Volume XIX Number 2





General Meeting

Lone Star College - Kingwood Campus






Public Night

Insperity Observatory



Star Party/BBQ

O'Brien Dark Site



General Meeting

Lone Star College - Kingwood Campus


MARCH 23 through APRIL 8 Noon

New NHAC Messier Challenge

See Announcement below





6:30 P.M.

Room CLA 221

Lone Star College - Kingwood Campus


"Messier Marathon 2019"

Presented by Dr. Aaron Clevenson

NHAC, Professor of Astronomy at Lone Star College -  Montgomery

Dr. Clevenson will discuss the annual Messier Marathon and provide observing advice to assist in its completion. 




7:30 P.M.

Room CLA 112

Lone Star College - Kingwood Campus


"The Magnetic Fields and Other Properties of Solar System Objects"

Presented by Prof. Justin McCollum

 NHAC,  "Professor Comet"


Prof. McCollum will discuss the magnetic fields and other properties of Solar System objects.







1.  Meetings are held at Lone Star College - Kingwood in Rooms CLA 221 (Novice Session) and CLA 112 (General Meeting).  For a map of the LSC - Kingwood Campus, please refer to the NHAC website:




2.  The Executive Board for 2019 is:

President --  Carlos Gramajo

Vice-President --  Bruce Pollard

Secretary --  Mike Comeaux

Treasurer --  Joana Tan

Newsletter Editor --  Jesse Roberts

Astronomical League Coord. --  Aaron Clevenson

Webmaster --  Justin McCollum

Observation Committee Chair --  James Billings

Membership Committee Chair --  David Dutschmann

Program Committee Chair --  Open

Immediate Past President --  Susan Pollard


3. The monthly issue of "What's Up, Doc" by Dr. Aaron Clevenson is linked at the NHAC website.


4.  Our Astronomical League Coordinator is Dr. Aaron Clevenson.


Congratulations to the following members who have recently completed AL observing programs:


Master Observer (Platinum) - Aaron Clevenson


Lunar Program - Carlos Gramajo, Joana Tan


Constellation Hunter Northern Skies - Carlos Gramajo, Joana Tan


Beyond Polaris - Carlos Gramajo, Joana Tan


Mars Observing Program (Imaging) - Aaron Clevenson


NASA Observing Challenge (Insight) - Aaron Clevenson


The AL Observing Programs now includes the Master Observer Progression.  It has 6 levels, and provides a road-map and recognition from novice through expert.  It starts with the Observer Award for the newbies.  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:



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>


5.   Spectroscopy at Insperity.

For those interested in learning about Spectroscopy, Dr. Bruce Pollard, PhD, NHAC, is our expert.  There is an ongoing program to develop the Spectroscopy program at the Insperity Observatory,  and Bruce is a very effective teacher.


If you would like to do hands-on 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.


6.  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.


7. Club meetings in 2019 will be:

February 22

March 22

April 26

May 24

June 28

July 26

August 23

September 27

October 25

November 15

December 13


8.  Club dues, effective April 16, 2019, will be: 

Students $10

Individuals $30

Family Groups $40




MARCH 9, 2019


In March the Star Party is three days after the New Moon. The Sun will set at 6:40 P.M. and the Moon will set at 9:18 P.M.  By 7:15 it will be pretty dark, and by 7:45 it will be dark enough for good observing.


In addition to the Star Party, we are going to try once again to have a Bar-Be-Que. If the weather is good, it will be a nice evening for socializing, eating, viewing, and maybe for imaging.  I anticipate that serving for the BBQ will start around 5:30 P.M.


As always, if the weather cooperates and we do have the BBQ, we will welcome any dishes such as vegetables, salads, or desserts being brought.  We will probably start cleaning up around 5:15 to 5:30 so everyone can start setting up for observing.  I am again going to sound like Yogi Berra:  "All help is helpful."


Following the BBQ will be the annual Messier Marathon, where you attempt to view all the Messier objects in one night.  If you choose not to do the Marathon, you can just do some regular observing, imaging or relaxing instead!  Aaron Clevenson will be covering the event at the Novice Session prior to the General Meeting on February 22.


If the weather or field conditions prevent us from having the Messier Marathon on March 9, the back-up date is March 30.



>Announcing the NHAC Messier Challenge<


Due to the unpredictability of the weather affecting the Messier Marathon:


NHAC is establishing a 16 night Messier Challenge window of opportunity to observe as many Messier Objects as possible.  The 16 nights will start on a Saturday at noon and end at noon on the Monday 3 weekends later. This allows 3 Saturday and Sunday nights, as well as the 2 weeks in between.


We have planned the Challenge to (1) Avoid the NHAC General Meeting, (2) Avoid the Full Moon to the extent possible, (3) include the New Moon, and (4) coincide as much as possible with the "Prime Season" for being able to observe all the Messier Objects in one night.  This "Prime Season" is Mid-March through Early-April.


Accordingly we have a schedule starting on Saturday at noon March 23 and ending on Monday at noon April 8.  This will include the Back-up Messier Marathon on March 30,  the New Moon on April 5, and also the April 6 Star Party.


On March 23 (Saturday night) the Moon will not rise until 10:42 P.M.  On April 7 (Sunday night) the Moon will set at 10:07 P.M. and be dark the rest of the night.  Thus during the entire 16 nights there will be substantial periods of time when the sky is dark for several hours at a time.


The intent of the Marathon is to view the Messiers in one night.  The intent of the Challenge is to view them over the course of the 16 nights.  If you desire to, you can do both!



The rules for the Messier Marathon and the Messier Challenge are somewhat different.  If we end up having the makeup Messier Marathon on March 30, which is during the Messier Challenge, you need to be certain which set of rules you are following on that night.


We will have Club awards for First, Second and Third Places for total counts, and a Special Award like a pin or small trophy for any and all club members who log all the Messier objects during the Challenge.


We are establishing a rule that all sightings for this Messier Challenge must be from the O'Brien Dark Site, to limit the advantage of folks like me who have a darker site not too far away, and those who might use the Insperity equipment for their sightings.


Given the reality of the era in which we live, go-to telescopes may to be used.  Our intention is to promote success in observing by club members, and to familiarize the membership with the advantages of the O'Brien Dark Site, not to have obstacles to success.  This will also encourage members to become more familiar with their equipment.  There will be assistance by other members, if sufficient notice is given.


We will ask the O'Briens for a blanket clearance for access to the Dark Site for these 16 nights, subject to weather and pasture conditions.  We do not want to tear up the pasture, and we equally do not want anyone to get stuck.  I (Rusty) am proposing we establish a procedure for all members to coordinate with someone, probably James or myself (Rusty) when arriving at the Dark Site and also when leaving.


Star Party and Dark Site Process


If you are new to the club, Star Parties are especially for you.  We, the members, are the reason we have observing Star Parties, and they are great occasions to get familiar with observing.  We  have 10" Dobsonian telescopes available at the Dark Site for your use. There will also 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.


New Moon and planned Star Party Dates for 2019 are:


New Moon                     Star Party

-----------                       ---------------

March 6                        Mar. 9  + BBQ

April 5                          March 30, Backup Star Party

April 5                          Apr. 6

May 4                           May 4

June 3                          June 1

July 2                           June 29 (2 new moons in July)

July 31                         July 27

August 30                     Aug. 31

September 28               Sept. 28

October 27                    Oct. 26  + BBQ

November 26                 Nov. 23

December 25                 Dec. 28



NHAC is a proud member of:

The Astronomical League:  https://www.astroleague.org/

Night Sky Network: https://nightsky.jpl.nasa.gov

International Dark Sky Association:  https://www.darksky.org   

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


Public Night will be on Friday,

MARCH 1, 2019


Doors will be open by about 6:00 P.M. and remain open to the public until 10:00.  Sunset will be at  6:20 P.M.  The moon sets at 2:11 P.M. and will not be a factor.


These Public Nights are a great 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, and provides an awesome view of the sky.  There are usually about 75 to 100 guests, sometimes more, on Public Night, with many repeating.  Our guests are very appreciative of the opportunity to enjoy the sky 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. This can be an opportunity to see a new  or favorite object in a large telescope.



The Insperity Humble ISD Observatory is located at: 


Jack Fields Elementary School

2505 S. Houston Ave.

Humble, TX 77396



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 more information, the web site is:




The Observatory phone number is 281-641-STAR.


Dates and times are subject to change.


 About NHAC


The North Houston Astronomy Club (NHAC) is a not-for-profit organization, formed for educational and scientific purposes, for people of all races, creeds, ethnic backgrounds and sex.  Our primary purpose is to develop and implement programs to increase the awareness and knowledge of astronomy, especially for those living near the north side of Houston, Texas.


NHAC is  dedicated to providing an opportunity for people to pursue the science of astronomy, to observe in a dark-sky site, to learn the latest technology, and to share their knowledge and experience. Thus, our “Observe-Learn-Share” motto.


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.


The benefits for membership include:

>  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.

>  Astronomical League membership, with its many  observing programs.

>  Subscription to the Astronomical League magazine "Reflector".

>  Access to the NHAC library

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


North Houston Astronomy Club is Sponsored by:

NHAC Website:          http://astronomyclub.org/nhacwp/


NHAC mailing address:  

North Houston Astronomy Club
Post Office Box 5043
Kingwood, TX 77335-5043


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