The Novice talk begins at 6:30pm and the main presentation begins at
Speaker: Stephen Hummel, Dark Skies Specialist at the McDonald Observatory
Join us as Stephen returns to NHAC to talk about TLEs.
Sprites: Between the Clouds and the Stars
Sprites, or Transient Luminous Events, are large electrical discharges that
occur high above thunderstorms, near the edge of space. Sprites and their
related phenomena are some of the most visually stunning things
occurring in the night sky, but remain little known outside of academic
circles. Sprites were only confirmed to exist in 1989, but under dark skies,
common digital cameras are now capable of capturing these fleeting
events in great detail. We’ll discuss what sprites are, how to see them for
yourself, and some of the recent advancements in our understanding of
The zoom link will be posted on the website before the meeting. See you
Many of the faithful attendees of the novice sessions are experienced astronomers. Thank you for your support. However, everyone is a novice at something. Thus, in the novice sessions starting in 2022, we will shorten the “total newbie” discussion and add interesting advanced topics to help broaden everyone’s knowledge. We need other astronomers to volunteer to teach, or help co-teach, topics in their fields of relative expertise. Future topics beyond the list below may include (but are in no way limited to) spectroscopy, astrometry, radio telescopes for amateurs, how to build or assemble your own Dobsonian, citizen science, DIY, 3d printing, making models, Astronomical League and other resources, how to host a star party, the BAT (Big Amateur Telescope) project, etc.
To volunteer, or to suggest your own topics, contact Robert Brayton.
Here is the revised list for 2022 so far: (please feel free to volunteer to help with any of these topics, too)
- January: Software (software for amateur astronomers) – Robert B
- February: Dew (dew control for the humid south east Texas) – Robert B
- March: Messier Marathon – Aaron C
- April: GoTo mounts (how to setup and use) – Robert B
- May: Raspberry Pi (a cheap, portable, yet very useful computer) – Robert B
- June: Satellites/ISS (how to find and photograph) – Robert B
- July: Accessing and using NASA data (explore NASA images and databases, make new discoveries) – Robert B
Join us for the next virtual NHAC meeting on January 28th!
The novice session with Robert Brayton begins at 6:30 p.m. The session will include a discussion on software for amateur astronomers. The main presentation, given by Justin McCollum, starts at 7:30 p.m. Justin’s presentation topic will be Stellarium.
(Check back here on the day of the meeting to get the Zoom link so you can join us!)
Stellarium: The Common Astronomer’s Planetarium
Stellarium is considered the most famous and internationally recognized planetarium software program for astronomers as well as professionals in science education who teach Astronomy. This program is an international collaboration that includes the work of hundreds of computer programmers, amateur astronomers, and space enthusiasts. While Stellarium does not have all the features found in programs that you pay for, like TheSkyX and SkyTools, it is constantly evolving with each new update. New features added to Stellarium include 24 different DSO catalogs, an astronomical database table for calculations, and projecting astro images against the night sky.
About Justin McCollum:
Justin received two degrees in physics from Portland State University in Portland, Oregon, in 2002 and 2005. He has been the Physics Laboratory Coordinator for the Department of Physics at Lamar University since January 2005. He has taught Astronomy and Orbital Mechanics in departments for the College of Arts and Sciences at Lamar University. He was the Instructor in Physics and Astronomy for the Texas Governor School Summer Camp for the College of Education and Human Development at Lamar University from 2007 until 2021. Other courses Justin taught at TGS were Introduction to Engineering, Robotics, and Software Programming using CAD-based Python and Blender programs.
Justin is currently a Co-Building Manager at the George Astronomical Observatory with HMNS at Brazos Bend State Park, and has been volunteering there since 2005. He is a part-time education instructor with Space Center University at Space Center Houston next to NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Since December 2020, he has been working part-time with Ariel Partners out of New York City as the Orbital Mechanics Data Specialist in conjunction with Leidos. Justin volunteers for and is a member of all four astronomy clubs in the Greater Houston Area.