President’s letter

Original article appears in GuideStar December, 2016.

by Rene Gedaly

What did you think of the Mendenhall Center? I’m betting a good time was had by all, but I’ll let you in on a little secret. Not only was Mendenhall a great place to have our end-of-year party, it was also a test of moving our meetings further west.


Personally, I like all that UH offers, not to mention the ease of setup and our association with a major university. But after years of talking about moving west, it was time to dip our toes in the water. We won’t be changing our meeting venue this year but if you have strong opinions about it, do let me know: [email protected]


January 2017 will be the third year the leadership comes together to plan the year ahead. This year we’ll be meeting at our own place, the HAS Observatory & Dark Site, in our own meeting space, the East Room of the new Bunkhouse. If you’re out there—it’s new moon—come see what it’s all about.


The minimum requirements of our homegrown observing program were written with the smaller scope in mind. Many objects can be viewed with handheld binoculars. Not all objects will look their best that way and you’ll need to know the sky to make sure you’ve nabbed them. But if you have access to a larger scope—and you have, HAS members—you’ll be amazed at the views.

At the WSIG telescope lab I was asked what the best telescope was. I looked at the refractor, reflector, and catadioptric we had set up and hedged. One attendee, certain of the answer, announced it was the one with the most gadgets, the most advanced one. Among the three scopes, she was right. But not for the reason she surmised.

The Texas 45 includes a few objects—nebulae, star clusters, and galaxies—to interest the more advanced observer. They will require more light gathering power, more aperture, to detect and see well.

Compare two telescopes, say a 4” refractor and an 8” reflector. The reflector has double the aperture of the refractor. When you double the aperture, you double the detail you can see, quadruple the amount of light collected, and brighten stellar images sixteen times. Optical theory tells us this, and a lot more. But that’s for another lab.

The Observatory C-14. I recently had a chance to see some of the more difficult Texas 45 objects through the HAS Observatory’s C-14, a Schmidt-Cassegrain design on a computer-controlled mount. The Saturn and Helix nebulae were no longer amorphous blobs but took on the shapes of their namesakes (a nebula filter also helped). The Sculptor Galaxy filled the eyepiece with impressive detail. This was due to the increase in aperture of the 14” scope over my 10” reflector, telescope design notwithstanding.

Some talk about doing “The 45” on a go-to scope and picking up the star hopping certificate later. I may do the opposite and see what I’ve been missing.

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