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Welcome to Houston Astronomical Society

Fostering the science and art of astronomy through programs that serve our membership and the community. 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 via Zoom the first Friday of each month for the General Membership Meeting and the first Thursday of the month for the Novice Meeting. 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 or by snail mail.

"HAS Astronomers Doing Science" 7:00pm CST Friday, March 3rd on Zoom

HAS Monthly Meeting – via Zoom

Friday March 3rd at 7:00pm CST

HAS Astronomers Doing Science

A Panel Discussion

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One of the very cool things about being an amateur astronomer is that even with amateur sized telescopes, our eyes, or our amateur cameras, we can do real science that is of benefit to the Pros! Several HAS members have been contributing to the body of astronomical observations and knowledge over the course of many years. Others are just getting started, and so can you!

Walt Cooney will moderate a panel discussion where several HAS members will tell you a bit about the science they are doing. Panelists and their topics are:

  • Will Young - Observing Sprites - The Spritacular Project – recording atmospheric sprites’
  • Chris Ober - Cataclysmic Variables – with the Center for Backyard Astrophysics (CBA) and the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO).
  • Michael Rapp - Variable star visual observing with AAVSO.
  • Brian Cudnik - Sunspot Counts and variable star observing with AAVSO.
  • Don Selle – Cameras for All-Sky Meteor Surveillance (CAMS) – Texas network.
  • Walt Cooney - Operating a remote research telescope – The Madrona Peak Observatory’

Each of the panel members will give a brief description of the work that they are doing, and also will answer questions from those attending the meeting.

Join us for what promises to be an interesting and informative discussion!


This meeting will be held virtually via Zoom. In order to attend, you must register for the meeting. You can do so using the link below. You will receive a email with the details of the meeting and a link that will allow you to join in.

You only need to register once!

Join us Friday, March 3, 2023 at 7:00 pm CST. See you then

"How to Set Up Your Telescope" 7:00pm CST Thursday, March 2, 2023 on Zoom

Every telescope must be set up and adjusted properly before it can be used productively. For those starting out in astronomy or who are unfamiliar with a particular type of scope, this can be challenging to say the least. When the telescope fails to do what one expects, disappointment and frustration can set in.

Never fear intrepid StarGazer! Your fellow HAS members are here to help!

Join Joe Khalaf and Tim Pellerin as they walk you through the process of setting up your telescope and getting it ready to serve you dutifully for an excellent night of observing. They will show you their approach to getting set up, answer your questions an even share with you the secrets you need to know to avoid those dreaded Operator Errors.


This meeting will be held virtually via Zoom. In order to attend, you must register for the meeting. You can do so using the link below. You will receive a email with the details of the meeting and a link that will allow you to join in.

You only need to register once!

Join us Thursday, March 2, 2023 at 7:00 pm CST. See you then!


In good company, you are, as you spend your time here with members. Here is one: Leland Dolan. Leland stayed with us a long time but he had to go away to where we all will go one day. Leland thought highly of us, has left a gift for us.

Let us be worthy. Let us continue this endeavor.

Thank you, Leland.

A Midsummer Astronomer’s Daydream, featured in this edition, was written by Leland - Kay McCallum, Guidestar editor

reprinted from the September 1987 GuideStar 

Perhaps one reason I was picked as historian, is that I tend to dwell a lot on the past. I still think of my early years as an amateur astronomer as the “good old days”. The chief difference between, say 1960 and now, is that I could observe a number of Messier objects from my yard, and yet I lived only a quarter mile from the University of St. Thomas. For observing or photographing the Milky Way, I would spend the night at my parents’ home, only a couple of miles west of Memorial Park. Nowadays, to go anywhere where one can observe deep sky objects, requires that two or three hours be spent travelling to and from the observing site.

But, Let’s take a look into the next century. No this article is not going to be a “downer” but an imaginary view of what might be possible in the future. WARNING: This article is perhaps outrageously speculative, and will not appeal to the hard-bitten realist. But, for those who like to dream, dream along with me.

It is the summer of 2005 and, in spite of the serious light pollution, there is widespread interest in astronomy and (especially) space. Professional astronomers are now using several medium-sized telescopes on the moon, while awaiting completion of two large multi-mirror telescopes to be located near the east and west lunar limbs respectively. No, astronomers do not travel to the moon to observe but operate these instruments from their labs by remote control. This is an outgrowth of the way spacecraft were operated to photograph during the late Twentieth Century.

With these techniques being perfected, amateur astronomical societies are now building telescopes in remote locations, and operating them from their society’s “clubhouses”, usually in a central location. The golden anniversary of the Metropolitan Houston Astronomical Society, (formerly known as the Houston Amateur Astronomy Club and later, the Houston Astronomical Society), is approaching and everybody is excited especially since the society has just acquired, thanks to the generosity of a wealthy benefactor, a forty-inch reflector, which is being installed on the slopes of Mauna Kea. This is the last totally unpolluted observing site in the United States. And it was only through an agreement worked out with developers that, by allowing them to have all of Oahu, the “big island” was preserved from commercial development.

Access to the new telescope will be by reserving time, as is customary with most observatories. There will be little “real time” observing, however, since midnight in Hawaii occurs at 4AM Houston time. So, astronomers program the computer inserting one’s personal identification code and, at the allotted time, the instrument records the image, just as TV viewers recorded programs on VCRs twenty years earlier. Then, at the astronomer’s leisure, the image is processed to bring out details, something only professionals did during the Twentieth Century.

Activities include comet hunting, which seems less romantic now, since an area of the sky is simply “photographed” with an image device (that makes the first CCD look like a toy) and the computer compares previous exposures of that area and reports any anomalies. With this technique amateurs have discovered numerous asteroids and even faint novae.

But, there are still those amateurs who like to gaze up into the firmament, just for pure inspiration. For them, there is the Texas Star Party, now in its third decade. No longer do they bring sophisticated telescopes but rather Dobsonians, RFTs and just plain old-fashioned binoculars. In today’s complex world, there is nothing that refreshes the soul like viewing the constellations at low power, or even with the naked eye. This is something that our technological world has nearly robbed us of.

This article was typed by me as written with no changes to the original text. Any typos introduced during the typing process are my doing. Many long-time members of the HAS will remember Leland, newer members may not.  He continued to attend HAS meetings at the University of Houston and participate in the activities of the organization until his passing.

This issue of the GuideStar (9/1987) also includes an Observatory Corner article and other items of interest to current HAS members. So, more to come.

Clear Skies to all;

Bill Pellerin, former GuideStar editor, former HAS President.

Many, maybe most of you, have at least dabbled in the famous Messier Catalogue as a good deep-sky starting point for your observing efforts.  The problem with Charlie Messier is that his catalogue has as a primary purpose, the identification and location of objects that looked suspiciously like comets through his 3.5-inch telescope.  After all, he was a world-renowned comet chaser. He did not want to waste his time looking at/for things that looked like, but were not, comets.

Comes the NGC/IC catalogues.  The New General Catalogue of Nebulae and Clusters of Stars (NGC) is an astronomical catalogue of deep-sky objects compiled by John Louis Emil Dreyer in 1888.  The NGC contains 7,840 objects, including galaxies, star clusters, and nebulae. Dreyer published two supplements to the NGC in 1895 and 1908, known as the Index Catalogues (IC) describing a further 5,386 astronomical objects.  Thousands of these objects are best known by their NGC or IC numbers, which remain in widespread use.

13,226 is a bunch of objects, many of which are low on the exciting scale or are just plain not visible in backyard telescopes.  However, some are quite spectacular and we can all enjoy them with reasonable glass and viewing conditions.  The following list contains a small group of the best NGC/IC objects easily visible in late winter.


Source: RASC Finest N.G.C. Objects v2 Observing List, evening of 2023 Feb 18

Sunset 18:17, Twilight ends 19:36, Twilight begins 05:41, Sunrise 07:00, Moon rise 06:50, Moon set 16:34

Completely dark from 19:36 to 05:41. New Moon. All times local (CST).

Listing All Classes.

The minimum visual difficulty of each object is either: visible, obvious, easy, or apparent, but not difficult, challenging, very difficult, or not visible.  These ratings according to Sky Tools 4 Pro based on a nominal 8-inch SCT telescope under fair to good observing conditions.

Primary ID                        Alternate ID       RA (Ap)               Dec (Ap)              Mag      Rise       Transit  Set

Blue Racquetball             NGC 6572           18h13m12.5s   +06°51'22"             8.0         02:23   08:41   15:03

Cat's Eye Nebula             NGC 6543           17h58m31.3s   +66°37'31"             8.3            -           08:26      - 

Blue Snowball                  NGC 7662           23h26m58.4s   +42°39'41"             8.6         05:43   13:58   22:09

Clown Face                       Eskimo Nebula  07h30m33.4s   +20°51'51"             8.6         15:07   22:00   04:53

Blinking Planetary           NGC 6826           19h45m23.3s   +50°34'35"             8.8         01:11   10:13   19:19

Cleopatra's Eye                NGC 1535           04h15m20.4s   -12°41'02"              9.4         13:12   18:45   00:19

Turtle Nebula                   NGC 6210           16h45m27.0s   +23°45'10"             9.7         00:12   07:13   14:18

Ghost of Jupiter               Eye                      10h25m53.7s   -18°45'37"              8.6         19:37   00:55   06:13

NGC 281                           IC 1590               00h54m08.0s   +56°45'19"             6.7         05:07   15:25   01:39

h Persei                              Double Cluster  02h20m36.3s   +57°14'15"             4.6         06:24   16:51   03:14

NGC 7027                         n/a                      21h07m51.2s   +42°19'33"             9.6         03:26   11:35   19:49

Chi Persei                         NGC 884             02h23m54.9s   +57°14'41"             4.7         06:27   16:54   03:18

ET Cluster                         Dragonfly           01h21m00.4s   +58°24'36"             4.7         04:57   15:51   02:42

NGC 2244                         NGC 2239           06h33m09.1s   +04°55'27"             4.7         14:49   21:03   03:17

PRACTICE PATIENCE!! Spending time with each of these deep-sky wonders will pay dividends in the amount of detail you’ll see. Don’t worry about rushing out right away on a subpar night.  Many of the objects on this list will linger high in the sky throughout most of the late winter and early spring.

RESEARCH!! I encourage you to perform a little research before embarking on your journey to help you understand the science behind the object and to appreciate its beauty.  I have found Wikipedia to be a good source.  But there are plenty of resources with more details.  Track them down.

REMEMBER!! The only rules for any observation session are to embrace the challenge and to have fun!

Jim King

Ex astris scientia, y’all