July, 2015

Volume XV, Number 7

This Month's  remaining events

July 24-- General Meeting, Lone Star College

Kingwood Campus

Next Month's Events

August 7 -- Insperity Observatory Public Night

August 15--  Star Party, O'Brien Dark Site

August 28-- General Meeting, Lone Star College

Kingwood Campus


 July 24, 2015

Novice Program

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


Evolved Massive Stars!

Presented by:

Eric Comstock


General Meeting

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

CLA Lecture Hall


Human Health & Performance in Space!

presented by:

Dr. John B. Charles, Ph. D.

NASA Cardiovascular Physiologist

NASA Human Health and Performance Directorate


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



 1.  ByLaw Revision Vote at the General Meeting July 24:  The Executive Board worked for several months reviewing and revising 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 July 24, this coming Friday.  We will be voting on the changes during the meeting.  Please all members attend so we will have a quorum.  This vote will be on the Proposed ByLaw changes which were announced on the NHAC website in May, and which were discussed at the General Meeting on May 22.

Incidentally, the procedure for amending the By-Laws remains unchanged in the proposed Revision.  You may recall we attempted to hold this vote at the June meeting,, but did not have a quorum.  We really want to have the revision to the by-laws approved and in place.

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/


4: 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:

July 24

August 28

September 25

October 23

November 20

December 18

6. 2015 Remaining Executive Board Meeting Schedule:


September 9

November 11

7.  I am continuing with the 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.  This month's article salutes the success of the New Horizons mission and its successful journey to study Pluto as it passed.  I am borrowing shamelessly from a daily news digest provided by Bill kowalczyk of NASA, who is a member of HAS.  Many thanks, Bill!

New Horizons’ Hi-Res Images Reveal Geologically Active Pluto.

ABC World News continued coverage of the New Horizons mission by noting that the latest images “surprised” scientists by revealing Pluto mountains “11,000 feet high” and “relatively young at just 100 million years old.” NBC Nightly News notes that the images are “the very first high resolution images” of Pluto and “the clearest image” so far of Charon.

        The CBS Evening News broadcast that the mission is “amazing.” Reporter Chip Reid said that the mission’s costs have “raised eyebrows among some,” but principal investigator Alan Stern said that the science coming back is well-worth the money spent. Reid added that New Horizons will be sending back data “for years to come.”

        The AP reports that the Pluto’s “total absence of impact craters” is “astonishing” scientists, indicating that it may even be geologically active today with an internal heat source. John Spencer of the Southwest Research Institute said that these findings may be “a game-changer” for how researchers view the Kuiper belt.

        According to the USA Today, the images have “a permanent place in scientific history.” Stern added that scientists were engaging in “something close to bedlam” trying to explain all the new features. Cathy Olkin of the Southwest Research Institute added that the images of Charon “blew our socks off” because of deep chasms and cliffs spotted.

        The New York Times reports that Pluto has become “a dynamic world with varied geography.” John M. Grunsfeld, NASA’s associate administrator for the science mission directorate, said, “This is truly a hallmark in human history.” According to the article, images of the moon Hydra were “interesting” as well, even though they only entailed “a few pixels.” The article notes that the spacecraft currently is in “perfect health, with no problems cropping up.” The New York Times also has an interactive gallery of the images.

        The Los Angeles Times “Science Now” website reports that Hal Weaver, New Horizons’ project scientist, said the newly discovered fact that Pluto has hard water ice “is just blowing my mind. ... We had such a hard time finding evidence for water ice on the surface of Pluto, but that is the only way to get those mountains.”

        The Washington Post “Speaking of Science” blog reports that NASA expects to release “an equally detailed portrait of an entire face” of Pluto on Friday. Mission operations manager Alice Bowman said that there was also “so much interesting science” in just the first image of Charon.

        According to the Christian Science Monitor, New Horizons revealed that Pluto and Charon are “complex worlds with spectacular surface features that rival anything found elsewhere in the solar system but with their own unique twists.”

        Science Magazine cites several scientists not affiliated with the mission, who believe proof that Pluto is geologically active will be what is most talked about with the new images. SPACE reports that in a NASA release, Jeff Moore, leader of New Horizons’ geology, geophysics and imaging team, said that Pluto has “one of the youngest surfaces we’ve ever seen in the solar system.”

        Nature reports that NASA Chief Scientist Ellen Stofan said, “Pluto is a real place, with incredibly complex geology. ... It is beautiful and it is strange.” The article, like others, notes that scientists thought that Pluto would be something like Triton, but team member Bonnie Buratti of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory noted, “It really is a lot more interesting than Triton.” In another article, Nature interviews Marc Buie of the Southwest Research Institute, who before the flyby used the Hubble telescope images to create maps of Pluto that appear “prescient” today. Buie said that the information coming in now will likely “keep me busy the rest of my career.”

        ComputerWorld reports Grunsfeld added, “Pluto New Horizons is a true mission of exploration, showing us why basic scientific research is so important. ... The mission has had nine years to build expectations about what we would see during closest approach to Pluto and Charon. Today, we get the first sampling of the scientific treasure collected during those critical moments, and I can tell you it dramatically surpasses those high expectations.”

        The Telegraph (UK) notes that NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said, “I know today we’ve inspired a whole new generation of explorers with this great success, and we look forward to the discoveries yet to come. ... This is a historic win for science and for exploration. We’ve truly, once again raised the bar of human potential.”

        TV coverage of the mission continues throughout the day. In examples of some of the longer coverage, Bolden was interviewed on CNN’s The Lead. He said, “No one had any idea that New Horizons would do what it’s doing for the world of astronomy. ... If anyone questions or statute it is as the number one nation in the world in exploration, that should be done. We have now visited every planet in our solar system. We have now been the first ever to actually go out of the solar system with a spacecraft and now we are at Pluto. What more can you ask for other than putting humans on Mars, which is also in our list of things we’re going to do?” When asked about Pluto’s status as a dwarf planet, Bolden said, “All I can tell you is I never stopped calling it a planet.”

        CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 and CNN’s Newsroom and had some of the more extensive coverage for the day.

               Multiple New TV Shows And Broadcasts Document New Horizons. The NBC News website reports that there are several new TV shows and webcasts focusing on New Horizons and its new discoveries, including shows on PBS, Discovery Science Channel, and the National Geographic Channel.

        SPACE focuses solely on the NOVA documentary “Chasing Pluto,” which aired Wednesday on PBS.

        Articles Examine What Is Next For New Horizons, NASA Planetary Missions. USA Today examines what will happen to New Horizons following the Pluto flyby. Stern said that with the spacecraft “in full health,” it could last until the mid-2030s. It could next be sent to one of two Kuiper Belt objects, but that “heavily depends on NASA funding.” Chris Hersman, New Horizons’ mission systems engineer, reportedly is “confident” that funding will come.

        New Scientist, in contrast, examines where NASA may next go to now that it has reached Pluto. Many currently planned missions will be “an echo of what went before.” The article notes that while many missions will go to targets visited before, these do not need to be “dull.” However, making missions interesting, sometimes with “pretty pictures,” can raise interest in future exploration, according to the article.

        The Washington Post “Speaking of Science” blog, The Guardian (UK), Daily Beast, Smithsonian website, and ABC News Radio also cover the story.

        New Horizons Scientists Now Engaging In “Waiting Game.” Fortune reports that Moore thinks that it may not be until the fall when the data he especially wants reaches Earth. This is part of “the waiting game” scientists will now have to endure. Moore said, “We can’t do our job into the data is available. ... Having been involved in this mission since the late 1990s, I can wait a few more months.”

        Localities Continue Pluto Celebrations. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that on Wednesday, the Glenn Research Center and the Cleveland Museum of Natural History held their own “Plutopalooza” to celebrate New Horizons. Part of the festivities involved NASA representatives explaining how Glenn helped the mission.

        The WHNT-TV website reports that at the US Space and Rocket Center, Alyssa Carson, one of the newest class of astronaut candidates, explained the importance of New Horizons while waiting for the new images. Carson said, “Being able to get closer and more detailed pictures of Pluto will help us see and learn more about that planet in particular and hopefully that will lead more to learning about that planet and our whole solar system.”

        The Guardian (UK)  has a similar article about Flagstaff, Arizona, where Tombaugh discovered the dwarf planet.

        Debate On Pluto’s Planethood Rages. The CBS News website reports that several famous people on Twitter, including William Shatner, Sunnyvale, California Mayor Jim Griffith, author George R.R. Martin, and “the Twitter page of comet 67P” stand with Stern in considering Pluto a planet. Astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson was the only one cited who thought Pluto’s status as a dwarf planet was deserved.

        The USA Today “Entertain This” blog reports that Stephen Colbert and Tyson held “a nearly 15-minute debate” on the subject, as Colbert is for Pluto as a planet. That debate was also covered by Wired, and Raw Story.

        The Huffington Post reports that the subject was debated on HuffPost Live between Jim Bell, president of The Planetary Society, who claims it is a planet, and planetary scientist Carolyn Porco.

        The Guardian (UK), in an editorial supporting the International Astronomical Union definition of Pluto as a dwarf planet, writes that New Horizons still is “a reminder of what humanity can achieve with sufficient patience, investment, collaborative effort and rational inquiry.”

        The Guardian (UK) also covers the debate, while The Guardian (UK), another The Guardian (UK) piece, and another op-ed in the The Guardian (UK) argue that Pluto should be a planet.

        Magician David Blaine Entertained Scientists Before New Horizons Contact. The Washington Post “Speaking of Science” blog reports that magician David Blaine was at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab Tuesday night, performing before NASA received confirmation of New Horizons’ health. Blaine was reportedly there because he wanted to entertain the scientists as “a big space fan” and friend of Stern’s.

        Pluto Probe Has Battery Made In Idaho. In continuing coverage, the AP reports that the battery aboard NASA’s New Horizons space probe that made a pass at the planet Pluto on Tuesday was designed and constructed at the Idaho National Laboratory. Known as a radioisotope thermoelectric generator, the device runs off of decaying plutonium-238. “This mission is a 10-year mission just to get there, and (NASA) wants to steer it out past Pluto, into the Kuiper belt,” said Stephen Johnson, chief of the lab’s space nuclear power program. The battery had to power the craft for nine years before reaching its destination.

        E2V Plans To Expand Following New Horizons Mission. The Financial Times reports that e2V technologies wants to expand its space division now that its sensors were used on New Horizons.

        More Commentary. The New York Times editorializes that New Horizons has “a storybook quality” and “justifiably a source of great pride for the United States.” No matter where the next spacecraft is sent, the editors believe no “commercial or ideological justification” is needed. Bloomberg View editorializes that New Horizons is part of a series of events that is raising interest in space once again. It is “the latest confirmation that the American space program is still capable of accomplishing great things.” The editors do note that it will take the combined effort of NASA and private industry to go to Mars, possibly using the “blueprint” of NASA’s commercial resupply efforts.

        In an article for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Fiza Pirani lists five reasons why New Horizons’ flyby was “a big deal.” To Pirani, the mission is important for “the advancement of technology;” learning what Pluto looks like; the fact it’s the last time people will “see a new world for the first time;” increasing knowledge of Earth; and for reminding humanity “how little we are.”

        Amber Phillips at the Washington Post “The Fix” blog uses the excitement over New Horizons to note that space exploration has never been especially popular with the American public, including during the Apollo era. Even though it is “among Americans’ most popular public agencies,” NASA has not used public opinion “to boost its program.”

        At the NPR “13.7: Cosmos And Culture” blog, cosmologist Marcelo Gleiser writes that the mission is “a testimony to what we can accomplish as we work together toward a common goal.” He wonders what children of today will be inspired to do because of New Horizons.

        In her column for USA Today, Eileen Rivers describes what some late night comics were saying during their bits about New Horizons. No matter what they said, New Horizons provided “new ways of exploring the dwarf planet.”

        The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, in an editorial, used New Horizons’ achievements to highlight the work at the Stennis Space Center, even though it was “not a major factor in the New Horizons adventure.”

        In a column for the Newcastle (AUS) Herald, Ian Kirkwood writes that he has recently been turned back on to space “thanks to the extraordinary and varied images being beamed back to Earth from a series of long-distance probes.” The latest in this series is New Horizons. Kirkwood thinks that it is “intrinsically spectacular” that space missions require international collaborations. This includes the ISS, an “orbiting wonder.” Because of this collaboration, these space mission “are better than science fiction: they are science facts.”

        Mika McKinnon at io9 writes that “the vibrant excitement of the mission scientists staying up all night to see that first image” of Pluto from New Horizons was “exactly the same” as the scientists experienced 50 years ago when Mariner 4 sent back the first images of Mars. With New Horizons, McKinnon believes “the best is yet to come.”

        Meanwhile, George Dvorsky at io9 writes that what is being seen is “completely crazy.”

        Kaila Hale-Stern at Gizmodo  continues writing about how Pluto is now “a perfect storm of a meme.”

As you can see, there is and has been a tremendous amount of attention by the Press, from many different viewpoints.  As an aside, according to Wikipedia on the Internet, a "meme" is "an activity, concept, catchphrase or piece of media which spreads, often as mimicry, from person to person".  It may be that Kaila Hale-Stern is being somewhat superior.


8.  I am moving the URL for the 2017 Solar Eclipse here to the Notes section for ease of access.  I will keep it here until the August Newsletter.

 August 2017 Solar Eclipse URL:


or simply google <2017 solar eclipse>

Star Party August 15!

Sunset will be 8:05 P.M.

Moonset will be 8:40 P.M., or about the time it is actually getting dark.  The rest of the night should  be nice and dark, give or take a light dome or two.

It seems as though the "Monsoon" season has abated, and we are now actually getting a few observable nights.  We could actually have a decent observing night on August 15 if we are lucky.

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 off of State Highway 105 west of Montgomery after you leave Dobbin going north.

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.

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 August 15 Star Party, Sunset will be  8:05 P.M., and Moon Set will be 35 minutes later at 8:40 P.M.

2015 Remaining Star Party Schedule:

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

August 7, 2015.

Sunset will be at  8:10 P.M., and Moonrise will be at 1:35 A.M.  It should be a dark night.

Doors will open at 8:00 P.M. or so 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 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.

As part of my training to be able to operate the Observatory, this past Tuesday evening, with the help of Dave Tomlin, I (Rusty) paired my Canon DSLR with the Insperity 16" scope to take a very nice picture of Venus in its crescent phase.  I am finding the training to be mostly straight forward, and quite rewarding.

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


Rusty's Ramblings

Folks,  I have only one point this month: It is important that we have a quorum to approve the Revised By-Laws.

Please, please, please come to this Friday's meeting so we can get this Revision put to bed.

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 held each month on the fourth Friday.