February 2017

Asterisms – Triple Double, Theta Tau

Original article appears in GuideStar March, 2017.

Asterism Theta Tau

by Steve Goldberg

Asterism: a grouping of stars that form a recognizable pattern 
Constellation: Taurus
Right Ascension: 04 h, 30 m
Declination: 16° 00’

As mentioned at the Novice seminar in January, 2017, the asterism “Triple Double” is easily seen in small telescopes. It is located in Taurus, near bright star Aldebaran. Going from Aldebaran to the “point” star in the head of the bull (Gamma 54), the asterism is the naked eye star, Theta, between the two. In the eyepiece you will see 3 pairs of 2 stars around the field of view. The groups of stars are: Theta 1 and 2, and 80 and 81, and the pair in the upper left of the FOV (field of view). The FOV in the second picture is from a 10” telescope with a 15mm eyepiece.

Future asterisms: “37”, Coat Hanger, Star Gate and NGC 457 (“ET”). If you have a favorite asterism, let me know.

President’s Letter

Original article appears in GuideStar March, 2017.

Rene Gedaly, HAS President

The WSIG will be starting a class on observing the HAS Texas 45. This class is open to all members of HAS but RSVPs are required. Our homegrown observing program is held at the Dark Site and is totally accessible to the novice observer who’s got a few rudimentary skills. For instance, at the Novice Observing Labs you’ve been learning the constellations for each season—ditto for Novice talks at UH—and at the Novice Telescope Lab, you’ve learned the basics of telescope operation.

My newbie test case, who has attended neither yet, completed 8 of 10 required objects on the winter list her first night out using only binoculars, the observatory 12.5" f/5 telescope, and a planisphere. With a little guidance, you can do it, too. Watch the website for details or send questions to [email protected].

The Novice Telescope Lab last month reported a full complement of attendees with four on the waiting list. The next class is 7-8:30 pm April 11, 2017 at the Mendenhall Community Center. Watch Netslyder, our email list, for the notice about making your RSVP.

Did you work on the new Women's & Family Bunkhouse? We're planning a big open house and the Prez wants to acknowledge you publicly. Please let me know if you helped, whether nailing, mudding, designing or schlepping. I've got some pictures with plenty of people helping throughout the last year but I don't recognize all of you by name. Don't be bashful. Let me know who you are at [email protected].

The first class of the new observatory training was a huge success with twelve members attending and everyone passed! Speaking of passing, you have done your online site training, haven't you? The gate code is changing March 4, yikes. I know, I know, you haven't taken a test in 30 years and that was with paper and pencil. But really, it's an easy quiz and you get to miss two of ten and still pass. Lots going on at the dark site. You don’t want to miss it.

Students in observatory training

Shallow Sky Object: 55 Eridani – Double Star

Original article appears in GuideStar March, 2017.

by Bill Pellerin
55 Eridani, a double star
Object: 55 Eridani, SAO131443, STF590
Class: Double Star
Constellation: Eridanus
Magnitude: 5.98 (6.7, 6.8)
R.A.: 4 h, 43 m, 35 s
Dec: -8° 47’ 40”
Size/Spectral: F4
Separation/PA: 9.2 arc seconds; 317 degrees
Distance: 406 ly
Optics needed: A small telescope

If you’re a reader of Astronomy magazine you may have run across Glenn Chaple’s article in the March, 2017 issue called “Double star marathon redux”. The idea is to create a double star marathon list to complement the Messier list. Most of us know that in March it’s possible to see all the Messier objects in a single night. If a Messier marathon isn’t enough for you, try the double-star marathon. (Information on how to get the list is in the article, or just email Glenn at [email protected]. com.)

The Messier list is 110 objects, and the double star list is 110 double stars. Any chance you could complete them both in a single night?

There’s not much that can compete with double stars for observing opportunities.

  • They’re often bright pairs
  • Visible even in light polluted skies
  • They don’t require large optics (but do require good optics)

The star pair that I’ve chosen from Glenn’s list is a good one in that it is relatively bright, the stars are within .1 magnitude of each other, and the separation is large enough that even modest telescopes will split it easily.


President’s letter

Original article appears in GuideStar February, 2017.

by Rene Gedaly

EXEMPLARY SERVICE 2016 Presidents Exemplary Service Award to Mike Edstrom

If you were with us in January, you know what a difficult decision I had choosing one person only to receive my annual exemplary service award. It was an outstanding year for HAS with an inspired team of volunteers; I was both proud and humbled to award each leader a certificate at the meeting.

Netizens know about the transformation going on at the HAS Observatory and Dark Site. While Mike is the first to tell you about all the dedicated members it takes to run the place—much less improve it—this time I wasn't going to let him get away with giving away all the credit. Mike Edstrom, Observatory Director, is the recipient of the 2016 President's Exemplary Service Award in recognition of his inspired leadership transforming the Houston Astronomical Society Observatory and Dark-sky Site. Congratulations, Mike. My sincere thanks.

Karla in the chart roomHAS INTERN

Karla Pale (pronounced Pah-lay) is a new student member and high school senior who's enamored of astronomy. She's also our first official intern at HAS. Karla and I spent three 24-hr days at the observatory recently where she learned to operate the f/5 and C-14 telescopes in the evenings and during the day researched the literature for her senior paper on the indirect detection of dark matter.

She'll join the science fair winners at the June membership meeting to give a talk on her findings. A big thanks to Chris Ober and Jack MacDonough for getting the new mount and software ready for the C-14. What a special use of the observatory. And I finally ran across someone else who giggles looking at the moon.

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