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. The club meets on the first Friday of each month at the University of Houston. Membership has a variety of benefits, including access to a secure dark site west of Houston, a telescope loaner program, and much more. Joining our club is simple; you can sign up online, by mail or in person at a monthly meeting.

Shallow Sky Object of the Month: Aldebaran – The Eye of the Bull

Original article appears in GuideStar January, 2017.

Moon Occults Aldebaranby Bill Pellerin

Object: Aldebaran (SAO 94027)
Class: Orange giant star
Constellation: Taurus
Magnitude: .87
R.A.: 04 h, 35 m, 55 s Dec: 16° 30’ 30”
Size/Spectral: K5 (4100k temperature)
Distance: 65 ly
Optics needed: Unaided eye

Aldebaran is close enough to the ecliptic that there are times when the Moon occults (moves in front of) the star. There’s an occultation of Aldebaran on March 4, 2017 beginning at 7:53:22.9 Central time and ending on March 5, at 00:04:50.5 Central time. For this occultation, the Moon will be at first quarter. This is a long duration occultation because the star goes almost directly behind the moon.

Usually, when a star is occulted by the Moon it simply winks out. It’s there one instant and in the next instant it’s not there. Aldebaran is .02 arc-seconds on the sky and has been reported by observers to not wink out in the same way that other stars do, perhaps taking as much as .02 seconds to disappear. Can you see this?

In the finder chart associated with this article, note that the ecliptic (blue line) is north of Aldebaran. As we all know, the Moon’s path through the sky is close to, but not on the ecliptic...

Call to Action: LED street light fight

Photo is an example of warm white, 17-watt, LED street lights. Note how the streetscape is evenly lighted with few shadows. High energy, sodium lighting in the backround is what is being replaced. The right street light gives homeowners a choice on how to light their homes; low wattage is plenty in a low glare environment. Street lights like those shown combined with motion detectors detect intruders while allowing the good sleep hygiene recommended by the American Medical Association. By comparison, Houston is using 45-watt, harsh white, LED street lights. Hemet, CA warm white 17 watt LED

We are losing the LED street light fight here in the Houston area even though we do have some supporters on City Council.  The problem is that Council members continue to hear from residents who like the lighting as soon as they see one or two usually buried in trees. 

What can we do?

Call and/or write your City Council rep as well as all five of the at-large members and Mayor Turner. Each Council member has a link to a map of the district. Council link: http://www.houstontx.gov/council/; mayor@houstontx.govatlarge1@houstontx.gov through atlarge5@houstontx.gov (this is Councilman Jack Christie, our most ardent supporter); districta@houstontx.gov through districtk@houstontx.gov

Here is a sample letter:

Dear Councilman Martin,
We understand that the American Medical Association has called for cities to move to warmer colored lower glare LED street lights for better visibility and fewer health problems now pointed to by thousands of studies.  We support Houston joining Los Angeles, New York City and Chicago in listening to the AMA and using better designed street lights.  The money saved by using low glare street lights that do not impair vision could be better spent on more police officers. 

Thank you very much. 


President’s letter

Original article appears in GuideStar January, 2017.

The January letter is the one I most look forward to. I’m writing this in mid-December so it’s natural to look back wistfully at the previous year and with renewed excitement for the coming one.

What’s new for 2017

What’s new for 2017? I can hardly wait to find out myself. What I do know about is a new program from our Telescope Committee Chair, Allen Wilkerson. Catch Allen’s article in this GuideStar. The Publicity Committee is taking another look at our communication model. Ditto for Web Technology and our move to Google G Suite. The Observatory Committee is always up to something—in a good way. As for E&O, don’t forget about their Great Winter Outreach Challenge. And in February, thanks to Audio/Visual, our meeting speaker will present to us via Skype. The other new programs introduced in 2016 were wildly successful so be watching the calendar for upcoming FT&O and WSIG events. (E&O, FT&O, WSIG? Check the HAS Directory on p. 4 of this GuideStar.)

I have one final project that I’d like to make happen this year, my last as president. A full weekend star party complete with lectures, hands-on equipment tutorials, swap meet, HAS t-shirts, and, of course, food.

I didn’t mention observing. The only thing I can’t order up is good weather. Unless… Would you be willing to attend a Flash Mob Star Party based on observing conditions? Ideas about how this could work later, but do let me know your thoughts. Happy 2017!


Renew Your Membership in HAS

HAS annual membership period is from Jan 1 to Dec 31. With the advent of the New Year – its time for you to renew your membership for 2017!!!! 

 As a renewing member you will continue to be part of one of the most active astronomy clubs in Texas and continue to have access to our member benefits including:

  • Supporting our active outreach programs which show the night sky to school children and the public, and encourages interest in STEM activities
  • Our safe - controlled access dark sky observing site in Columbus
  • Active Novice Astronomer programs including Nite Sky Labs at our Dark Sky site which teach you how to use your telescope and navigate the night sky
  • Our growing library of online videos of presentations of interest to both Novice and Seasoned Astronomers alike
  • Being part of the most fun Astronomy club in Texas!

As always there are three ways to renew your membership:

  • Pay online with PayPal - Login to your account at http://www.astronomyhouston.org/members/renew.  We greatly appreciate if you pay by PayPal because it automates the process.  With over 600 members, it saves us a lot of work.
  • Pay using cash or check at a monthly meeting.
  • Mail a check the old-fashioned way to Treasurer, Houston Astronomical Society, PO Box 800564, Houston, TX 77280.

Dues amounts:

  • Regular - $36/year
  • Associate - $6 (lives at same address as regular member)
  • Student - $12 (full-time student)
  • Sustaining - $50 or more (if you want to give a little extra to keep the club strong)

We hope that you will continue to support HAS and look forward to seeing you at our next meeting or event at the Columbus dark sky site!

February 03, 2017: Dr. Kim Arvidsson from Schreiner University

Novice Meeting: 7:00PM
General Meeting: 8:00PM
General Meeting Topic: 
The Birth of Stars
General Meeting Speaker: 
Dr. Kim Arvidsson, Schreiner University
About the General Meeting Presentation

Kim Arvidsson at Loftis Observatory

How are stars born? Why do they come in different colors? Why are they even born in the first place? In this talk, Dr. Arvidsson will be giving an overview of the conditions and the processes that go into making a star. He will be discussing stellar nurseries, their complex and diverse nature, and how that results in different kinds of stars being born.

Kim Arvidsson is an Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Schreiner University, where he is also the director for the Loftis Observatory. He was previously a postdoctoral researcher at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, IL. He received his Ph.D. in Astrophysics from Iowa State University, and his undergraduate degree in Physics from Lund University in Sweden.

Parking and Directions (View Map)

Meetings are held in the Science & Research building at the University of Houston Main Campus. The novice meeting is in room 116, the general meeting is in room 117.

NOTE NEW PARKING INFORMATION: Parking is available in lot 15C. Refer to the Google Map below for directions. This parking is available from 6:30 p.m. until 10:00 p.m. on the Friday night of the HAS meeting.

This parking is free. If you get a notice from the UH campus police on the night of the meeting, call the UH Security office and let them know that this area has been made available on HAS meeting night by the Parking Department.

Map to Parking

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