President's Letter

Original article appears in GuideStar August, 2017.

by Rene S Gedaly

Where will you be for the Great American Eclipse?

Many of our members will be stationed all along the center line from Oregon to South Carolina. Will you be closer to home August 21? Get to the Houston Museum of Natural Science. They’ll be having an eclipse viewing. Details in this GuideStar.

HAS SIGs. There's one for you

You know about the Women's SIG. The Pizza & Planets event in July included food, discussion, and a neighborhood lighting tour. When the clouds parted, we set up in the backyard to view Luna, Jupiter, and Saturn on a 90mm refractor and 8-inch reflector. Then all tried their hand at lunar photography on cellphones. Check it out on the Forums>Special Interest Groups>WSIG.

But there are others. The Visual SIG meets each month at the Mendenhall Community Center with lively discussions about observing projects and tips of the trade. This is not a place to talk equipment—unless you're talking about nebula filters to help you see those faint fuzzies.

You know you'd love a Dobsonian light bucket but you don't yet own pair of binoculars. Where do you start? The Novice Telescope Lab, also held at Mendenhall, 1414 Wirt Road. Watch the Coming Events calendar on the website for the next date.

HAS is a family friendly club. Need proof? We now have a Kids SIG! (We also have a large room in the new bunkhouse for families compliments of the observatory committee.) Outfitted with an Orion tabletop Dob and Nikon 7x35 binoculars, HAS kids can sit at their kid-sized picnic table and work on observing projects of their own. Check the website Programs tab for details.

The HAS Texas 45 has an imaging counterpart?! Come on you astrophotogs, earn your own pin and certificate. Details on the website Programs tab.

Why SIGs? Why all the programs?

Many longtime members got turned on to astronomy in the 60s with the space program. Remember 1969? I’m a child of that era and learned to love the stars as a girl. That curiosity about the universe did not end with my generation but its expression has changed immensely for today’s hobbyist, many of whom live on the Internet.

Tailoring programs to various segments of our wider community has resulted in major growth in the number of women and girls, fathers and families, and grade school, high school and college students who participate in hands-on astronomy, which we believe is a gateway science to the other STEM fields.

I suppose we sound like evangelists, and we are. Our outreach program is composed of experienced and getting-there observers and educators who visit clubs, schools, religious groups, museums and all kinds of community groups across Greater Houston giving talks and setting up telescopes in parking lots and fields—hoping for clear enough skies to give everyone who wants it a peek at the universe.

Already we see the beginnings of a new type of hobbyist, one based on the use of robotic telescopes operated from the comfort of one’s own home. It’s coming to HAS, too, perhaps as soon as 2018.

Astronomy is far from a dying hobby. For all who turn their eyes to the night sky and wonder, the art and science of astronomy awaits.

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