August 2021

Asterisms – Question Mark

By: Steve Goldberg

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

Constellation: Cetus
Right Ascension:  02h 36m 00.0s
Declination: +06° 42' 00"
Magnitude: 5 to 6
 

This month’s asterism is called the “Question Mark”. It is a finder object and is located in the constellation Cetus. It is between the Pleaides in Taurus, Aires and Pisces, at one end of Cetus.   

 

In this picture the large circle is a typical finder field of view (FOV). The small circle is the “center” of the Question Mark, the “hook” portion is to the lower right and the “bottom dot” is to the upper left.

 

This object is on the Astronomical League’s Asterism Observing Program.

 

Shallow Sky Object of the Month: The Methuselah Star – Oldest Star in The Milkway

by Bill Pellerin
Methuselah.JPG

OBJECT: HD 140283, HIP 76976
CLASS: Metal Poor Sub-Giant Star
CONSTELLATION: Libra
MAGNITUDE: 7.26
R.A.: 15 h, 43 m, 1.86 s
DEC: -10° 56’ 5.62”
SIZE/SPECTRAL: F3
DISTANCE: 190 ly
OPTICS NEEDED: A small telescope, binoculars

Here’s an odd one. I first heard of this star while watching a Great Course lecture in the series ‘The Life and Death of Stars’ by Keivan Stassun. Interestingly, to me, I had never heard of this star before, but it may be one of the more fascinating stars in the sky. The very early universe had much smaller quantities of the heavy chemical elements in it. Why? Because the heavy elements are created (fused, actually) in stars, and in the early universe there had not been enough time for stars to form, live their lives, and seed the universe with these heavier elements. Why? Because the heavy elements are created (fused, actually) in stars and in the early universe there had not been enough time for stars to form, live their lives, and seed the universe with these heavier elements. By ‘heavier’, I mean those elements in the periodic table beyond hydrogen and helium...

Catch Andromeda Rising

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Catch Andromeda Rising

by David Prosper

Andromeda.jpg

Spot the Andromeda Galaxy! M31’s more common name comes from its parent constellation, which becomes prominent as autumn arrives in the Northern Hemisphere. Surprising amounts of detail can be observed with unaided eyes from dark sky sites. Hints of it can even be made out from light polluted areas. Image created with assistance from Stellarium

Letter from the President - September 2021

NGC-7635-f.jpg

NGC-7635-The Bubble Nebula is located in the  constellation Cassiopeia – by Loyd Overcash
Its “bubble” shape was formed by the stellar wind from a nearby star.
Taken from Ft. Davis on 8-3-21 with the ZWO-2600mcp camera and a 11" Celestron Hyperstar @f2. Exposure was 75 minutes taken in 3 minute subs.


One of the things I’m always amazed at is the amount of astrophotography expertise we have in our club.  Now, admittedly, I’m not an astrophotographer, nor am I sure I want to go down that route (I still enjoy hunting for faint fuzzies through an eyepiece), but the work of our astrophotographers absolutely amazes me.  Many of them are fairly accomplished, as well, having been published in various astronomy magazines, major astrophography websites, even in National Geographic.  You don’t have to look far to see some of the great photos our members are capturing.

Nascent Texas CAMS Network Makes Major Find

By Will Sager

Walt Cooney was not expecting much excitement on Saturday morning, August 14. The Perseid meteor shower was winding down from its peak at mid-afternoon on August 12 and the Texas CAMS network had already recorded more than 400 and 500 meteors on the previous  two nights. He noticed that the computer controlling his camera station had accumulated a surprising number of meteor files overnight. Before long, he received an email from Peter Jenniskens, director of the CAMS project at NASA Ames Research Center in California, who told him that the Texas and California networks had captured a rare Perseid outburst (see figure), perhaps from the return of a dense filament of the meteoroid stream that killed the Olympus-1 telecommunications satellite in 1993. In all, the Texas network recorded 647 meteors overnight. Walt says the success was “way cool”. Indeed, it was a major accomplishment for the Texas network, which did not exist one year ago. The story made the Spaceweather.com web site (https://spaceweatherarchive.com/2021/08/18/perseid-meteor-outburst-2/). Many human observers missed the outburst because it was well after the traditional peak, so the success demonstrated the importance of routine electronic observations and validated the contributions of amateurs who run the network.

 

What Are You Up To Tonight Little Star?

By Celsa Canedo

Variable Stars

Variable stars are fascinating. I first learned about them while I was working on my Universe Sampler Observing program. At first, they were just one more item to check off the list. I had to choose two out of four suggested variable stars and make four brightness measurements. Then there was a brief explanation of what variable stars are and how to do such measurements. For more information I was referred to the AAVSO (American Association of Variable Star Observers) website. That was the beginning of a new season for me as an amateur Astronomer.

 

Variable stars are stars that change brightness for many reasons: it may be an intrinsic variation due expansion, contraction, eruption, etc. It may be due extrinsic variations: eclipses of two or more stars in a system. Studying the variation of brightness in stars adds to the understanding of star formation since most stars are variable in some degree at some point in their lives.

Messier Column - September 2021

To give credit where credit is due, Time to ‘fess up: I really wish I were skilled and experienced enough to come up with this column on my own.  But the truth is, in May 2019, I had the happy opportunity to spend some time visiting with Stephen James O’Meara as a guest of our own Goldbergs at their home here in Houston.  For those of you who don’t know of him, Stephen is an accomplished and highly-skilled astronomer and author of international fame.  He has a column published every month on visual observing in Astronomy magazine.  For those of you who don’t know Amelia and Steve Goldberg (long-time members of HAS), they are quite accomplished and celebrated astronomers in their own right and are genially nice people.

I have two of Stephen’s Deep-Sky Companions books in my library, The Messier Objects and The Caldwell Objects which he graciously autographed for me.  The Messier Objects is my primary source for this column.  Frankly, it is a bit of a challenge to pick out gems to share here when each object is so full of jewels of amazing information and my space is so limited.  For anyone who is into Messier or Caldwell, or wants to be, these books provide an excellent compendium of facts about the objects, interesting side-lights and back-stories, and insights into these great astronomer’s minds.

Class Is In Session

Continuing Your Astronomy Education Online

 

By Chris Morisette

 

With HAS hosting such great monthly presentations why take an astronomy class?  It was precisely because of these monthly presentations I sought to learn more.  I’ve been intrigued by the subjects but felt I needed a better understanding of topics like stellar evolution, solar system formation, and exoplanets to fully appreciate what was going on.  Also, as I began to participate in public outreach events the need for more knowledge only increased. 

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