July 2021

Visual Challenge Object - August 2021

Letter from the President - August 2021

Original article appears in GuideStar August, 2021.

As I wrOrbital_Flight_Test-2_mission_patch.pngite this month’s column, Boeing Starliner’s Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) mission was supposed to launch earlier today on a mission to dock with the International Space Station (ISS).  Unfortunately, an issue with Russia’s new Nauka module caused a delay in the launch, and officials are now looking for a new launch date no earlier than August 3.

However, the really exciting news here is that the Houston Astronomical Society is going to be a part of this mission!  Here’s a bit of the back story:

Last year, while mission details were being planned, our very own Publicity chairperson and Education & Outreach co-chair, Sarah Silva, was making some very neat, space-themed facemasks for people to use as we dealt with COVID-19.  One of Sarah’s friends from high school asked her if she would like to have some of these masks fly up to the ISS.  Of course, Sarah jumped all over the opportunity - as we all would.

Following that, the Houston Astronomical Society was asked if we would like to participate in this exciting launch, as well.  A few of us were contacted by one of the Starliner contractors, Cimmaron, which was awarded some cargo space on the mission.  The Cimmaron cargo package is themed “Big Kids Go to Space,” and includes several items from H.A.S. – including H.A.S. stickers, pins, and other memorabilia.

But, in my opinion, the most exciting item going up to space as part of that package is a small USB stick.  Why the hubbub and excitement over a memory stick?  Well, that USB stick contains a number of images from H.A.S. outreach events, as well as letters and drawings we’ve received from children after we’ve visited them with our telescopes.  I have also included photos from the Astronomical Society of South East Texas (ASSET), to give them some recognition for all of the outreach efforts they’ve been involved in around the Beaumont and surrounding areas.  These photos are scheduled to be played as a slide show from the ISS, to be broadcast back to earth.  How cool is that?

Master of My Backyard

Original article appears in GuideStar August, 2021.

by Celsa Canedo *

image taken Dec. 17th, 2020, 6:03 pm –  Pasadena, TX using an iPhone6s

There is no darkness for those who love to look up to the skies.

The objective of this project is to get astronomers to look out in their own backyards when going to dark sites is not an option. It encourages naked eye observations so it is an activity any beginner could do while they gain mastery in using their scopes.

Shallow Sky Object of the Month: P CYG – Luminous blue variable

Original article appears in GuideStar August, 2021.

By Bill Pellerin

Object:  P Cyg
Class: Luminous Blue Variable
Constellation:  Cyg
Magnitude:  4.8
R.A.:    20 h, 17 m,  47 s
DEC:    38°  01’ 59”
Size/Spectral:  B1
Distance:  6500 +/- ly
Optics needed: A small telescope to pick this star out in a crowded field.
This star has a Bayer designation, ‘P’, but, as is often the case, the star is a variable but it retains its Bayer name. The naming convention for variable stars is different; the first variable in a constellation is typically called ‘R’. You can also find P Cyg using the following catalog names: SAO 069773 or HD 193237. Not much attention has historically been directed to a 5th magnitude star in a crowded field of stars, but in the year 1600 the star had the audacity to brighten to about 3rd magnitude, six times brighter than it was, and now is, at 5th magnitude. Over the time that this star was observed it brightened and dimmed a few more times. If you look at the data on the star today (AAVSO.org) you’ll find that it has dimmed and brightened (over a period of a few days) by a fraction of magnitude, hard to detect visually, but easy to detect photometrically ...

Corner the Great Square of Pegasus

Original article appears in GuideStar August, 2021.

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 may be the most famous seasonal star pattern, but during early August evenings another geometrically-themed asterism rises: the Great Square of Pegasus. This asterism’s name is a bit misleading: while three of its stars - Scheat, Markab, and Algenib - are indeed found in the constellation of the winged horse Pegasus, its fourth star, Alpheratz, is the brightest star in the constellation Andromeda! 

While the stars of the Great Square of Pegasus are not as bright as those of the Summer Triangle, they still stand out compared to their neighbors, and make a great foundation for exploring this area of the night sky. Note that the brightness of the stars near the horizon is  exaggerated in this picture.

Asterisms - Coat Hanger, Collinder 399

Original article appears in GuideStar August, 2021.

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

Mars Revealed

Original article appears in GuideStar August, 2021.

InSight Seismometer Provides First Direct Evidence of Interior Structure

By Will Sager

On 5 May 2018, NASA blasted the $828M InSight (INterior exploration using Seismic Investigations, Gravity, and Heat Transport) lander towards Mars with the audacious goal of gathering direct seismic evidence of the interior structure of the red planet. INSIGHT landed on 26 November 2018, deployed its seismic sensors, and began recording marsquake data in February of 2019. In the 23 July issue of the journal Science, INSIGHT seismic teams, a group of more than 40 scientists from around the globe, report preliminary results of the seismic experiment, giving the first direct measurements of the structure of another terrestrial planet. These results show planetary layering similar to Earth, but with several significant differences.

A picture containing outdoor, sky, ground, beachDescription automatically generated

Artist’s rendition of Mars INSIGHT lander. The SEIS experiment is the silver dome on the ground in the left foreground. In the right foreground is the thermal probe. The robotic arm, atop the lander, deployed the experiments. (NASA)

Messier Objects - August 2021

Do you have back issues of the Guidestar?

Original article appears in GuideStar August, 2021.

I’ve had a project on the back burner for years now, H.A.S. history buff that I am. Some urgent club business always seemed to pop up, though. Now, by golly, I and John Chauvin, are determined to scan and upload all the back issues of the Guidestar to the website. But we need your help locating some missing issues. Specifically issues from August 1992 through April 1998 inclusive.

We do have issues dating back to 1998 on the website, but the first Guidestar, Volume 1 No.1, went to print February 1983. Wow. And did you know we still have members from back then, yours truly and John included?

So how about a stroll down memory lane? I’ve scanned and uploaded Volume 1 No. 2, the March 1983 issue of the as yet unnamed newsletter. I’m listed in the Welcoming function under my maiden name. A lot of other names are in there, too, including John Chauvin, the first Guidestar editor.

Let us know! And special thanks to Bruce Campbell who provided so many of the back issues.

Rene Scandone Gedaly
[email protected]

HAS Online Store

Get Connected!

HAS has begun using RainedOut, a text message service, to communicate late-breaking news about events. Click here to learn more and subscribe!

Night Sky Network