July 27, 2012

Novice Program

Bruce Pollard

"Craters, Clusters and a Tea Party"  
6:30 - 7:15pm in the Cosmic Forum, upstairs in the CLA building

Main Presentation

Beginning at 7:30pm in the building CLA Teaching Theater,
featuring: NHAC news and announcements
What’s Up Doc?” by Aaron Clevenson

Featured Speaker

Mary Moore, NHAC

"Invaders of Mars"

NHAC is a proud member of:

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

        Astronomical League         Night Sky Network     International Dark-sky




Many thanks to Fred Garcia from Land Sea & Sky for sharing with us his fascinating personal history with astronomy and his experiences with building and using various telescopes. You know you have a great combo when you have, 1. very interesting subject material and, 2. a great story teller. It was a fun night. Thank you, Fred!

Welcome New NHAC Members!

  • Michael & Monica Johnson
  • Michael Taylor
  • Richard Whitman

THIS SATURDAY! July 28th A Night of LUNAcy

July 28th we will be doing something s little different out at the O'Brien Dark Site - we are going to spend some time observing our nearest neighbor, the Moon, (or "Luna"). Luna will be a waxing gibbous at about 76% surface illumination. Moonrise should be 4:21PM so it should be visible whenever you choose to show up. We will begin setting up around 7:30 - optimum viewing should be 9:00 - 11:00. Besides observing, I want to talk about some of the tools that can help you in your efforts - atlases, filters, etc. If you have something related that you would like to share, please feel free to bring it. This would be a great time to get started on your Lunar Observing certificate. There will be a follow up event on August 25th at the Insperity Observatory in Humble.   Drinks and light snacks will be provided. 


August 5th - 6th - "7 Minutes of Terror"

by Aaron Clevenson, Lead Astronomer, Insperity Observatory in Humble ISD

Vampires?  Werewolves?  A new movie about Zombies?  No, it is worse.  It is scarier.  It is a landing on Mars!  Many space agencies have sent spacecraft to Mars, and each time, the landing is a frightening experience.  This next landing is no exception, and is an amazing feat.

So why is it so frightening?  Two reasons:  Landing on Mars is tough, there is enough atmosphere to force you to deal with it (heat shield), but too little atmosphere to use it as an effective braking mechanism (parachute), and this is a very large rover (think Volkswagon Beetle).  To overcome these challenges, NASA has devised a wild ride for  Curiosity's landing.

Star Party:

  • Who:  You, your friends, and families.
  • What:   The landing of the Curiosity Rover on Mars at 12:31 AM CDT on August 6, 2012
  • When:  Party begins at 10:00 PM on August 5, 2012.
  • Where:   Insperity Observatory in Humble ISD.
  • Why:  To look at Mars through the telescopes and to follow along with NASA throughout the landing.

Come join us at the Observatory to check out the landing.

Astronomical Community mourns the loss of Sally K. Ride: May 26, 1951 - July 23, 2012

       Read more from NASA...


Venus Transit Wrap-Up

by Aaron Clevenson, Coordinator, AL Planetary Transit Special Award

Did you get to see the Venus Transit?  I hope so.  It was a very rare event, and pretty amazing.  It the Houston area, we should have been able to see it until sunset, almost the halfway mark, at the Insperity Observatory we had low clouds in the West for the last 20 minutes.  But whether you were able to see it or not, and whether you tried or not, you are still eligible for the Astronomical League's Venus Transit 2012 award certificate and pin.  As a member of NHAC, you are also a member of the Astronomical League.  The certifications they provide are for your education and enjoyment.

The objective of the Observing Special Award is to allow amateur astronomers to relive the fun and excitement of those early explorers, hundreds of years ago, trying to determine the distance to the Sun from Earth; the AU.  The AU can be calculated a number of ways when you observe a planetary transit (Venus or Mercury).  NASA  made this process very simple this time around. To get the AL certification, all you need to do is complete the activities for Level 2 on the NASA website and email me the data you entered and the resulting AU distances.  The easiest way to do this is by capturing a screen print and sending that.

There are three methods, you can do any one, or all three of them.  To do Method 1, all you need to do is download a picture of the 2012 transit from the NASA website or elsewhere on the internet.  Then measure the diameter in millimeters of the sun and Venus.  Plug these two measurements into the equation on the Method 1 webpage at NASA. Then mail your two numbers plus the result to me at aaron@clevenson.org.  Method 2 and Method 3 are also fun, but are a little more involved.  If you have any questions, please ask me at the monthly NHAC meeting.

And that's it.  I hope to hear from many of you...


Refreshment Committee Chairperson Needed!

Have you been thinking about getting more involved with the club, but weren’t quite sure what to do? Well, this would be a great way to help out! We are looking for someone to be in charge of the meeting refreshments each month. Your job would be to see that the refreshments are ordered, picked up and  delivered to the meeting each month. They would need to be set up prior to the meeting and taken down after the meeting. You would also need to see that all of the necessary utensils were kept on hand.


Special Club Rate Magazine Subscriptions

Club rates for personal subscriptions to ASTRONOMY and SKY & TELESCOPE magazines save about 25% over the normal subscription costs. Each magazine has its own procedure to subscribe based upon initiating the order through the club treasurer.
For ASTRONOMY magazine, write your check to NHAC (or pay in cash) for $34 (or $60 for 2 years). The Treasurer then validates your membership by writing a club check for the same amount to the magazine and sending them your address. Renewals must also be processed through the club. Please save your renewal documents for this process.
For SKY & TELESCOPE, pay the club $33 (or $32.95 if by check). As above, we write a club check to validate your membership and start your subscription. SKY & TELESCOPE renewals are processed directly by the subscriber.
Be sure to include a clearly printed name and address sheet for any new subscriptions.


For LX200 Owners, and People Who Want One Go-To Location for Info

by Sue Wheatley

LX200 owners (and others using Meade's computer system) are confronted by an absolutely irrational ordering of Star Numbers. The idea is you press a Star Key followed by a number and the LX200 will zip right to it. The numbers, however, are completely random as near as I can
tell, and forgettable. For example, alpha Hercules is Star 190. Beta Hercules is Star 178.

Robin Gatter has come to our aid. His website is www.starxref.com We can choose any constellation, and Robin's page will give us the Star Number for the LX200 as well as the star's common name, its Bayer letter, its Flamsteed number, SAO number, Max-Min magnitude,
separation if a binary, the R.A. & Dec., and the Spectral Type.

His site will also list, also in this much detail, every IC, NGC, and UGC in any constellation.

The site is simple to navigate and thorough for these subjects. Check it out.


Got a Favorite Piece of Equipment?

If you have a favorite piece of equipment, a novel way of solving a problem, or a shortcut for making observing easier, bring it to the monthly meeting for the “Show-And-Tell” segment. Each presentation should take about 3 - 5 minutes and all ideas are welcome. Please submit your idea to Program Committee Chair, at program@astronomyclub.org before the next meeting so that he can reserve a spot for your presentation. 

Hubble Discovers a Fifth Moon Orbiting Pluto

Date: 7 Jul 2012

This image, taken by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, shows five moons orbiting the distant, icy dwarf planet Pluto.

The green circle marks the newly discovered moon, designated P5, as photographed by Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 on July 7.

Other observations that collectively show the moon's orbital motion were taken on June 26, 27, 29, and July 9, 2012.

The moon is estimated to be 6 to 15 miles across. It is in a 58,000-mile-diameter circular orbit around Pluto that is assumed to be co-planar with the other satellites in the system.

The observations will help scientists in their planning for the July 2015 flyby of Pluto by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft.




O’Brien Observing Site

Have you been to O’Brien site yet? This is a great site that is available to NHAC members. It has open fields with a treed horizon in all directions at 5 degrees and is located in Montgomery, Texas (heading west on Highway 105).
If you would like to use this site in the future, please read the use policy on the NHAC web page (click on the “Star Party!” link from the Home page), and please follow this process:
Tim and Wanda O’Brien and their family are our hosts. They are on Netslyder, the email list server.
To request use of the site, send an email out on Netslyder to: NHAC@mail.netslyder.net (you must already be a member of the Netslyder mailing list).
Requests must be made more than 24 hours in advance.
Wanda or Tim will reply on Netslyder to let you know it is ok.
Other members are welcome to also attend that night. Once approved, another request is not necessary at that point.
The site is open to members and their guests (only when the member is present).


White Eagle Lodge (WEL)

The White Eagle Lodge is a private church retreat in Montgomery, TX. It has an open field with dark western and northern skies, although the east does suffer from light pollution. The north and east have good low horizons, while the west and southwest are somewhat obstructed by trees.
Other notes and and the procedure for reserving a night in addition to the regular monthly NHAC star parties may be found here. The property owners (St. John’s Retreat Center) request that all users sign a Release of Liability Waiver.

Additional information and Directions are available online at astronomyclub.org.

If you have any questions, please contact Mike Kramer or James Billings at


2012 Public Nights*

August 3, 2012 @ 8:15 p.m.
September 7, 2012 @ 7:30 p.m.
October 5, 2012 @ 7:00 p.m.
November 2, 2012 @ 5:30 p.m.
December 7, 2012 @ 5:30 p.m.

*Dates and times are subject to change.

The Insperity Observatory at Humble ISD, 2505 S. Houston Ave., Humble, TX 77396 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 non-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
  • Loaner telescopes
  • Borrow from the NHAC “Library”
  • 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”
  • Eligibility for NHAC Executive Board

Observe - Learn - Share

The North Houston Astronomy Club is a non-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.