The HAS Observatory

Dark Site Observatory

Society members enjoy dark skies at our observatory located eighty miles west of downtown Houston.  In this aerial view, you can see how our dark site earned its nickname Padhenge*. The observing field offers 38 concrete pads arranged in a circular pattern to best make use of the horizon. Electricity for powering telescope tracking devices is available within 50 feet of each pad. WiFi is available for remote telescope control or for other computer applications that require the Internet. Several star parties are held at the site each year, in addition to the Annual Picnic. Stephen Jones, field trip and observing committee chair, organizes these events.

Camping and Facilities

The site features a bunkhouse that's available for overnight stays. The bunkhouse is an air conditioned and heated building that sleeps four. A new female and family bunkhouse is under construction.  A permanent restroom building with hot water and showers is a short walk away from the observation field. Spaces are available for both tent camping and RVs.

Here you can see the attendance at a recent Star Party at the dark site. Also note the new private observatories being built at the upper left portion of the picture and the trailers along the tree line. Come out and join in the fun.
 

*  For a recounting of the Founder's Day event held at the Observatory in 2014, see the History section of this website.

Observatory Building with Sliding Roof

The observatory building, with a sliding roof, is home to three telescopes. The south wall folds down as well, to gain full access to the southern horizon.  A few members have viewed one star of the Southern Cross from this site. The 16 x 33 main room is cinder block construction with a thick steel roof weighing an estimated 3 tons. A chart room, with its desk, reference charts, and two comfortable cots keeps its roof on for use on those cold nights.

Telescopes

Three telescopes permanently mounted inside the observatory building are available to members upon completion of a training session.  Leftmost is the 12.5" f/5 built in the late ‘70s. It is used primarily for visual observing and has been fitted with encoders for operation as a “push to” telescope. It was originally designed to be transportable and then later modified to be permanently mounted in the observatory. It is a low profile scope in that the vertically challenged need only a step stool to get to the eyepiece when the scope is at the zenith.

The scope on the right is a recently acquired Paramount MX mount upon which an Astro-Tech Ritchey–Chrétien 12" OTA has been mounted.  This telescope is a GoTo “robotic mount” which must be controlled either by computer control or the electronic hand paddle. It is normally setup for visual observing, but can also be used for astrophotography once an additional orientation session has been taken.  

The telescope in the center is a fork mounted Celestron-14 that is used extensively for both visual observing and astrophotography. The telescope has been fitted with computer-controlled drive motors for tracking and GoTo capabilities.

Observatory and Site Access

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.

The HAS observatory building is available to individuals who have been a member at least six months, who are in good standing, and who have completed the observatory training course. The training course, run by John Haynes, runs from afternoon through evening and is held on a new-moon weekend, please contact John Haynes for more details. You'll need to bring a sack lunch and a notebook.

Contact observatory director Mike Edstrom for more information.

To book observatory telescopes and/or weekend trailer slot, contact Steve Goldberg.

Observatory Booking Calendar

July 2016

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Steve Goldberg 12" RC
 
 
Stephen Jones C14
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Stephen Jones C14
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Brian Cudnik
C14
 
Rene Gedaly
12.5" f/5
 
Don Selle 12" RC
 
 
 
 
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