Welcome to Houston Astronomical Society

Founded in 1955, Houston Astronomical Society is an active community of enthusiastic amateur and professional astronomers with over 60 years of history in the Houston area. Through education and outreach, our programs promote science literacy and astronomy awareness. We meet on the first Friday of each month at the Trini Mendenhall Community Center. Membership has a variety of benefits, including access to a secure dark site west of Houston, a telescope loaner program, and much more. Joining is simple; you can sign up online, by mail or in person at a monthly meeting.

June 04, 2020, 7:00PM: June Novice Presentation - Via Zoom

“I Have This Scope and Want to do Astrophotography”

Speaker: Don Selle
Location: Online via Zoom with chat

 

A person standing posing for the cameraDescription automatically generatedAbstract – It is a statement we hear regularly from new astronomers and it’s usually followed by a flurry of how-to questions. Most times, it is difficult to answer these questions because it can be hard to know where to start. As one wag put it: ”Astrophotography is a wide river that runs deep. It has a steep and slippery slope to get to it, is full of twists and turns, and hides many snags along the way”.

The astrophotography we see today on the internet and in various publications is magnificent and inspiring. It is also very different from other types of inspiring photography. In addition to the photographic knowledge required to produce say an inspiring landscape photo, astrophotography requires the imager to learn and use equipment and processes not used in any other type of photography.

This presentation is meant as a starting point for answering this question, and to set reasonable expectations by providing insight into the various types of astrophotography, the equipment and software used for each, and a glimpse at the skills and time required to be a successful astro-imager.

June 05, 2020, 7:00PM: June Meeting - Main Presentation - Via Zoom

“Development of the Astronomical Observatory at Prairie View A&M”

Speaker: Brian Cudnik
Location: Online via Zoom with chat

 

A person standing posing for the cameraDescription automatically generatedAbstract –  Over the past couple of years, Brian Cudnik has been directly involved in the development of a professional observatory at Prairie View A&M University, and he will share with us his experiences.

At PVAMU over 400 students per semester are introduced to astronomy concepts through its physical sciences curriculum. Over the past several years, the university has been engaged at upgrading its existing Solar observatory and expanding the observatory by adding 2 new domes with 16 inch and 24 inch telescopes. The expanded observatory will enhance the hands-on experience for PVAMU students, and the popularity of Astronomy will help attract students into STEM fields and can help motivate them to move into STEM careers.

In addition, current astronomical research at the University will be enhanced, and this will facilitate the development of a Physics and Astronomy Department at the University. The new observatory will also hold public observing events will increase the public image of PVAMU.

 

June 2020 Challenge Object - NGC 6366

Original article appears in GuideStar June, 2020.

Ed Fraini

6366.jpeg

The purpose of the visual challenge object is to encourage visual observation and to help each other improve our observational skills.    This month's target is a small dim globular cluster in Ophiuchus that will take good observational skills.  It will help us reach this goal by comparing our observations. The HAS VSIG would love to hear about your visual observations.  Send them to Ed Fraini at [email protected] and he will get them posted to the VSIG list server, or just share them to the VSIG list server directly (contact Ed to subscribe to that list also). 

Field of View - June 2020

Original article appears in GuideStar June, 2020.

by Don Selle

Guidestar Editor

 

As I write this, FOV_2020_06.jpgthe state of Texas is in the process of “reopening” from the Corona Virus lock down. What is clear is that while we are far from being out of the woods yet, the situation in Texas was less severe than in other parts of the country and it is slowly improving. We still need to continue our social distancing and sanitary practices, and be very cognizant of the risk of infection.

We are also fortunate that astronomy is an outdoor activity, and that with some restrictions (see the observatory notice in this issue), the HAS Columbus dark site is open for use by our members. The size and arrangement of the observing field ensure that we can maintain our space without too much difficulty. Now if only the weather would cooperate!

I was one of the 20+ members who used the site during the week of May 17th and I can tell you that everyone was conscious of others and practicing good social distancing. It was refreshing (ok maybe restorative is a better word) to get out under the night sky (yes we got a couple of nights)and get some observing in. It was also wonderful to see many friends and even some newer faces out there, even if we had to shout at each other a bit because our chairs were spaced out. Overall, it was enough to ensure me that things will eventually get back to normal again.

Which brings me to my next subject – our HAS December meeting.

Letter from the President - June 2020

Original article appears in GuideStar June, 2020.

Family Observing.jpgAs we approach the halfway point in what’s been a year unlike any I’ve experienced in my lifetime, I’m reminded that, despite all of the changes around us, we’re still doing the best we can with the hands we’re all dealt.  We keep hearing things like “this is the new normal” or “things won’t be back to the way they were for a long time,” which is all true. But human beings are nothing if not resilient, and we tend to take comfort in our routines to compensate for all of the changes we’ve faced for months now.

I mention that to commend all of the people in leadership positions within the Houston Astronomical Society.  Many of them could have essentially shut down and stopped doing what they’ve been doing, but to a person, they’ve all continued with their roles at the Houston Astronomical Society – and have done so admirably.  I’m sure I speak for all of our committee chairs, directors, and volunteers when I say that our club will continue to evolve and adapt to provide our members and our community with an outlet of normalcy in these times.

But, we are all volunteers, and in order to continue providing the services we do, we rely exclusively on the generosity of our members to support the various groups and committees that make H.A.S. tick. And, as I mentioned above, our work hasn’t stopped with the “new normal.”

Getting Kids Into Astronomy

Original article appears in GuideStar June, 2020.

By: Amelia Goldberg

I recently began a new project designed to get children actively involved in astronomy by observing with their own telescope. My idea is to find old telescopes that might need a little TLC, like a new coat of paint, add on a Telrad or something of that nature. My goal is to find some 6” – 10” telescopes with descent optics at a low cost. Rather than putting money into purchasing scopes, I wanted to spend the money making the telescope a personalized scope for a specific child. The child would choose the color, choose how to decorate it and choose a name for it. I feel this will really make it their own and instill a “pride of ownership” in the child. I also hope that if the children have their own telescopes, they would be more likely to want to get out with them to observe. In other words, I hope to light that spark of interest. The plan is to have the children actually do a lot of the work themselves. I also plan to work with the children, helping them learn how to be an observer.

Summer Triangle Corner: Vega

Original article appears in GuideStar June, 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!

Summer Triangle Corner: Vega

David Prosper and Vivian White

If you live in the Northern Hemisphere and look up during June evenings, you’ll see the brilliant star Vega shining overhead. Did you know that Vega is one of the most studied stars in our skies? As one of the brightest summer stars, Vega has fascinated astronomers for thousands of years.

The Eiffel Tower - Asterism of the Month - June 2020

Original article appears in GuideStar June, 2020.

 

By: Steve Goldberg

Eiffel Tower-1.JPGAsterism: a grouping of stars that form a recognizable pattern.

This month we have a two for one special! There are two Eiffel Tower assterims, one in the constellation Ursa Major and the other in the constellation Gemini

Constellation: Ursa Major Constellation: Gemini
Right Ascension: 13h 10m 00.0s Right Ascension: 06h 07m 25.0s
 Declination: +57 °31' 00" Declination: +24° 05' 48"

 

 

Messier of the Month - June 2020

Original article appears in GuideStar June, 2020.

by Jim King

Messier.pngThis is the fourth installment of a series of columns primarily revolving around observing the Messier Catalogue.  The intent is to provide the reader a small 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 June.  Late spring is galaxy time and June is no exception.  Some months, like June, will have a special treat in addition to the Messier Objects.  Check the trailer. 

M104:  AKA THE SOMBRERO GALAXY

In 1913, Vesto Slipher of the Lowell Observatory became the first astronomer to detect rotation in a galaxy other than our own.  By studying the spectrum of M 104, he determined not only that the galaxy was receding from us at 700 miles per second, but that its disk was rotating. 

M104 is not as much of a mystery today as it was in the early 20th century.  We now know it as one of the largest galaxies in the southern edge of the Virgo Galaxy Cluster.

HAS Observatory use during COVID-19

Although the observatory roof has been fixed, only those already trained on observatory use can reserve time on the observatory telescopes. In addition, only two telescope operators—one on each telescope—is permitted to enter and use the observatory at a time. The bunks in the chartroom are not allowed to be used. The Observatory building is not yet open for in-person training. 

Observatory / Dark Site Rules

  • The observatory is open only to previously trained operators as described above. Bring your own eyepieces – the observatory eyepiece case is not available.
  • The observatory building is not open for in-person training 
  • Dark Site observing pads, RVs, private observatories, and restrooms are open
  • The bunkhouses are closed
  • Tent camping in the designated camping area is permitted
  • All other rules covered in online site training apply

To reserve time on an observatory telescope, email [email protected]. For questions about the observatory and use of the dark site facilities, email [email protected]. To take online site training, log into the website and click button Start Your Training near the bottom of this page https://astronomyhouston.org/about/has-observatory

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