January 2018

Volume XVIII Number 1


This Month's Upcoming events


January 26

General Meeting

Lone Star College,

Montgomery Campus

Note this change!

Do not go to Kingwood!

See below!


Next Month's Events


February 2

Insperity Observatory Public Night.

See below.


February 17

Star Party and BBQ

O'Brien Dark Site

See below.


February 23

General Meeting

Lone Star College

Montgomery Campus!

See below.


January 26, 2018

Please note the changed location below!


Novice Session

6:30 P.M.

Montgomery Campus!

Building B, Second Floor

Astronomy Classroom, Room 203


"Special Sights in 2018, Winter Constellations and the Aurora Borealis"

Presented by Dr. Bruce Pollard, PhD, NHAC


Main Meeting

7:30 P.M., Lone Star College

Montgomery Campus!

Building B, Room 102Lecture:

"Missions Launching in 2018: TESS and InSight"

Presented by Annie Wargetz, MS in Space Sciences

NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador Volunteer

NHAC Founding Member


What's Up Doc?"

by Dr. Aaron Clevenson for next month

will be posted on the NHAC Website.


 >>>>Very Important Special Notice:<<<<


Due to flooding at the Kingwood Campus, we have had to move our meetings to temporary "quarters" at the Montgomery Campus.  This is long and detailed, but it is the best I could do to pass the information to anyone who has never been to the Montgomery campus:


The campus is located on State Highway 242, just west of IH45.  This is basically the north side of The Woodlands.  The LSC Montgomery campus is on the North side of 242.  We will meet in Room B-102.



OK, so we still don't know how to get to the meeting?  I'm going to give it a shot:

Coming on SH 242 from the West, the first entrance to the campus is the second stoplight AFTER passing Gosling.  Turn left onto West Campus Drive and go about a quarter mile, past the open parking lots, and park in the multi-story covered parking garage.  Hang tight, more in a minute.


Coming from the East, from IH45, after a couple of blocks or so there will be a series of 4 entrances to the campus on your right.  The first entrance is Maverick Way.  Do not take that.  Go to the fourth entrance which is named West Campus Drive and turn right. (There is a stoplight at this entrance.) Go about a quarter mile  past the open parking lots and park in the multi-story covered parking garage.



Now we have both groups, the Westerners and the Easterners in the parking garage.  Whew!!



When you come out of the parking garage towards the campus, the building straight in front of you is the B building.  Recall we are going to have the general meeting in B-102.  Entering the building, you proceed straight ahead until you reach a hallway going off to the right.  There are stairs at this point.  Make the right turn, but do not go up these stairs.   Have faith and keep going.  After one more right corner and a brief search you will find Room B-102 where we will have the Main Meeting at 7:30 P.M.



Wait a minute!  What about the Novice session at 6:30 P.M.?  It happens that will be on the second floor, in the Astronomy Classroom, Room 203, almost exactly above the meeting Room, B-102.  If you orient yourself to the meeting room, B-102, then you can easily backtrack, go up the stairs in the stair-well next to B-102, and locate the Astronomy room, 203.



Bruce Pollard sent us this about the food plans:

With our move to LSC Montgomery we lose our snack subsidy but we have a proposal to keep the Subways coming.  It is called pay it forward.  We have received a donation to cover the first meeting.  Now there will be a jar (maybe a hat?) for people who can contribute to put in some cash to pay for the next meeting snacks.  After this month we will see if we have received enough to continue snacks at our normal level.  As usual anyone wanting to help pick up the food will be reimbursed.



I will continue this posting for as long as we continue to meet at the Montgomery Campus, LSC.





1.  The Club Officers for 2018 are:

President --                              Susan Pollard

Vice-President--                        Bruce Pollard

Secretary--                               Mike Comeaux

Treasurer--                               Joana Tan

Newsletter Editor--                    Rusty Hill

Astronomical League Coord.--    Aaron Clevenson

Webmaster--                            Justin McCollum

Observation Committee Chair--  James Billings

Membership Committee Chair--  Carlos Gramajo

Program Committee Chair---      Todd Sullivan


Thanks and appreciation to the retiring as well as the continuing Officers, and Welcome to the new folks who have stepped up.  We appreciate you all!


2.  Our Astronomical League Coordinator is Dr. Aaron Clevenson.  The Astronomical League URL is: https://www.astroleague.org/


Aaron shares the following with us:


It's 2018.  I hope that one of your New Year's resolutions was to dive into an Astronomical League Observing Program.  I am your AL-Coordinator for 2018, and I am looking forward to you all making me work very hard.  The AL has over 65 different certifications and there are new ones every year.  There is something for everyone, at every level, every experience level, and covering everything from naked-eye observing to large telescopes.  Where is your niche?  Where is your interest?


The newest one is the Mars Observing Program.  It is designed for visual observations as well as imaging, and the window for good observations begins in February.  There will be more details on the Astrolist list server, but now is the time to begin planning. There are observations of various features and effects.  This is expected to be a great apparition of Mars, so don't miss out on this opportunity.


A recent addition to the Observing Programs from the AL includes the Master Observer Progression.  It has 6 levels, and is designed to provide a road-map and recognition from novice through expert. It starts with the Observer Award for the newbees.  After you complete 5 introductory level Observing Programs, you will be recognized.  Master Observer is for those attaining 10 certifications.  It goes up from there through Advanced Observer, Master Observer - Silver, Master Observer - Gold, and Master Observer - Platinum.  There is also a new Binocular Master Observer for those who prefer binocular observations.  Check out the Astronomical League website:



NASA and the AL are also preparing 3 more NASA Observing Challenges for 2018.  they will include observing the Sun, Mars, and a star with an extrasolar planet.  More info to come.


So what is holding you back?  Opportunities abound, and the more experienced members of your astronomy club are here to help you start your journey.  If I can help, please email me: aaron@clevenson.org


Aaron also reminds us of another coming event:


It is that time of year again when we, the astronomers of NHAC, shall attempt to observe all 110 objects of the Messier Marathon in one night.


We are scheduling the event on Saturday, March 17, 2018 at the O'Brien Dark Site.  You are invited to join us for an hour, 4 hours, or all night. No telescope?  No problem!  All of us are excited to share what we see in our telescopes.


The object of the Messier Marathon is to see all 110 objects on Charles Messier's list in one night of observing.  It makes for a long, but rewarding night.  In the past, our members have seen up into the 80s, but clouds, dew, and light pollution all conspired against us.  We shall try again this year.  Please plan to arrive before sunset on March 17.  We will be using binoculars and many telescopes to try to see all of the objects.  Some are quite difficult.  We have all kinds of observers too.


     1. Casual Observers - those who come for the fun and excitement, stay as long as they can, and just enjoy the views.  They may see 5 objects, they may see 20.


     2. Standard Observers - those who would like to complete the entire marathon, but are quite content to use go-to telescopes that belong to others.


     3. Purists - those who enjoy a real challenge and are not afraid of a little pain.  They plan to find all 110 themselves, and manually.


I personally fall into group 2.  I would like to see them all in one night, but go-to is okay with me.  So please put the date on your calendar and plan to join us.  We will have drinks at the Dark Site.  You should bring a comfy chair, snacks, bug spray (just in case), and a red flashlight.  Bring binoculars if you have them, and your own telescope if you want to chase some of them down yourself.  We will provide the site, a tour guide, a checklist, and some experts with telescopes.  We will publish the checklist on the Astrolist list server, so you can do the marathon at your own site or at home.


This is the year!  I can feel it!  We will succeed.


Aaron Clevenson, NHAC AL-Cor


3.   Follow-up Item:  Spectroscopy at Insperity.

Our honors student who furnished the central focus of our spectroscopy last semester finished her program, using the 150 lines per mm grating at the Insperity Observatory.  She is taking Dr. Clevenson's other Astronomy course this semester, and is continuing with her spectroscopy program.  Instead of using the 150 lines per mm grating, she will by using our high resolution grating, at 2400 lines per mm.  This will require us to become proficient in the use of the ISIS processing program, written by C. Buil, a member of the Optical Team of the European Space Agency.  It will also demand that we have success in guiding and stacking images of relatively faint objects, made somewhat fainter by having the light dispersed by the grating.  It will be challenging!


Anyone who would like to participate is welcome.  I will send out emails to the spectroscopy list as we get the program underway.


For those interested in learning about Amateur Spectroscopy using an effective but inexpensive grating filter, information is available in the introductory manual by Ken M. Harrison, available from Amazon, entitled "Grating Spectroscopes and How to Use Them".  It is detailed, and full of good information.  I have learned a lot from studying this book.


I have personally been using the 200 line per mm Star Analyzer with my DSLR, and it has also been a very useful learning tool.


If you would like to join our working group or simply learn something about Spectroscopy, let me know by email and I will include you in my group emails.


4.  For all members, please remember to pick up your Name Badge before the meeting, wear it, and return it after this meeting so you will still have a name tag at the next meeting.  We do not want any members to be nameless.


5. The  General Meeting Schedule for 2018 is:

January 26

February 23

March 23

April 27

May 25

June 22

July 27

August 24

September 28

October 26

November 16

December 14


   Star Party and BBQ:

February 172018

Sunset on February 17 will be at 6:18 P.M.  and the moon will be be setting at 8:04 P.M. so "Moonshine" should not be a problem.  In fact it will be difficult to even see the thin crescent of the Moon.  Depending on the weather, it could be a very good evening for observing.


At this time of the year, even if the day is pleasantly warm, it will get pretty cool if not downright cold after the sun goes down.  Dress warmly, and bring some sort of hot drinks with you.  You will be glad you have them.


The Summer Triangle is gone.  Only Deneb, in Cygnus, will be visible for a short while in the  northwest.  To make up for that lack, we will have  the Andromeda Constellation and the Great Square of Pegasus visible to the west.  The Triangulum, Pisces, Perseus, Auriga and Gemini will all be high and mostly overhead.


The Orion Constellation, with the gorgeous Orion Nebula-- M42-- will be spectacular to the southeast, fairly high in the sky.  Sirius, in Canis Major, will be very bright.  The only easily seen planet will be Mars, mostly overhead, but somewhat to the west.The only planets will be Uranus and Neptune, somewhat to the west.



Given that Sunset is at (or about) 6:18 P.M., we will probably start serving about 5:00 P.M.  That should give us time to socialize, eat, clean up and get ready to observe.  James will likely be firing up the grill about 4:30. He will have hot dogs and hamburgers, with buns and condiments. There will be cold drinks, but given that this will be February, it would be a good idea for everyone to bring whatever hot drinks you would like for when it gets colder after dark.


Also do have warm layers with you. The difference between late afternoon with the sun shining and 9 or 10 o'clock in the dark is appalling!  Maybe I mentioned this before?


We do invite you to bring  whatever you would like as a pot-luck sort of item.  Going along with that, I do have a personal request for everyone.  Actually 2 requests:

1.  Please help us get picked up before dark.

And 2.  If you bring any items which are not finished up by the other members, please plan to take it home with you.  That would be a real help.  Thanks.


If you are new to the club  this event is especially for you.  We, the members, are the reason we have observing events such as this, and it is a great occasion to get familiar with observing.  We do have 10" Dobsonian scopes available at the Dark Site for your use, and there will be several other scopes available for all to try.  And do bring a Binocular-- you can do lots of successful observing with nothing more.


NHAC Club Policy is that the focus of the Star Parties will be to give as much assistance as possible to new observers.


For those who may not have been to the O'Brien Dark Site, it is just north of Dobbin, which is on Highway 105 west of Montgomery.  It has reasonably dark skies, and a great low horizon in all directions.  The Owners, Tim and Wanda O'Brien are very generous hosts, and they do turn off any outside lights which might bother us, if we remember to ask.


The specific Dark Site location is password protected.  Any club officer can give you the password, but it is



Access to the Dark Site must be requested from the O'Briens in advance via the NHAC email.  It is only necessary for any 1 member to request access-- Access approved for any of us is access approved for all of us.


On our NHAC web site, click on "Observing" then select "O'Brien Dark Site".  Scroll down to the O'Brien Dark Site information and look for the "detailed directions" link.  You will need to enter the password.  There are maps as well as directions.  It is well worth the drive, which is about 6 or 7 minutes driving time North of Dobbin off of State Highway 105 west of Montgomery.


Star Parties are routinely scheduled for the Saturday on, just before, or just after the New Moon throughout the year.  This is to provide the best opportunity for dark skies.


2018 New Moon dates, followed by planned Star Party dates, are:

February 15, SP and BBQ on 2/17

March 16, SP on 3/17

April 15, SP on 4/14

May 14, SP on 5/12

June 13, SP on 6/9

July 12, SP on 7/14

August 10, SP on 8/11

September 9, SP on 9/8

October 8, SP on 10/6

November 7, SP on 11/3

December 6, SP on 12/8

The plan is to have 3 more BBQs throughout the year.  We will announce the dates.

NHAC is a proud member of:

Astronomical League/NASA Night Sky Network/International Dark-Sky Association

Insperity Observatory, Humble I.S.D.

Public Night will be on Friday, February 2, 2018


Sunset will be at  5:59P.M.  The moon will rise 8:36 P.M. The moon will not be a factor until shortly before closing, but should be a good view when it climbs above the Observatory walls.


Doors will be open by about 5:45P.M. and remain open to the public until 10:00 P.M.


These Public Nights are a tremendous opportunity for us to be a part of Astronomy Outreach, and also to observe with scopes we might never get to use, otherwise.  The Observatory has a 6" Takahashi refractor, a 16" Meade Schmidt-Cassegrain, and a 20" Plane Wave telescope.  Each is computer controlled, which provide awesome views of the sky.  There are usually about 75 guests, sometimes more, on Public Night, with several repeating.  Our guests are very appreciative of the opportunity to enjoy and also expose their kids to Astronomy.  Then after all our guests have departed, several of us usually stay for a while and enjoy the views and each other's company.


The Observatory is about 3/4 of a mile south of Will Clayton Parkway on S. Houston Ave, just north of Rankin Road in Humble, in the back part of the Jack Fields Elementary School on the East side of S. Houston Ave.  For information, see the web site or the address below.


Dates and times are subject to change.


The Insperity Observatory is at:

Jack Fields Elementary School

2505 S. Houston Ave.

Humble, TX 77396


The Observatory Phone number is 281-641-STAR.


The North Houston Astronomy Club (NHAC), was formed for educational and scientific purposes, for people of all races, creeds, ethnic backgrounds and sex, for the primary purpose of developing and implementing programs designed to increase the awareness and knowledge of astronomy, especially for those living near the north side of Houston Texas.

NHAC is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing the opportunity for all individuals to pursue the science of astronomy, by observing in a dark-sky site, learning the latest technology, and sharing their knowledge and experience. Thus, our “Observe-Learn-Share” motto.

North Houston Astronomy Club is Sponsored by:

 Membership Benefits

Discounts on Purchases at Land, Sea and Sky.  Be sure to identify yourself as an NHAC member.

Loaner Telescopes after being a member for 6 months.

Opportunity to observe from Dark Sky Observing Sites.

Learn from Experienced Observers.

Astronomy Magazine subscriptions at a discount.

Membership in the Astronomical League, with multiple Observing Clubs available.

Included subscription to the Astronomical League magazine "Reflector".

Access to the NHAC Library

Observe - Learn - Share

The North Houston Astronomy Club is a not-for-profit organization sponsored by Lone Star College-Kingwood, dedicated to increasing the awareness and knowledge of the science of astronomy. Public meetings are normally held each month on the fourth Friday.  In the months of October, November and December they are usually rescheduled for the third Friday of each month, so as to not conflict with the Annual All Clubs meeting, Thanksgiving, or Christmas.

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