September 2015

President’s Message

Original article appears in GuideStar October, 2015.

by Rene Gedaly, President

Walt Cooney

Walt Cooney, Variable Star Discoverer

No doubt you already know of the most recent discoveries made at the HAS dark site near Columbus by Walt Cooney. But maybe you haven’t seen the man himself and the scope that made it happen. Walt made the discovery of two variable stars, UCAC4 427-090942 and UCAC4 425-096646, which were accepted into the VSX database by the AAVSO, American Association of Variable Star Observers. Here he is in his private observatory at the Dark Site, the Starry Night Observatory.


Don Selle

Don Selle, Author

I’ll bet you enjoy reading Don’s writings as much as I do—as do those around the world who read the GuideStar and our “excellent website.” One of his articles recently attracted the attention of author Norman Butler whose book Building and Using Binoscopes was published by Springer last November. Here’s part of Butler’s request:

I came across your excellent website and I found an article written by Mr. Don Selle about the famous “WOW! Signal.”  If possible and with your kind permission, I would like to include this excellent article in its entirety … in Chapter 6 in a new book I am currently writing called The Alien Universe due to be published early next year.

Congratulations, Don. Wow, indeed!

Brian Cudnik

Brian Cudnik: An Observer Observes

Speaking of authors, Brian Cudnik—author, editor for Springer Publishing, and Astronomical League Master Observer—has just earned a Texas 45 observing pin and silver level award certificate. Reading Brian’s observing notes was reading poetry. It has me determined to observe the program again on the C-14 so I can try spotting some of what Brian's expert eye teases out.

Astronomy Day 2015: Sign Up!

Astronomy Day 2015 is staffed by members of these regional organizations:

  • FBAC - Fort Bend Astronomy Club
  • HAS - Houston Astronomical Society
  • JSCAS - Johnson Space Center Astronomical Society 
  • ASSET - Astronomical Society of South East Texas
  • The Insperity Observatory at Humble ISD
  • NHAC - North Houston Astronomy Club

Join thousands of astronomy enthusiasts Saturday, October 24 from 3:00 to 10:00 p.m. at the George Observatory located in Brazos Bend State Park.

Be a part. Volunteer now

Two Variable Stars Discovered at HAS Dark Site by Walt Cooney

HAS Variable Star Discovery 2HAS Variable Star Discovery 1

Says Walt Cooney, discoverer of variable stars UCAC4 427-090942 and UCAC4 425-096646:

            Our dark site now has its first two variable star discoveries. I found these in the Scutum Milky Way and imaged them over several nights in July to get a light curve. They are both W UMa eclipsing binaries with periods of about half a day.

Walt discovered these objects in July from his personal observatory at the dark site, Starry Night Observatory, and submitted them to the AAVSO. The AAVSO has become the central repository for variable star discoveries in recent years via the VSX database. More than 330,000 variable stars are currently cataloged. Walt's discoveries have been submitted and accepted to the database. Shown here are the phased light curves for each. 

 Congratulations and Clearest Skies, Walt!

Observatory Corner

Original article appears in GuideStar September, 2015.

New Observatory Pads

by Mike Edstrom, Observatory Director

I am pleased to tell you that all the pads in the second addition of private observatories have been leased. During the past week San Bernard electric upgraded the transformer on the west side of the site and Grindt Electric hooked up the new power system so the power is on and ready for new observatories. Construction on the new observatories is moving right along as 3 of them are under construction and I’m hearing from several others they are planning a concrete pour for piers and floors soon.

The Observatory committee has several items on the list of projects for 2016 and once we have funding we will be announcing them. If you have any suggestions please contact me to have them added to the list for consideration. 

President's Message

Original article appears in GuideStar September, 2015.

Bill Flanagan

by Rene Gedaly, President

We have many accomplished members in HAS. We have many dedicated volunteers as well. But we have only a few members on whom we've been able to depend when times got rough. Bill Flanagan is one of them.

Bill is an officer of the society and serves as Secretary again this year. He joined HAS in 1986 and his service record includes Treasurer (many times), Director, Advanced Special Interest Group chair, and Telescope chair. He organizes a variety of outreach activities including Fathers & Flashlights and the Houston Arboretum Star Parties and is an in demand speaker. Outside of HAS, he regularly serves as master of ceremonies for the afternoon talks at the Texas Star Party and authors observing programs for the Eldorado Star Party (ESP). In the photo at left, you see he’s also an active member of the observatory committee.

As for tough times, Bill has pulled us out of the lurch many times when a key position went vacant for which we can’t thank him enough. But Bill is rotating off the board this year and as we see above, he has many projects to keep him busy. Again, thank you, Bill. It won't be the same on the board without you.

Make this your year. Join the leadership team! We have the most fun money can't buy. Contact Nominating Committee Chairperson VP John Haynes

Iridium Flares—A Bright Light in the Sky

Original article appears in GuideStar September, 2015.

by Bill Pellerin, GuideStar Editor


Object: Iridium Satellites
Class: Satellites
Magnitude: Can be very bright
Location in the sky: Varies, but predictable

Why this object is interesting: Timing is everything. And a bit of planning helps too. The photo by Loyd Overcash is a good representation of what you’ll see in the night sky. This picture was taken over a few seconds. What you see is a satellite that brightens considerably over the few seconds that it’s visible to a sharp peak in brightness for perhaps a second.

What are these satellites, and why are they so bright? This ‘constellation’ of 66 satellites has been in low earth orbit (485 miles up) since 1998. The purpose of the satellites was to provide direct-to-satellite global communications capability. Many parts of the world do not have cell phone capabilities and the idea was to be able to communicate (i.e. make a phone call) from anywhere on the planet to anywhere else on the planet. As a business proposition, the service wasn’t successful. It was too expensive, and, as cell service became ubiquitous, less necessary. There remain places for which the Iridium network represents the only way to communicate — the South Pole, for example. Click the read more button

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