had a fairly long line of people at my telescope…until suddenly, I didn’t.  Looking around, I saw a group of six young men, headed my direction…and my line of 20 to 30 folks had simply melted into the darkness.

One of the young men walked up to me and demanded, “What are you doing in my (7-letter expletive, somewhat akin to a gerund) park?”...

Survey says...

Original article appears in GuideStar February, 2021.


by Rene Gedaly

If you were one of the 295 members who joined HAS in 2020, you received a survey from me on December 30th …

So what did the survey say? Well, we're very gratified by your responses. I'll include some graphs below that summarize what you told us that worked and what didn't. Thank you so much for your personal remarks, too. And now for the survey results ... Renewals.png


Women's Special Interest Group kicks off for 2021

NoteThe Zoom meeting notice and agenda have been emailed to the WSIG. If you’d like it re-sent to you or if you’d like join us, email me at [email protected].

The WSIG is back for 2021 and it’s on Zoom. The inaugural meeting is Sunday, February 14 at 7pm2021 WSIG advert.PNG WSIG heart.png

Meetings will begin with a brief overview of a topic suggested in advance by one of the WSIG members and will include show-and-tell demos of equipment and tools. The meeting will continue with Q&A and a freewheeling discussion of any and all topics in astronomy pertaining to the featured topic—or any other. No rules; just exploring and learning from each other.

Field trips to the HAS dark site will also be planned where skills covered during Zoom meetings can be put to use. Groups may also form in order to work on various observing lists, including the soon-to-be announced HAS Texas 45 progression. And, it wouldn’t be a WSIG without food, so that will be incorporated as well.

If you’re a woman HAS member in good standing (dues paid, lol), you’re invited to join the WSIG. Contact Rene at [email protected] to get put on the HAS_WSIG email list—Rene Gedaly

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