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.

President's Letter: The Forever Scope

Original article appears in GuideStar July, 2017.

by Rene S Gedaly

Do you have a “forever” scope?

What I mean is a single, last (if need be) telescope that would see you through aperture fever, maintenance issues, portability concerns, possible moves, could be set up alone and would have really, really nice optics.

The forever scope must also have some basis in reality. I met up with reality this year at the Dark Site when I became an observatory telescope operator. One requirement of the TO is being able to close the observatory roof in an emergency. In case of power failure, for example, the roof and south window must be closed manually using the wall-mounted hand winch. This requires a lot of muscle, or failing that, dogged determination and time. Though I passed this test, I realized I'd never again be able to knock out 20 pushups as in my girlhood days and thereby my dream of a 20+ inch truss Dob was forever gone.

Happily, a new contender recently fell into my lap: an 11-inch f/4.3 Starmaster reflector. The Starmaster is no longer made, or more properly, crafted, so when one comes available it's snapped up quickly. The Starmaster was billed as a portable telescope, and while there are many even more portable telescopes now, the unique truss and mirror/rocker box design of the Starmaster reflector ensures rock steady viewing and balance when the easily lifted sections are fitted together. This Starmaster “shorty” version allows me to view the zenith flatfooted and for every other part of the sky, I can observe comfortably seated. The Starmaster is also outfitted with a Zambuto mirror and Starlight Feather Touch focuser.

Obviously this new-to-me telescope was previously owned, which as a rule, I don’t do. The thing about getting a used telescope is one needs the time, knowledge, and persistence to get it into working order, a learning curve one generally doesn't face with a new scope.

So far, I’ve run into problems fitting the trusses singlehanded, the secondary mirror has four adjustment screws, not three, the Bob’s Knobs I ordered don’t fit due to one funky design year change, the focuser works nicely but slips on the cage, and that beautiful mirror is not only dirty, but looks to have a couple of scratches. When I release it from its mirror box to clean it, I’ll know for certain. In any case, I’m excited about developing the skills it will take to get her in shape and keep her that way.

With all this care and attention, I feel called upon to give her a name. Naming a telescope seems a new trend at HAS, particularly by members of the Women’s Special Interest Group. The owners of Astraea and Stella are WSIG members—I believe I’ll follow these women’s lead. My forever scope will have to give me a hint about her name herself, though. Maybe the work will be straightforward and a simple Astra will do. If more involved, and I hope so, a more befitting name may spring to mind, like Athena from Zeus’ forehead.

Asterisms - Coat Hanger, Collinder 399

Original article appears in GuideStar July, 2017.

by Steve Goldberg

Asterism: a grouping of stars that form a recognizable pattern.
Constellation: Vulpecula
Right Ascension: 19 h, 26 m 12s
Declination: 20o 06’ 00”
Magnitude:  3.6
Size: 60’ (minutes)

The “Coat Hanger” is a group of stars in the constellation Vulpecula, between Cygnus and Sagitta. It is easily located between the star Albireo in Cygnus and the 2 brightest stars in Sagitta: Alpha and Beta. This open cluster has the official names of Collinder 399 (CR 399) and OCL 113 (Open Cluster). This object is seen easier in binoculars than with a telescope. And is a good object at public outreach events if you use binoculars. 

Deep Sky Object of the Month: M101

Original article appears in GuideStar June, 2017.

by Stephen Jones

Object: M101
Constellation – Ursa Major
Type: Spiral Galaxy
Magnitude: 7.9
Discoverer:  Pierre Méchain, 1781
Equipment necessary:  For most observers, at least a 6-inch telescope.

Spiral structure in galaxies was first noted by Lord Rosse when he turned his massive telescopes on M51, the Whirlpool Galaxy; not long after this, he saw the same in M101.  Face-on spirals like M51 and M101 can be among the most interesting galaxies to observe with medium-to-large sized amateur telescopes under a dark sky, as it is easiest to see the spiral arms when the galaxy has its face toward us… click the read more button

Kids Program

Hey, I’ve got kids.  What’s this all about?

To introduce HAS children to the joys of Astronomy via:

  •     Kid friendly, quality instruments under dark skies
  •     With seasoned Astronomers as their mentors
  •     And structured observing programs with a rewarding, positive end goal (certificates and pins)

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