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 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 is simple; you can sign up online, by mail or in person at a monthly meeting.

How's the weather at the Dark Site?

feb15.JPGMembers, you can see in real time what the weather is like at the Dark Site via the sky cam. Login to the website and click Columbus Current Weather. The big blue link is hiding in plain sight along the right-side menu column.

Here’s how it looked Feb 15. Good seeing, good transparency, a wonderful evening to observe. You do have your grab-and-go bag packed, right?

Astronomy - Lots to Learn. We're Here to Help

When getting started in astronomy, the challenges we face can seem a bit daunting and the learning curve can seem pretty steep. Being a part of an active astronomy club like HAS can make a world of difference in how you experience astronomy, and help you up the curve.  And the real benefit comes when you can Pay it forward by helping others learn astronomy.

Skynet Junior Scholars - A new program for high-school aged kids

The Houston Astronomical Society and Bellaire High School are collaborating on a cool project called “Skynet Junior Scholars” where high-school aged amateur astronomers will be able to remotely control research-grade telescopes and collaborate on research projects.

In Skynet Junior Scholars (SJS), kids study the Universe using the same tools as professional astronomers. With SJS, you get to BE the astronomer. You will feel great when you command a robotic telescope to take a picture of YOUR object!

Asterisms – Dolidze 17

By: Steve Goldberg

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

Constellation: Orion
Right Ascension:  05h 22m 24.0s
Declination: +07° 07' 00"
Magnitude: 7 to 8
Size:  13’ (minutes)
 
 

This asterism, Dolidze 17, in Orion contains 5 stars in a unique pattern.   It is located at the shoulders of Orion right next to star Bellatrix (Gamma γ).

The asterism comprises of 6 stars. Three that form a triangle and the other 3 form a straight line next to the triangle.

The bright start to the right is Bellatrix (Gamma γ).

 

The circle is the eyepiece view of a 10” telescope with a 40mm eyepiece giving a 1.5 degree Field of View (FOV).

 

 

Blue Moon/Total Lunar Eclipse

by Jim King, Field Trip & Observing

sarahSilvaLunarEclipse.PNG

Jan 31, 2018, O dark thirty
Blue Moon/Total Lunar Eclipse, Fulshear, TX, Cross Creek Ranch

Well, this one was a way different experience from the Solar last August.

 Woke up about 0600, and with the help of my wife, who is NOT an enthusiastic amateur astronomer; but, who never-the-less is tacitly supportive of my efforts, convinced our 16 year old Shih Tzu, Weasel, that, no, he really did not want to go with me where ever I was headed.

I hopped into the car and did a quick reconnaissance for the best observation point westward.  I settled quickly on east side of our front lake.  The view was completely unobstructed of a huge, full Moon and the western horizon.  The Moon was clear and bright…higher magnitude stars were quite visible…Saturn and Mars were sitting comfortably over my left shoulder. The Moon was beautifully reflected in the quiet waters.

The @%$#%^ streetlights were on display.  At least they are low-sodium and shielded and not nearly as bad as a full Moon.

I grabbed my 15x70’s and hit the trail to my second favorite park bench. On the way, I startled a Great Blue Heron from it’s sleep, who returned the favor in spades as I walked by.  For those who are unfamiliar with Great Blues, they are a big as a middle-sized dog and twice as noisy when aroused….ten times on a quiet morning.  And worse, the trail at that point is only three feet from the water.  We were quite close to one another, literally hand-shaking distance, when it let me know I was not welcome.

I checked my pants, then planted myself more-or-less comfortably on the slightly damp bench at 0640. I observed the full, “Blue Moon” just starting to enter the eclipse phase…a slight shadow was at the top of the orb.  That observation put me rapidly to work on the geometry of the shadow going from top to bottom.  Fortunately, having finally understood the west-to-east solar shadow last August, this was a piece of cake…  click read more

Amateur Astronomer Discovers Lost Satellite is Still Alive and Transmitting

Amateur Visual and Radio Astronomer Scott Tilley recently found a NASA Satellite (IMAGE) that was considered dead, to be alive and possbily transmitting useful data.  This is a shining example of how varied Amateur Astronomy activities can be, and that our hobby can produce useful work which is valued by the professional community.

Read about this exciting work, with commentary from mission collaborator and Houstonian Dr. Patricia Reiff (Rice University) at the link.

si-image.png

Super Blue Blood Moon…HUH?!?!

As astronomy enthusiasts, we are used to seeing and hearing about space-related events in the news in terms that are meant to “wow” the public, but may otherwise be misleading.  Inevitably, we're asked by family members and friends about these events, and often, the response I give is "huh?”.

My introduction to the supermoon was no different...

The first time I heard about a "supermoon" was only a few years ago.  2016, perhaps.  Someone had asked me if I was going to take my telescope out to observe the supermoon, and what I thought was going to happen to the earth because of this suddenly massive moon that we'd have.  “Do you think the supermoon is going to cause extremely high tides that’ll flood parts of Houston?”

"Huh?" I replied.  I didn't know what to say, other than to tell this person it won't be any different than anything else we've already seen.

Of course, when I got home, I quickly jumped on my computer and googled "supermoon."  After reading about it, I thought, "oh, that's all it is?  A full moon that's at or near the closest point in its orbit?”  Since the moon's orbit around the earth isn't a perfect circle, there is a point on that orbit where the moon is closest to the earth, and another point where it is furthest.  We label the closest point on that orbit around the earth perigee, and the furthest point is known as apogee.  The same terms hold true for earth-orbiting satellites, as well.

Click read more button

2017 Was a Great Year for Astronomy - Look Out - Here Comes 2018!

2017 was a great year for astronomy.  In its last issue of every year, Science News picks its 10 best science stories of the year, and three of them were about astronomy.  In first place was the history-making observation of the binary neutron star collision in galaxy NGC 4993, about 130 million light years from earth. This detection ushered in a new era of “multi-messenger” astronomy.

This collision was first detected by the two LIGO gravity wave observatories in the USA and the Virgo observatory near Pisa Italy. It was detected 1.7 seconds later as a gamma-ray burst by observatory satellites in earth orbit. Over the next several weeks, the “kilonova” the collision spawned was observed in every frequency of electromagnetic radiation, from x-rays to radio waves. The observations absorbed an estimated 15% of global observatory time, and almost 4,000 astronomers, physicists, and astrophysicists were involved in the observations and their analysis.

You can read more about this merger of neutron stars here https://www.ligo.org/science/Publication-GW170817MMA/flyer.pdf and see a NASA video simulation of the merger here: https://youtu.be/x_Akn8fUBeQ

2017 was a banner year for HAS too. During the year, our Outreach Program achieved new highs in the number of events we covered and the number of our members who volunteered to share their love of astronomy with the public. Under the leadership of Joe Khalaf, we also provided the public with the opportunity to observe the night sky by partnering with the Lunar and Planetary Institute for “Observe the Moon Night”, organized a meteor shower party at a nearby state park, and set up telescopes at some unconventional venues such as a music festival, a corporate event on Discovery Green and at an iconic Houston film festival.  We also showed the partial eclipse to well over 300 people who might not otherwise have had the opportunity… click read more button

Time To Renew Your Membership

Its also time to RENEW YOUR HAS MEMBERSHIP so you can take your 2018 Dark Site Training and get the new gate code before it changes on March 3rd!

HAS memberships run from 1 January to December 31. Fortunately, renewing your membership is fast and easy!

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