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.

Double your gift to the IDA! Limited time! Now until July 31!

2016 Matching Gift Challenge

Don't Miss the Chance to DOUBLE your donation!

Several of IDA’s committed donors have generously combined their resources to match, dollar for dollar, every gift that the IDA receives by July 31st. This means that your generous gift of will double! Imagine your gift of $250 becoming $500, or your gift of $1,000 becoming $2,000!

Please contribute today to help us continue our fight against light pollution. IDA’s success depends on your generosity – fully seven cents of every dime that supports our programs comes from caring and compassionate donors like you. This is why you are an essential partner in our shared mission to protect the night sky.

Use the DONATE WITH PayPaL button at top right and HAS treasurer Don Selle will send your full donation on to the IDA!

Take your dark site orientation online

The HAS Dark Site is available to all members in good standing who have:

1. Paid their current year’s dues
2. Have been a member for a minimum of 2 months
3. Completed the online site orientation training

Need to complete your training? Here's how:

1. Log in to https://www.astronomyhouston.org/
2. Click the "About the Society” tab
3. Click the “Our Observatory” subtab 
4. Scroll down and click the “Start Your Training” button.
    Ten questions and you get 3 tries to pass with an 80%. Easy. See you at the dark site!

President’s letter

Original article appears in GuideStar July, 2016.

by Rene Gedaly

Lots of activity this month. It’s getting hard to keep up. Speaking of which, a lot of mowing goes on at the dark site in summer. I think I’ve seen every member of the Observatory Committee on one mower or another. Including yours truly. Yes, Allen Wilkerson gave me training on the finishing mower. Thanks, Allen. I think.

UH Observatory
About a year ago one of our young members, Daniel Vrolik, asked director Jessica Kingsley what happened to the observatory atop the UH Science building. Jessica promptly informed the board and got the ball rolling. Now Susan Street, the former observatory operator, a group of current UH physics majors, and Clayton Jeter are putting in all the sweat and tears to get the UH observatory operational. Dr. Pinsky, one of our advisers, has the primary and secondary mirrors out for recoating. The plan is to re-open in the fall.

Ever wonder about that article you saw on the website that’s gone missing? The WebTech Team led by Mark Ferraz now has a website archive of past articles. See the Archive tab.

What do you do about these short summer nights? Hold solar and lunar events of course. Coming up in July we have the Solar Series Art Exhibition at Silver Street Studios and an Astronomy 101 talk with lunar observing at Second Baptist for 50 or so visiting students from China. Contact outreach@astronomyhouston.org and Joe Khalaf will hook you up.

Observatory Light Rules
New to the club but afraid of breaking the light rules? Fear no more. Ana Taylor, a weekend denizen of the dark site and Women’s SIG member, has volunteered to get you started off right. During twilight she’ll be stopping by to help make sure you don’t inadvertently spill light from your vehicle.

Girl Scouts at the Observatory

The Women’s SIG hosted 30 scouts and 10 parents overnight at the HAS Observatory. What fun! Cherie Pepper, a former girl scout who’s gone through the ranks, was invaluable help as was Sherry Irby, who brought her Chi-Weenies Dewey and Libby, a big hit. Equipped with red lights, the girls toured Mike Edstrom’s private imaging observatory, stopped at Amelia Goldberg’s blinged out pink telescope, and then made their way to the Observatory where Chris Ober, Steve Goldberg, and I were on hand to show them Jupiter, Mars, Saturn, Albireo, the Stargate, etc., etc. We also located objects naked eye as the girls learned to use a star map, loads of fun. As promised, I also showed the ambitious—girls and parents—how to operate a telescope. They were directed to choose a bright object, find it using the Telrad on the f/5, focus it in the eyepiece, and then tell me what they saw. There are no words to describe their faces as they discovered they had located Mars and Saturn by accident—all by themselves.

Observatory Corner

Original article appears in GuideStar July, 2016.

by Mike Edstrom

And the work continues!!

Thanks to all that came out on Saturday June 18th we are making headway on the outside wall coverings and the roof trusses. We will meet again soon keep an eye on the netslyder for date and time.

We have had a lot of rain in May and early June at the site so the ground is saturated please be sure to stay on the road or on the observing field as the other areas are very soft. The low water crossing has had water running in it from a few inches to all the way to the top so if you are going out right after a rain please be very careful!!!

Please watch the web site for future announcements of training sessions on the new MX and 12” RC scope in the observatory which everyone that has been trained on using the observatory must take.

Summer constellations are up and waiting for you at the Columbus Dark Site, hope to see you there soon.

If you find any issues while at the site, please be sure to e-mail me so we can take care of them.

Shallow Sky Object of the Month: A Trio of Double Stars in Lyra

Original article appears in GuideStar July, 2016.

By Bill Pellerin

Object: Three double stars
Class: Stars
Constellation: Lyra, the Lyre (musical instrument)
Magnitude: See text
R.A.: 18 h, 50 m, 24 s (constellation)
Dec: 36° 49’ 12”
Size/Spectral: See text
Distance: 150 ly
Optics needed: Unaided eye, binoculars, and a small telescope

It’s now officially summer, as of June 20. The Sun has traveled as far north as it’s going to go this year and is beginning its long trek back south toward the winter solstice (December 21). It seems so far away now. While the hours of daylight are getting fewer now, it’ll take some time before we see significantly earlier sunsets.

Daylight saving time doesn’t help (don’t get me started on this topic). Amateur astronomers are obliged to wait later into the night (clock time) to view their favorite objects and the buzzing of the mosquitoes does not facilitate a relaxing observing session. Bug spray, anyone?

Fortunately, there are several bright objects that are worthy of your time and effort, and in this article we’ll focus on some bright stars in Vega, a constellation that is up all night in July. You should be able to find these from the city on a moonlit night, so don’t wait for ideal conditions to get the telescope out.

Let’s begin with the most recognizable star in the constellation, Vega. An A class (blue) star shining at magnitude zero means it is one of the brighter stars in the sky, fifth in order of brightness. Due to the precession of the earth’s axis it was the pole star 14,000 years ago, and if you can wait another 14,000 years or so, it will be the pole star again.

Look slightly to the east and you’ll see a small triangle of stars (no telescope needed for this). The one to the northeast is Epsilon Lyr, the famous double-double. While you may be able to see the two stars without optical aid (they’re 3.5 arc-minutes apart), you can definitely see them with binoculars. You’ll need a telescope to see that each of the stars in the pair is also a double (one of these pairs is 2.2 arc-seconds and the other is 2.8 arc-seconds). High magnification (about 200x), good seeing, good optics, and attention to the focus of the telescope are needed to see the four stars.

Delta Lyr, at the northeastern corner of the parallelogram that defines Lyra is an optical double star. The stars are just over 10 arc minutes apart and easy to see. The primary star (900 ly away) is a M class star, meaning that it’s much redder than Vega. Look to see if you can detect this color difference. Much of the radiation of this star is in the infrared, not the visible, so the total energy from this star is quite high.

Looking back in the direction of Vega, we happen upon Zeta Lyr, I measure (in TheSky software) the separation of the two stars that comprise this pair as 45 arc-seconds. You’ll need binoculars or, more likely, a telescope to split this pair. A magnification of 10 to 20 should be sufficient, and 10 power binoculars are easy to come by. You’ll need a mount to hold them steady to have a good look at the double with the binocs. (I’ve long been a fan of image stabilized binoculars. They’re expensive, but a great investment if you intend to do a lot of binocular observing.)

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