May, 2015

Volume XV, Number 5

This Month's  remaining events

May 22-- General Meeting, Lone Star College

Kingwood Campus

Next Month's Events

June 1 -- Insperity Observatory Public Night

June 13 --  Star Party, O'Brien Dark Site

June 26-- General Meeting, Lone Star College

Kingwood Campus

 

 May 22, 2015


Novice Program

 6:30 - 7:15pm in the Cosmic Forum, upstairs in the CLA building, Lone Star College, Kingwood Campus.

Subject:

Deep Sky Observing!

Presented by:

Darrell Jenkins

 

General Meeting

 7:30 P.M., Lone Star College, Kingwood Campus,

CLA Lecture Hall

Subject:

The Galilean Satellites

A Tour of the Great Moons of Jupiter

Presented by:

Mr. Justin J McCollum

MS Physics

"Professor Comet"

Applications & Education Physicist

 

"What's Up Doc?" by Dr. Aaron Clevenson for the month of June will be posted on the NHAC Website.

 

 Notices

 1.  Really Big News:  The Executive Board has been working for several months reviewing the Club By-Laws.  There is a copy of the proposed Revised By-Laws on the web site.  Please read over, and perhaps print, the proposed Revised By-Laws,  and do attend the Regular NHAC Meeting on May 22, this coming Friday.  We will be discussing the changes during the meeting.


The current By-Laws require any Revisions to be announced a month prior to holding a vote on accepting the Revisions, and also require presentation of the proposed Revisions at the meeting prior to the General Membership vote on acceptance of the Revised By-Laws.


This is the required Notification of proposed by-law changes, as per the current By-Laws. This month's meeting will be the presentation and discussion of the proposed Revised By-Laws.  The vote will be held at the regular General Membership meeting on June 26.


Incidentally, the procedure for amending the By-Laws remains unchanged in the proposed Revision, but there are some substantive changes to be discussed.


Please do not miss this meeting.

 

2.  The NHAC officers for 2015 are:

President --                               Aaron Clevenson

Vice-President--                        Bruce Pollard

Secretary--                               Susan Pollard

Treasurer--                               David Lambert

Newsletter Editor--                    Rusty Hill

Astronomical League Coord.--    James Barbasso

Webmaster--                             Justin McCollum

Observation Committee Chair-- James Billings

Membership Committee Chair-- David Tomlin

     Co-Chairman--                     Stuart Davenport

Program Committee Chair--      Todd Sullivan

 

 

3.  Our Astronomical League Coordinator is Jim Barbasso.  The Astronomical League URL is: https://www.astroleague.org/


To commemorate the rendezvous of New Horizons with Pluto, NASA and the Astronomical League have brought you another Observing Challenge opportunity.  For more information, see the NASA webpagehttps://solarsystem.nasa.gov/news/challenges.cfm and click on the link for Pluto.  There is a certificate, but no pin.  (Courtesy Dr. Clevenson.  Thanks, Aaron!)

 

4.  Name Badges: 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.  2015 Remaining General Meeting Schedule:

June 26

July 24

August 28

September 25

October 23

November 20

December 18

 

6. 2015 Remaining Executive Board Meeting Schedule:

July 8

September 9

November 11

 

7.  I am continuing with the new feature of an article of a pure science nature, or as in this case, something from the world of astronomy which is of a "current affairs" nature.  Please let me know what you think.

 

This item below appears on NASA.gov.

April 14, 201515-064 Share on facebook Share on twitter Share on google_plusone_share Share on pinterest_share More Sharing Services

NASA’s New Horizons Spacecraft Nears Historic July 14 Encounter with Pluto

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft is three months from returning to humanity the first-ever close up images and scientific observations of distant Pluto and its system of large and small moons.

"Scientific literature is filled with papers on the characteristics of Pluto and its moons from ground based and Earth orbiting space observations, but we’ve never studied Pluto up close and personal,” said John Grunsfeld, astronaut, and associate administrator of the NASA Science Mission Directorate at the agency’s Headquarters in Washington.  “In an unprecedented flyby this July, our knowledge of what the Pluto systems is really like will expand exponentially and I have no doubt there will be exciting discoveries."  

The fastest spacecraft ever launched, New Horizons has traveled a longer time and farther away – more than nine years and three billion miles – than any space mission in history to reach its primary target. Its flyby of Pluto and its system of at least five moons on July 14 will complete the initial reconnaissance of the classical solar system. This mission also opens the door to an entirely new “third” zone of mysterious small planets and planetary building blocks in the Kuiper Belt, a large area with numerous objects beyond Neptune’s orbit.

The flyby caps a five-decade-long era of reconnaissance that began with Venus and Mars in the early 1960s, and continued through first looks at Mercury, Jupiter and Saturn in the 1970s and Uranus and Neptune in the 1980s.

Reaching this third zone of our solar system – beyond the inner, rocky planets and outer gas giants – has been a space science priority for years. In the early 2000s the National Academy of Sciences ranked the exploration of the Kuiper Belt – and particularly Pluto and its largest moon, Charon – as its top priority planetary mission for the coming decade.

New Horizons – a compact, lightweight, powerfully equipped probe packing the most advanced suite of cameras and spectrometers ever sent on a first reconnaissance mission – is NASA’s answer to that call.

“This is pure exploration; we’re going to turn points of light into a planet and a system of moons before your eyes!” said Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator from Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Boulder, Colorado. “New Horizons is flying to Pluto – the biggest, brightest and most complex of the dwarf planets in the Kuiper Belt. This 21st century encounter is going to be an exploration bonanza unparalleled in anticipation since the storied missions of Voyager in the 1980s.”

Pluto, the largest known body in the Kuiper Belt, offers a nitrogen atmosphere, complex seasons, distinct surface markings, an ice-rock interior that may harbor an ocean, and at least five moons. Among these moons, the largest – Charon - may itself sport an atmosphere or an interior ocean, and possibly even evidence of recent surface activity.

“There’s no doubt, Charon is a rising star in terms of scientific interest, and we can’t wait to reveal it in detail in July,” said Leslie Young, deputy project scientist at SwRI.

Pluto’s smaller moons also are likely to present scientific opportunities. When New Horizons was started in 2001, it was a mission to just Pluto and Charon, before the four smaller moons were discovered.

The spacecraft’s suite of seven science instruments – which includes cameras, spectrometers, and plasma and dust detectors – will map the geology of Pluto and Charon and map their surface compositions and temperatures; examine Pluto’s atmosphere, and search for an atmosphere around Charon; study Pluto’s smaller satellites; and look for rings and additional satellites around Pluto.

Currently, even with New Horizons closer to Pluto than the Earth is to the Sun, the Pluto system resembles little more than bright dots in the distance. But teams operating the spacecraft are using these views to refine their knowledge of Pluto’s location, and skillfully navigate New Horizons toward a precise target point 7,750 miles (12,500 kilometers) from Pluto’s surface. That targeting is critical, since the computer commands that will orient the spacecraft and point its science instruments are based on knowing the exact time and location that New Horizons passes Pluto.

“Our team has worked hard to get to this point, and we know we have just one shot to make this work,” said Alice Bowman, New Horizons mission operations manager at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, which built and operates the spacecraft. “We’ve plotted out each step of the Pluto encounter, practiced it over and over, and we’re excited the ‘real deal’ is finally here.”

The spacecraft’s work doesn’t end with the July flyby. Because it gets one shot at its target, New Horizons is designed to gather as much data as it can, as quickly as it can, taking about 100 times as much data on close approach as it can send home before flying away. And although the spacecraft will send select, high-priority datasets home in the days just before and after close approach, the mission will continue returning the data stored in onboard memory for a full 16 months.

“New Horizons is one of the great explorations of our time,” said New Horizons Project Scientist Hal Weaver at APL. “There’s so much we don’t know, not just about Pluto, but other worlds like it. We’re not rewriting textbooks with this historic mission – we’ll be writing them from scratch.”

APL manages the New Horizons mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Alan Stern of SwRI is the principal investigator. SwRI leads the science team, payload operations and encounter science planning. New Horizons is part of the New Frontiers Program, managed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

For more information on New Horizons, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/newhorizons

 

 

Star Party June 13! (We hope!)

Sunset will be 8:26 P.M.

Moonrise will be 4:53 A.M.

For any who wish to observe on a night without a moon, notice the Saturday night/Sunday morning moonrise is 4:53 A.M. on Sunday, give or take rounding errors.  It will be a really moonless night and should be good observing, weather permitting. 

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 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 6 or 7 minutes after you leave Dobbin going north.

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.

For planning, I am starting a practice of showing the information for the following month, due to the New Moon occurring a bit earlier each month, and the Star Parties being a week or two before the General Meeting.  For the June 13 Star Party, Sunset will be  P.M., and Moon Rise will not be until A.M.


2015 Remaining Star Party Schedule

June 13

July 11

August 15

September 12  BBQ

October 10

November 7  BBQ

December 12

 

NHAC is a proud member of:

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

2015 Public Night

June 5, 2015.

Sunset will be at  8:19 P.M., and Moonrise will be at 11:04, P.M.

Doors will open at 8:00 P.M. or so and remain open to the public until 10:00 P.M.  Weather permitting, it should be a nice evening for observing.

 

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 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 Astronomy, 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, Mars, and Saturn 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 Jack Fields 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 Jack Fields Elementary School, 2505 S. Houston Ave., Humble, TX 77396

281-641-STAR

 

 

Rusty's Ramblings

 

Hello, Everyone:

Trying to be an observing astronomer continues to be frustrating this spring.  Yeah, I know, I said the same thing last month!


It appears that the Pacific warm-water current known as "El Nino" is at least partially at cause.  Here is a URL to a non-scientific article on the subject:

http://news.yahoo.com/u-weather-forecaster-says-90-percent-chance-el-135601974.html;_ylt=A0LEVi7iN1VVyWIA7McPxQt.;_ylu=X3oDMTByMjB0aG5zBGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwMxBHZ0aWQDBHNlYwNzYw--

 

With regard to the August 2017 Solar Eclipse visible in the Northern part of the United States in the early afternoon, I plan to leave the URL available for all to refer to as desired, through the July 2017 Newsletter issue.


Check this URL, as well as others: http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/SEgoogle/SEgoogle2001/SE2017Aug21Tgoogle.html

or simply google <2017 solar eclipse>

 

Clear Skies, All, and I really, really mean that,

Rusty

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 identiry 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 held each month on the fourth Friday.