September, 2015

Volume XV, Number 9

This Month's  remaining events

September 25 -- General Meeting, Lone Star College,

Kingwood Campus

September 27 -- Blood Moon Party, O'Brien Dark Site

(good horizons to observe the Total Lunar Eclipse)

Next Month's Events

October 2 -- Insperity Observatory Public Night

October 10 --  Star Party, O'Brien Dark Site

October 16 -- General Meeting, Lone Star College,

Kingwood Campus  Note this date!

October 23--All Clubs Meeting,Houston Museum of Natural History, Hermann Park
October 24, A-Day, George Observatory


 September 25, 2015

Novice Program

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

Subject:  Observing a Lunar Eclipse

Presented by:

Dr. Bruce Pollard

General Meeting

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

CLA Lecture Hall

Lecture Subject:

Training for Commercial Space Experiences

Presented by

Mr. Kevin M. Heath, President and CEO,

Waypoint 2 Space Inc.

Kevin Heath is the founder and CEO of Waypoint 2 Space, the only company in the country to have FAA Safety Approval for four commercial space training programs.   Mr. Heath is a technology professional with experience in Commercial Human Spaceflight solutions, (including launch vehicles, spacecraft and satellites).

Mr. Heath received his Bachelor of Science in Business Management and Masters in Business Administration in Technology Management degrees from the University of Phoenix.

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



1.  Please make a note:  The General Meeting for October has been changed to October 16 to avoid conflict with A-Day.


2.  A dues reduction! (with a tip of the hat to George Marsden.  Thanks, George!)

At our July Board Meeting it was decided that we would reduce the dues for Individuals and Families in 2016.  This change will go into effect at the March 2016 General Meeting.  (We are unable to implement this change prior to the March 2016 due to a By-Laws requirement to publicize the change at least 6 months before the effective date.)

The new Dues structure is:

          Individual Membership        $20.00

          Family Membership    $25.00

          Student Membership  $  5.00(remains the same)


At the September Board Meeting the decision was made to purchase for sale astronomy "Fundanas".  These are bandanas that have 33 common constellations on them.  They will sell for $5.00 each.


It is important that we not let our dues lapse at the start of the year.  So as an incentive to those who renew or join prior to the March General Meeting they will receive a bandana with their membership with no additional charge  (Only one per membership...).


Please note that any nominees for Club Office in 2016 must have their 2016 dues paid prior to the election at the December General Meeting in order to be eligble to be elected.  This is part of including the "Fundana" in the package for those who are paying the $25 or $30 dues rate.


3. 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


4.  Our Astronomical League Coordinator is Jim Barbasso. 

The Astronomical League URL is:


5. 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.


 6.  2015 Remaining General Meeting Schedule:

September 25

October 16 Note the date!

November 20 Note the date!

December 18 Note the date!


 7. 2015 Remaining Executive Board Meeting Schedule:

Early November, TBA


8.  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.For this month we have an article from the Arizona Daily Sun of September 16, 2015.  This article describes a flight aboard the NASA Boeing 747SP which has been modified to carry a 100 inch Infrared telescope at high altitude for spectroscopy.  Each mission has a carefully planned profile to allow the minimally steerable telescope to take long exposures of Deep Space targets.

September 16, 2015 6:00 am  •  (0) Comments


Lowell Observatory Historian Kevin Schindler got the rare opportunity this month to join Flagstaff educators Samantha Thompson and Rich Krueger on a flight aboard NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, the largest airborne observatory in the world, as part of the space agency’s Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors Program. The following is his first-hand account of that stratospheric mission.

Part two of a two-part series

There’s just something about flying on a NASA mission that is magical.

True, NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy encompasses the second part of NASA’s name — aeronautical — rather than the more revered third part — space. The plane doesn’t even come close to space, flying at altitudes up to 45,000 feet. But it’s still a NASA mission, and besides, the thought of traveling on a flying observatory is just plain cool.

So there we were, Lowell Observatory’s Samantha Thompson, Flagstaff Arts & Leadership Academy’s Rich Krueger, 25 other people and me on the evening of Aug. 31, wondering if our flight the following evening was a go or no-go. We finally got word that a troublesome engine had been repaired and was now working properly.

The flight was on.

The next day, our Flagstaff contingency gathered in the afternoon with educators from Oklahoma and shopped for food to take on that evening’s 10-hour flight. We then headed to NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center and saw SOFIA rolled out onto the apron as crews prepared the plane for its journey.

We stashed our gear in a room at SOFIA’s hangar and walked upstairs to meet with SOFIA Program Manager Eddie Zavala. He made an observation about SOFIA’s infrared telescope, which NASA scientists can use to study the composition of things like planetary atmospheres, comets and interstellar dust clouds in other galaxies.

“The Hubble Telescope shows the crime scene while SOFIA does the DNA analysis,” Zavala said.

After leaving Zavala’s office, we sauntered toward a meeting room for the mission briefing. Flight Director Nancy McKown asked officials for status reports on topics ranging from the weather and flight plan to the telescope and contingency plan for an emergency landing. When the briefing ended, we gathered our gear and headed out to the plane, the setting sun’s orange rays spotlighting it on the apron. Doors were scheduled to close at 7:40 p.m. and takeoff was set for 8:37 p.m.

But alas, another glitch. The engine was fine, but a light on the left wing was out and needed to be repaired.

Though the scientists would lose out on some valuable observing time, the delay didn’t much dampen the spirits of the passengers. The educators could still pick the brains of the scientists and engineers even though the plane was still on the ground.

I reflected on the audacity of airborne astronomy and the legacy of Lowell’s Ted Dunham, considered in science circles as one of the godfathers of airborne astronomy. Ted wasn’t on this flight, but his presence was certainly felt. His name came up in several conversations and people would whisper his name almost reverentially.

At 9:27 p.m., word came that the light on the wing was working again and we were cleared for flight. After a final safety briefing, we all buckled in to our seats and the plane began taxiing, finally taking off at 10:06 p.m.

Now the real fun began.

Once the plane reached cruising altitude, passengers could walk around the cabin. We could even head up to the flight deck to visit with the two pilots and the engineer who kept the plane on a course over many of the far western states, Canada and the Pacific Ocean.

The main deck consisted of two primary areas. The fore section contained passenger seats and a bank of computers. It was separated from the main work area of the aft section by two small bathrooms and a 14-stepped spiral staircase that corkscrewed up to the flight deck.

The primary work area on the main deck contained several work stations, all pointed to the rear of the plane. From the midsection to the back, these stations included monitors for the educators and work tables, a station for the flight director and assistant, and stations for the instrument scientists and telescope operators.

At the far end was the star of the show, the 100-inch-diameter infrared telescope, which remained cordoned off for the duration of the flight. The scientists used this telescope in conjunction with the EXES — Echelon-Cross-Echelle Spectrograph — a specialized, liquid helium-cooled instrument. They observed a variety of molecular clouds and star-forming regions in the infrared spectrum.

While the scientists didn’t experience their best night of observing, Thompson, Krueger, and the other educators gained a rich understanding of the observatory and its capabilities. Thompson and Krueger, with the help of Krueger’s students, will use what they learned to create exhibits that will be displayed at Lowell Observatory, FALA and other venues.

Not bad for an observing mission that almost didn’t happen.

Kevin Schindler is the Lowell Observatory historian.


9.  I am moving 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>


Star Party October 10, 2015!

Sunset will be 6:58 P.M.  Moonrise will be at 6:10 A.M. on Sunday, so the night should be dark, give or take a light dome or two, and starting to get cooler.  We are getting into the nice time of the year for observing.  Make plans to come out in the late afternoon to enjoy the BarBQ and socialising, followed by observing.

We had a great Bar-be-Que Star Party on September 12.  We had about 45 members, guests, and students of Aaron's class at Lone Star College.  The food was great, thanks to James and all those who brought Side Dishes and desserts.  The weather was comfortably cool, and the field was dry.  We even had dogs, cows with calves and one bull we noticed, and also donkeys in attendance.  It was exciting!  The evening was clear with nice sky.  Aaron gave a nice tour of the sky, and even non-students were welcome to listen and learn.  All in all, it was a very nice evening!  As is always true, many thanks to Wanda and Tim O'Brien for our being able to enjoy the dark site.  See pictures below.

If you are new to the club, do come out and join us.  You, the members, are the reason we have social 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.

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.

2015 Remaining Star Party Schedule:

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

Public Night on October 2, 2015.

Sunset will be at  7:05 P.M., and the moon will not rise until after 11:03 P.M.  It should be a dark night.

Doors will open by about 6:45 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 were just over 75 guests on September 4, 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.

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 is at Jack Fields Elementary School, 2505 S. Houston Ave., Humble, TX 77396



Rusty's Ramblings

Hello, NHACers:

In October we have our Annual Southeast Texas Astronomical Community Celebration of Astronomy.  (I just thought that up all by myself!)

But, really:  We have the Annual All Clubs Meeting at The Houston Museum of Natural History, which always has an interesting speaker, and the again Annual Astronomy Day (A-Day) at the George Observatory.  Both are really special events which take a great deal of organizing to make them happen.  These will be on the evening of October 23, and the day and evening of October 24.

These events are hosted by the Astronomical Clubs in the Houston, Huntsville, and Beaumont areas.

This year the A-Day coordinator is our own Dr. Aaron Clevenson.  Adequate funding is in place, although individual purchase of the A-Day Tee Shirt would help out.  And I know you are all getting tired of seeing me in one of the NHAC T-shirts, so I plan on buying one this year.  The last time I did that was 4 years ago!

I do not know if the organizers of the All Clubs meeting on Friday night need volunteers, but I can tell you Aaron still has  some openings for volunteers on A-Day itself.  I plan to see where he needs me, and I hope others of our club will step up and help make this event the same success it has been in the past.

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.