by Don Selle
Its an old tradition to make New Year’s resolutions, to think ahead optimistically about what we will do and what we will change in the coming year. Many resolutions are centered on self-improvement or doing things better. This year we will also consider which pandemic required changes to our lives we will keep and which will go.
For example, while resolutions about weight loss are common, I have resolved to lose my “pandemic paunch”. Then there is Zoom. While online meetings had been a work only necessity, my extended family scattered across US and international locations has resolved to stay closer by Zooming regularly in the new year.
So what will your New Year resolutions be? Hopefully, you will make some resolutions that will be rewarding or fun to keep. Might I suggest a few related to astronomy?
First, resolve to renew your HAS membership for 2021. Being a part of a group of people who share your common interest is a sure way for you to continue to learn and progress.
If you are new to astronomy and HAS in 2020, you might consider resolving to:
- Start and complete your first AL (Astronomical League) observing program. Two that are geared towards new astronomers are the “Beyond Polaris” and “Constellation Hunter” observing programs that will help you learn the night sky. And you may also consider the “Universe Sampler” program authored by HAS member Amelia Goldberg. More info at:
- If you haven’t already done so, resolve to make your first trip out to the HAS Dark Site. Once your membership is renewed, you can take the Dark Site orientation, and upon completion of a 10 question quiz, you will be given the combination to the gate. For your first trip there, you may want to go when you know others will be there. Watch the HAS website Facebook group or email list for notification of an Dark Site event, or reach out to the membership to see who might also be planning to be there.
If you are a more seasoned visual observer, you might want to consider:
- Starting an advanced AL observing program such as the Heschel 400 Observing Program. You will need to complete this program to earn your Master Observer Award
- Participating in the HAS Texas 45 program. This observing program requires that you observe 45 objects from the HAS Dark Site. If you have already started on the program, be aware that Program Coordinator, Rene Gedaly may be making some changes to the program again this year. Stay on top of the program at https://www.astronomyhouston.org/programs/has-texas-45
- Find an online astronomy course you can take such as can be found at Coursera:
- Assuming the pandemic recedes in 2021 - plan to attend a star party in 2021. The Texas Star Party (TSP) scheduled for May 2-9 may be an early option, or the Okie-Tex and El Dorado (ESP) star parties scheduled for later in the fall may work better.
- If you are not already a member, consider joining the HAS VSig (Visual Special Interest Group). This group has its own email list and meets regularly online. Members share their observing experiences, equipment recommendations, tips and tricks.
If you are new to or planning to jump into Astrophotography you might want to consider:
- Finding a good online resource for astrophotography information. There are many online resources. One website many have found helpful because of its many tutorials and equipment reviews is AstroBackard https://astrobackyard.com/
- Join the HAS APSig (Astrophotography Special Interest Group). This is a group and email list of HAS members who are astro-imagers of all experience levels. Share your images with others, ask questions and get advice from others who will help you improve your technique.
- If you haven’t done so already, take your imaging rig to the HAS Dark Site. The darker skies there by themselves will improve your images, and you will meet other HAS astro-imagers as well.
- Consider attending a Star Party held in very dark skies, such as TSP, Okie-Tex or ESP.
Setting a few goals for your astronomy life early in the new year is a good way to get the most out of the time you can devote to this very interesting and fulfilling endeavor.
Wishing you a good healthy and prosperous New Year, and I hope to see you out on the observing field in 2021!