JULY 2013

Volume XIII, No. 7

 This Month's coming events:

July 26 -- General Meeting, Kingwood College

August 2 -- Insperity Observatory Public Night

August 3 -- Star Party O'Brien Dark Site

August 31--Star Party O'Brien Dark Site

Please see below for more information.

July 26, 2013

Novice Program

 6:30 - 7:15pm in the Cosmic Forum, upstairs in the CLA building.

The August Topic will be "Telescope Optics", presented by Jim Barbasso.


Main Presentation

Beginning at 7:30pm in the building CLA Teaching Theater

Todd Sullivan will be presenting a talk entitled "Raving about Maven".

“Raving about MAVEN” is an introduction to NASA’s next mission to Mars set to launch in November 2013.

What’s Up Doc?” by Aaron Clevenson for the month of August will be posted on the Website.


1.  Please note that there will be two (2) Star Parties in the month of August.  This is due to the fact that the Saturday prior to the New Moon occurs twice in August, 8/2 and 8/31.


2.  Our Astronomical League Coordinator, Jim Barbasso, reminds us that Astronomy Day for 2013 will be on October 12, with the All CLubs meeting the evening before on October 11.  The Astronomical League website is http://www.astroleague.org/

Please see the ALCor section below for more.


3.  NHAC members are now eligible for a discount on purchases at Land, Sea & Sky. Be sure to make your NHAC membership known when making a purchase.


4. The Comet Report is now available online.


5.  Ken Dwight has provided us an article giving information on cleaning a telescope mirror.  This sounds like one of those chores which has to be addressed from time to time.  I am keeping this Notice on the Newsletter for a while because it is full of good information on cleaning the mirrors.


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


6. To all new members:

We are glad you have chosen to join us.  Please do come to the Novice and General Meetings, and come out to the Dark Site as well.  We are definitely an observing club.  Our next Star Party is July 6 at the O'Brien Dark Site.  Please see below.  We look forward to seeing you.

Star Party August 3 and again August 31, 2013


The Board of Directors has decided the focus of the Star Parties will be to give as much assistance as possible to new observers.  Sundown in August will be about 8:25 PM, so dark observing will start around 9 P.M. or a little after.

For the Star Party itself, the plan continues to be for a number of the more experienced observers to attend each of the Star Parties, with telescopes, so we "novices" will know there is someone who is planning to be at the Star Party with equipment and the desire to share knowledge.  And I understand there will be a group of Scouts at the Dark Site for the early stages of the Star Party, and Mike Kramer will be doing a presentation.  It should be interesting.

For those who may not have been to the O'Brien Dark Site, it is just north of Dobbin 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 cooperative hosts, and they do turn off any outside lights which might bother us.

The actual Dark Site location is password protected.  Any officer can give you the password, but it is NOT FOR THE GENERAL PUBLIC.

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 10 minutes after you leave Dobbin going north.

Normally Aaron Clevenson, James Billings, and likely Bruce Pollard  are there to offer assistance to any who wish it.  I (Rusty) will not be there on August 3.  I expect to be at the August 31 Star Party.

Star Parties are routinely scheduled for the Saturday on or just before the New Moon throughout the year.  This is to provide the best opportunity for dark skies.  In the month of August notice we have two (2) Star Parties:  August 3 and 31.  In September the Star Party will be September 28.

Inclement weather, of course, can force Star Party cancellation or postponement.

Astronomical League Coordinator,

Jim Barbasso

A Message from the AlCor:

  One of the benefits of becoming a member of the North Houston Astronomy Club is that you automatically become a member of the Astronomic League.  This organization promotes astronomy to the general public and astronomy community.  On the home page of the Astronomical League Website, on the right hand side, are lists of Observation Clubs.  The purpose of these clubs is to provide an opportunity to hone a person’s observation skills, as well as, gain knowledge in a particular area of astronomy.   As a benefit of being a member of the Astronomical League, you are eligible to receive an award upon completion of one of these Observation Clubs.  You receive a certificate, suitable for framing and usually a pin, with the name of the observation club on it.  I encourage anyone of our observational astronomers in the club, who are looking for something to challenge them to try at least one of these observation clubs.   That’s what our club is all about, to observe, learn, and share.

  On a separate note, Astronomy Day is October 12 at the George Observatory at Brazos Bend State Park.  The "All Clubs Meeting" is at the Houston Museum of Natural History, at the edge of Hermann Park.  For anyone who has not been to this, I encourage you to come and enjoy some time with fellow Astronomers from the local astronomy clubs in the Houston area.  Below is an edited note from the coordinators of A-Day:


As a reminder:   Astronomy Day 2013 is a few months away and it is time to start planning for the event. 

The All Clubs meeting will be Friday October 11th, and ADAY at the George Observatory will be on Saturday, October 12th, 2013.

The All Clubs meeting is largely set as we have Dr. Reggie Dufour, of Rice University, as our keynote speaker.   This will be in the same location as last year in Arnold Hall at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, near Hermann Park.

Again, we'd ask that notes concerning ADAY not be forwarded to untrustworthy individuals not on this Netslyder.

David Haviland & David Louw
ADAY Organizers



The Membership Committee DOOR PRIZE segment of our general meetings
is being received quite well.  So keep your outgrown astro items coming
while refining your own collection.  If you do win a prize you won't use, bring it back for a future drawing. 

In addition,  we will be trying the "gifting" of past copies of Reflector, Astronomy and Sky&Tel magazines primarily as samples for new members.  If you have fairly recent past copies of these publications that you can spare, bring them in to the Membership Committee.
......George Marsden

Upcoming NHAC Meeting Schedule

   July 26 and August 23

NHAC is a proud member of:

2013 Public Nights*

August 2, 8:15 PM

September 6

October 4

November 1

December 6

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 see, otherwise.  The Observatory has a 16" and a 20" telescope, each computer controlled, which provide awesome views of the sky.  There are typically 30 or 40 guests at the Public Night, several repeating, who are very appreciative of the opportunity to expose their kids to Astromony, and who enjoy the observing in their own experience, as well.  And then after all our guests have departed, several of us usually stay for a while and enjoy the views.  I (Rusty) have seen more detail on Jupiter from the Insperity Observatory than at any other time or place.

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 Humble Elementary School on the East side of S. Houston Ave.

For information, see the web site.


*Dates and times are subject to change.

The Insperity Observatory at Humble ISD, 2505 S. Houston Ave., Humble, TX 77396 281-641-STAR

Rusty's Ramblings...

Hi Folks:

In May I began a narrative about using an German Equatorial mount without go-to capabilities to "field hop" from a known and easily found star or planet for that matter, to be able to navigate to a "target" star or other Deep Space Object (DSO), without resorting to using setting circles.  Some of the Astronomical League Clubs prohibit the use of setting circles, but you can still use the equatorial mount effectively to locate target objects.

In May I discussed the following preparatory steps:

  •  Home work—you have a star or constellation chart with your target located.  This is imperative!
  • You have calculated the true field of view for your finder eyepiece.
  • You have carefully aligned your equatorial mount.
  • You have learned which knob is RA, and which is DEC.  You have also learned which way to turn the knobs to move East or West (RA), and North or South (DEC).
  • You have aligned your finder Telrad, finder  scope or whatever with the main telescope.

In June I discussed first using the finder scope, Telrad, or whatever to point the main telescope in the area of the "base" star.  We could also consider this as an "anchor" star.  It provides a known point from which to move to the target DSO.  This is next followed by identifying the base star or anchor star and centering it in your "finder eyepiece", the main scope in other words, not your Telrad, or whatever.

At this point I described moving the main scope to locate M-57 in Lyra, and then I discussed locating Satr in Cygnus and then moving the main scope a full eye piece true field of viewto the south in order to find M-29 in Cygnus.

Now, for the July Newsletter, I would like to use the example of finding the Sombrero Galaxy, M-104, which is beautiful and easily identifiable, once you have located it.

Consulting a Star Chart or Atlas (I use the Sky and Telescope's Pocket Sky Atlas) you will see that M-104 is about 11 degrees west of Spica, which is the Alpha Star in Virgo-- easily found.  It makes a good base or anchor star.  Note I have italicized "west" of Spica.  It is important--in fact critical-- to know if your target is east or west, and whether you are moving your scope east or west.  I may have mentioned this before, but to refresh, just let the scope stay at rest for a moment or two, and the direction the stars move is west.  For north/south, simply move the scope manually down towards the southern horizon.  The direction the stars move in the eyepiece will be north.

So now we have Spica centered in the eyepiece.  We know the true field of view in the eyepiece is about 2.2 degrees for the particular scope and eyepiece I am using for this example.  (See the April Newsletter if this doesn't make sense.)  And we know M-104 is 11 degrees west of Spica.

The last arithmetic:  11 degrees away from Spica divided by 2.2 degrees true field of view tells us that M-104 is very close to 5 true fields of view to the west of Spica.

To use this knowledge:  With Spica in the center of the eyepiece, move the scope to the west of Spica until Spica lies just on the east edge of the eyepiece.  You have now moved the scope 1/2 of a field of view to the west, or about 1.1 degrees.  But we need 5 fields of view.  Pick out a star or group of stars which are on the west edge of the eyepiece while Spica is on the east edge of the eyepiece.  Move the scope to the west another field of view to the west until that star or group of stars is on the east edge of the eyepiece. (If you carefully polar aligned your mount before starting the observing session, this can be easily done using the knob you identified as the RA knob.  And you do know which way to turn that knob to move to the west, don't you?) You have now moved the scope 1 1/2 fields of view to the west, or about 3.3 degrees.

Move the scope another field of view to the west, and you will have moved it 2 1/2 fields of view, or about 5.5 degrees.  Do this twice more, and you will have moved the scope 4 1/2 fields of view, or about 9.9 degrees.  Now stop and think.

You need another 1/2 field of view, or 1.1 degrees to have moved the scope 11 degrees to the west.  You are centered on 9.9 degrees west.  Note the star or group of stars on the west edge of the eyepiece. Carefully move that star or group of stars to the center of the eyepiece.  You have now moved the scope 0.5 + 1.0 + 1.0 + 1.0 + 1.0 + 0.5 fields of view to the west, or a total of 5 fields of view.  You have moved the scope 11 degrees west of Spica, and that is where M-104 is located.  Your target is fairly close to the center of the eyepiece.

Will you see the target in the eyepiece?  Probably not.  Remember we are using a 38mm eyepiece with fairly low magnification in order to have a wide field of view.  But before you decide to change eyepieces, take a look around the center of the eyepiece. Move the scope in a circular motion so the target area moves in a circle inside the eyepiece, but stays in the eyepiece, so you are looking in the area around the target. You may see a faint fuzzy glow.  That could be the target.  Or from having studied the chart of the area around M-104, you may recognize a star pattern associated with M-104.

If you haven't located M-104 yet, re-center the target area and change eyepiece for another of about 1/2 the focal length.  You might try a 17 or 20 or 22.  If you still do not find your target, do the same look around, but do not lose track of keeping the target area in the center of the eyepiece.  If you do lose it and cannot find it again, you will have to go back to Spica and try it again.  (I have gone back to my base star more than once to relocate my target area.)

IF you are looking for something of a magnitude appropriate for the size scope you are using, you should be able to see something of your target by now.  Keeping the target centered in the eyepiece, keep swapping out eye pieces for smaller focal lengths until you reach a point of diminishing returns.  For many DSOs you will start to lose clarity if you over-magnify, and will discover you have a clearer, sharper view with less magnification, that is, with a longer focal length eyepiece.

If this is your first experience using an equatorial mount to find something without using setting circles or a go-to mount, and you have successfully followed my thinking to this point, you are probably worn out.  It you have done all this and found M-57, M-29 and M-104 using this method, you have accomplished a great deal.

I have gone into detail only with moving the scope to the west a given number of degrees.  The method of moving a star or group of stars from one edge of the eyepiece to the other in order to move a given number of degrees works equally well to move north or south., and when you come to a target which is some number of degrees east/west and some number of degrees north/south, simply use the same method to move so many degrees east/west, then so many degrees north/south.

It will take practice, but I worked my through the Coma Berenices and Virgo clusters, then found M-68 in Hydra and M-104 in Virgo to finish out my Messier list using just this method.

I expect to be at the July 26 General meeting, and will be happy to talk about  this topic.  There will be several people who will know more about this than I do.  This is simply a description of what I developed by trial and error.

Have fun at August 3 Star Party. I hope everyone who is in town will come out to the Star paarty-- it is the only way to become an observer, and that is at least half the fun of astronomy!  I am sorry I will be missing it but I should be at the August 31 event.

Next month I will talk about my experience with the Binocular Double Star Club.  Hint: It ain't so easy!

Clear Skies,


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 & Sky. Be sure to make your NHAC membership known when making a purchase.
  • Loaner telescopes
  • Observe from Dark Sky Observing Sites
  • Learn from experienced amateur astronomers
  • Share your knowledge at club hosted picnics and star parties
  • Discount magazine subscriptions (contact our Treasurer)
  • Includes membership in the Astronomical League
  • The quarterly Astronomical League magazine “Reflector”
  • Borrow from the NHAC “Library”
  • Eligibility for NHAC Executive Board

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 held each month on the fourth Friday.