April 2015

President's Message

Original article appears in GuideStar May, 2015.

by Rene Gedaly

We hope you’ve been enjoying our monthly meetings, both the novice sessions and the speakers at the general membership meetings. Longtime members will notice our meeting arrangements have changed a bit. We’ve found that meeting in the same room for both meetings helps streamline setup and allows the best sound system for all presenters ...

Texas Star Party. Are you going this year? Steve Goldberg has e-mailed Netslyder subscribers some especially good info about what to bring, how to set up on the field and where ...
Audit Committee. HAS is run by an army of volunteers, too. Here again we find Scott. You may have seen him recently filling in at the badge table or setting up a rather rickety easel ...
Urban Observing.  (C)oordinating the effort: Steve Munsey ... serving as a contact person for impromptu observing get togethers at George Bush park when good skies allow ... 
Observatory. Every time I get ready to share some breaking news about the observatory, I find Mike Edstrom has already moved on to the next big thing. In his April Observatory ...
Board Meeting. Speaking of board meetings, the next one is Tuesday, May 26, at the Houston Arboretum ... Don Selle will be facilitating at a workshop ... Your input will be solicited ...

Click read more for the complete article

New director, Bill Kowalczyk

Thuban‒The Once and Future Pole Star

Original article appears in GuideStar April, 2015.

by Bill Pellerin, GuideStar editor

Thuban Finder Chart

Object: Thuban
Class: Star
Magnitude: 3.7
R.A.:   14 h,  04 m,  23 s
Dec:   64 degrees,   22 minutes, 33 seconds
Distance:   309 ly
Constellation: Draco
Spectral:  A0
Optics needed:  Unaided eye, binoculars or a small telescope

Why this object is interesting:

This star is also known as Alpha Dra, even though it’s only the 7th brightest star in the constellation. Why? It’s not clear why, but the star has been and will again be the star closest to the projection of the north pole of the Earth.

It was in 2500 BC that the star Thuban was closest to the north pole. TheSky (software) puts it at approximately 1.5 degrees away from the pole. Polaris was 32 degrees from the pole. We all know that the Earth wobbles on its axis and completes a wobble cycle in 26,000 years. In another 2000 years or so Errai (Gamma Cep) in Cepheus will be our pole star...

President's Message

Original article appears in GuideStar April, 2015.

by Rene Gedaly

New Members by Month

You may have wondered how I’ve been able to quote all the membership numbers each month to give you a clearer idea of who we are, or at least how many. A president has access, but it’s not total, and as for me, I rely on the knowledge and commitment of the committee chairs. So I get my numbers from Steve Fast, our membership chair and keeper of the member database.


For Steve, members are more than numbers, more than entries in a database. While he’s careful to keep your membership data accurate and your private information protected, he’s also the one who greets new members to the club with his informative welcome e-mail and gives us all a heads up when it’s time to renew (you did renew, didn’t you?). He’s also the friendly face at the membership table each meeting, the stellar star-hopper at the dark site ready to lend a hand, and past Field Trip & Observing chair who inspired successor Stephen Jones to take up the baton. I think of Steve as a friendly HAS ambassador. Many others know him as a helpful friend.

by the numbers

If you’ve been to the dark site a few times, you know Ed Fraini. Ed was one of the group who gave me my observatory training and helped me find Albireo in the 12.5” f/5 telescope. Sure I was intimidated, maybe fear is a better word. But what a rush when I found that colorful double star system myself. I’d long wondered who those guys were coming in and out of the observatory. Ed was one of them. Still is.

Some months ago I asked Ed to be part of the Long Range Planning committee to test a concept: Can we learn something about who we are, where we are, and where we’re going just by looking at the numbers? Steve fed Ed the data he needed, and Ed took that data—nothing personally identifiable—and went to work. At his presentation to the board in March, he showed us how much he was able to tease out. Concept proved, and the board has given him the green light to continue. I include one of his informative charts in this article...

An interesting question Ed sought to answer was whether the dark site was a prime driver of membership in the Society. Perhaps betraying a little bias, Ed told the board that he expected the answer to be a resounding yes. What he found instead was that fewer than half of HAS members were eligible to access the site. Possible answers to this surprising finding raise more questions, ones we think we can solve and others we’re unlikely to find answers to without asking directly. 

Observatory Open House and Picnic—don’t miss it
Want to take a look through one of the observatory telescopes? Here’s your chance. Get to the Observatory Open House and Picnic Saturday April 11. More info on the website calendar. It’s bring your own K-Cups for the Keurig machine but otherwise food and drink provided if you RSVP. So come out for the picnic, get to know your neighbors, and check out the bluebonnets along the way.

April a good time for us early bird observers
April is a good time to be an early bird observer with two nice events. First a partial lunar eclipse in Houston, umbra at 04:03 a.m. Saturday April 4. Then the Lyrid meteor shower, and who doesn’t love a meteor shower? Check your usual sources, but it peaks in the hours before dawn April 22 and April 23.

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