March, 2016

Volume XVI, Number 3

This Month's  remaining events

March 25 --  General Meeting, Lone Star College,

Kingwood Campus

Next Month's Events

April 1 -- Insperity Observatory Public Night

April 2-- Star Party, Messier Marathon

April 22 -- General Meeting, Lone Star College,

Kingwood Campus

March 25, 2016

Novice Program

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


Messier Marathon

Presented by Dr. Aaron Clevenson

General Meeting

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

CLA Lecture Hall

Main Lecture Subject:

Juno Space Mission to Jupiter

Presented by NHAC Program DIrector and JPL/NASA Solar System Ambassador Todd Sullivan


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




1.  The NHAC officers for 2016 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

Program Committee Chair--      Todd Sullivan


2.  Our Astronomical League Coordinator is Jim Barbasso.

The Astronomical League URL is:

A recent item from the website is current for the remainder of AMarch and is repeated below.

Youth Astro-Imagers!
Enter Your Favorite Shot Into the 2016
Horkheimer/Parker Youth Imaging Competition!
Are you 18 years or younger and do you enjoy the challenges of astro-imaging, whether it be using a smartphone, a handheld digital camera, or a telescope CCD imager? Have you captured an astro-image that you are particularly proud of?
Why not enter your shot into the Astronomical League’s Horkheimer/Parker Youth Imag-ing competition? After all, the first-place winner receives $1,000, second place $500, and third place $250!

Submitted images can be of any astronomical themed subject: an interesting perspective of a planet, a captivating lunar crater, a wondrous deep-sky object, or a wide field scene of the sky at night.
For all the details and rules of the competition, please see The entry deadline is March 31, 2016.

3.  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.

4.  2016 Remaining General Meeting Schedule:


March 25

April 22

May 27



August 26

September 23

October 28

November 18

December 16

5.  I have moved the URL for the 2017 Solar Eclipse here to the Notes section for ease of access.  I will keep it here through the August, 2017, Newsletter.

August 2017 Solar Eclipse URL:

or simply google <2017 solar eclipse>



Messier Marathon and Star Party April 2, 2016!


Sunset will be at 7:43 P.M. and there will be no moon until 4:24 A.M. on Sunday morning.  Weather permitting, we should have a very nice evening for observing.

If you are new to the club  this 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 your feet wet 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.

This Messier Marathon Star Party is a particularly good event for "Newbies" including me to get more familiar with the night sky and the constellations as we look for Messier Objects.  (See "Rusty's Ramblings, below.)


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 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.


2016 tentative projected schedule, subject to change:

April 2 -- Messier Marathon

April 9 -- Back-up Messier Marathon

May 7 Bar-Be-Que

June 4

July 2

July 30

August 27

No date in September

October 1 Bar-Be-Que

October 29 Backup Bar-Be-Que

November 26

December 17

NHAC is a proud member of:

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

 Public Night will be on April 1, 2016.

Sunset will be at  7:40 P.M. Central Standard Time.

Doors will open by about 7:30 P.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 16" and a 20" telescope, each computer controlled, which provide awesome views of the sky.  There are usually about 75 guests, sometimes more, on 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.  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

Observatory Phone number is 281-641-STAR.


Rusty's Ramblings


Hello, NHACers:

I want to provide an introduction to Charles Messier and his catalog as background for the Messier Marathon which Aaron will be briefing us about at the Novice Session on Friday.

I am unashamedly stealing my information from the excellent book by Stephen James O'Meara, "The Messier Objects".

Charles Messier (1730-1817) was a professional French astronomer whose positions included that of Astronomer to the Navy.  He lived in and observed from Paris, France.  His passion was finding comets, and he was quite successful, for the time.  He is credited with the discovery of 13 comets between 1760 and 1785 (Wikipedia).  For you history buffs, that time span included the American War of Independence.

The origin of the Messier Catalog occured on 1758 when he was tracking a comet.  He found a fuzzy patch which he initially thought was a new comet.  Over the course of his observations he realized the patch never moved, and therefore could not be  a comet.  In fact he had recorded the Crab Nebula, a remnant of a super nova the Chinese had observed and recorded in 1054.  This became the first entry in his catalog, Messier 1, or M1.

Over the next 7 years, he built up a list of 45 items which he had determined were not comets.  They were therefore not worth the distraction of spending time on them when he was looking for comets, but in his opinion were simply a waste of time.  They were not all his discoveries.  He was simply building up a list which also included the discoveries of other astronomers, for the benefit of any astronomers who were also looking for comets.

Messier's catalog grew over the years, as he recorded additional non-comets.  His final catalog contained 103 listings, and was published in 1784.  However there have been 7 additions over the years, as a result of various researchers discovering notes or engravings suggesting Messier was aware of these objects.  Another younger French astronomer, Pierre Mechain, was the actual discoverer of 4 of the final 7, as well as many earlier entries.  (M. Messier credited many of the catalog objects to M. Mechain, as well as other astronomers.)  The most recent addition was in 1966, of M110, an Andromeda Galaxy companion, which was seen by Messier in 1773.
Of the 110 entries, M101 and M102 are thought to be the same by some astronomers.  M. Mechain, their discoverer, considered them to be the same object.

The Messier Catalog includes galaxies, star clusters, nebulae, a star pair, and a grouping of 4 stars (M73).  If you wonder that a grouping of 4 stars could be a "fake comet", you need to consider the optics which Messier was using.  When I went looking for M73, I passed over it several times before I thought about the optics.  I changed to a smaller scope, and an eyepiece with lesser magnification, and suddenly it was there, a faint fuzzy.  I had been seeing it as 4 distinct stars.

Only in the Spring can all 109 or 110 objects be observed on the same night.  It is a very difficult challenge.  But if you give yourself the whole year to observe, they can all be seen, many with binoculars, and a few with the naked eye.  In the process of finding them without using a go-to telescope, you will learn much about the night sky and the constellations.  It is a very satisfying accomplishment.

My apologies to Mr. O'Meara for any mistakes I may have made.

Clear Skies, All,


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 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.