Archive for the urban skies Category

Greater Houston Astronomy Coaltion

Posted in amateur astronomy, astronomical history, astronomy eduction, books, sidewalk astronomy, Student Astronomy, urban skies with tags , , on June 7, 2010 by bellaireastro

HPL Central Astro Display

The Houston Public Library was kind enough to let me put together a display for the 2nd floor.

Hopefully people will see the display and discover the Houston astronomy community. There are several area clubs each serving a different part of the metro area and we often collaborate on star parties and for the annual Astronomy Day event held at the George Observatory.

Astronomy Day 2009

The best way to learn about astronomy is to check out one of the area clubs. There are novice presentations and lots of chances to ask questions and meet the experts. You don’t have to join to come to a meeting so give us a try!

The Houston Astronomical Society meets monthly at the Science & Research Building 1 at University of Houston.

The North Houston Astronomy Club meets monthly at Lone Star College-Kingwood building CLA

The Ft Bend Astronomy Club meets monthly at the Houston Community College Stafford Campus.

The Johnson Space Center Astronomical Society meets at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Clear Lake.

If your school, scout troop, or other organization is interested in having a star party hosted for your group, contact us using the Night Sky Network. We can schedule events with a few or a lot of telescopes or lectures and demonstrations.

100 Hours of Astronomy

Sidewalk Astronomy @ HPL


Solar Observing Online

Posted in amateur astronomy, astro blogs, astronomy eduction, observing, software, space, Student Astronomy, sun, urban skies with tags , , , on April 19, 2010 by bellaireastro

The sun will become more and more active as it the 11-year solar cycle swings from the slow and quiet to the loud and wild. You can follow along using some online solar observing tools. SOHO is still my favorite but Big Bear offers some excellent ground based views and the newer STEREO spacecraft has 3-D views and its own iPhone app!

Check em out…

Spring Break Star Party

Posted in amateur astronomy, astronomy eduction, observing, space, Student Astronomy, urban skies with tags on March 14, 2010 by bellaireastro

Come out to the Bellaire High School track this Wednesday from 7pm – 9pm for some solar observing and some star gazing! – News Blog – The Big Dipper Adds a Star

Posted in amateur astronomy, astro blogs, astronomical history, astronomy eduction, exoplanets, observing, sidewalk astronomy, Sky & Telescope, space, stellar astronomy, Student Astronomy, urban skies with tags , , , on December 13, 2009 by bellaireastro – News Blog – The Big Dipper Adds a Star.

One my favorite targets for me and for star parties is the optical pair Alcor & Mizar and Mizar is also a binary system itself which is apparent through pretty much any telescope.

Alcor and Mizar

Alcor and Mizar

In reality each of the stars in the Mizar pair is a binary making the whole telescopic view a total of 6 stars when you include the star that also shows up in the field-of-view.

Alcor's new companion

Alcor a & b

Recently astronomers at the Palomar observatory were looking for extra-solar planets using near-infrared techniques and discovered that Alcor also is a binary system! That makes a total of 7 stars when you look at that one spot in the Big Dipper. Read more over at

Tips for Viewing the Geminid Meteor Shower | Universe Today

Posted in amateur astronomy, astro blogs, IYA, meteor shower, observing, sidewalk astronomy, space, Student Astronomy, Universe Today, urban skies with tags , , on November 26, 2009 by bellaireastro

Tips for Viewing the Geminid Meteor Shower | Universe Today

Here are some tips for viewing the upcoming Geminid meteor shower from Sean Welton from Universe Today

Geminids 2009

Occurring every year in mid-December, the Geminid meteor shower is commonly referred to as the most reliable meteor shower of the year. That is, it almost always puts on a great show!

The Geminid meteor shower is sure to be a stunning show this year, as the Moon will not be visible at night, so its glow will not impede your meteor viewing ability. In addition, the Geminids’ radiant is favorably positioned for most viewers at this time of year. In order to see the most meteors, I suggest the following tips:

  • The Geminid meteor shower has a very broad maximum peak. Because of this, the night on which you view the meteors isn’t critical. You will of course, see more meteors on the peak nights. This year the Geminid meteor shower’s peak is the night of December 13th-14th, 2009.
  • The best time to view a meteor shower is in the late night to early morning hours. The best time to view a meteor shower typically begins around 2 AM. This is because as the Earth rotates toward dawn, the forward velocity of the planet adds to the linear velocity of the surface and atmosphere. This has the effect of “sweeping up” more meteors.
  • If you’re not normally awake at 2 AM, like many people, simply go to sleep very early and set an alarm clock to wake you up to view the meteor shower. Trust me on this point, it is definitely worth it.
  • The Geminid meteor shower’s radiant is right near the twin bright stars Castor and Pollux in Gemini. Click the image at top right to see a map (thanks to Stellarium). The trick, however, isn’t to look towards the radiant, but to keep your eyes on the whole sky. While it’s impossible to look at the whole sky, just keep your eyes scanning and alert. This increases your chances of seeing a fleeting meteor or one out of the corner of your eye.
  • Darkness is key to proper meteor shower viewing. If you live in a city or other light polluted area, try going to a dark sky site to truly experience a meteor shower. You might be surprised how close a dark sky site is to you! Here are some tips on finding a dark sky near you.


Jupiter Gets It In The Eye!

Posted in amateur astronomy, astro blogs, astronomical history, Jupiter, observing, space, urban skies with tags , , , on July 21, 2009 by bellaireastro

Many places are reporting today that yes indeed amateur astronomer Anthony Wesley discovered that Jupiter was hit by something rather large. In 1994 comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 hit Jupiter with spectacular results. In this image by Mr. Wesley the dark spot at the top of the image isn’t normally seen. It was clearly something new and different and it turns out to be an impact.

Anthony Wesley from Canberra, Australia has captured a new impact spot on Jupiter. Credit: Anthony Wesley

Now there are professional astronomers adding more observations with more sophisticated equipment but this is the discovery of a lifetime for an amateur astronomer so congrats to Anthony Wesley of Murrumbateman Australia.

This image shows a large impact shown on the bottom left on Jupiter's south polar region captured on July 20, 2009, by NASA's Infrared Telescope Facility in Mauna Kea, Hawaii. Credit: NASA/JPL/Infrared Telescope Facility

Infrared Image of impact zone

The NASA Infrared Telescope Facility in Hawaii took this image which shows not only the impact area but the debris scattered in the upper atmosphere. Check out the post over at Universe Today for more information.


Posted in astronomical history, IYA, moon, observing, space, Student Astronomy, urban skies with tags on July 15, 2009 by bellaireastro

So a few months ago I ordered a Galileoscope so I could have a new toy and also to see if the simple scope is good for my astronomy classes.

Today it showed up on my doorstep and I put it together.

First off the unboxing.

I set out all the pieces. The lenses are glass and the rest is plastic and rubber. Note the tissue paper included to avoid getting fingerprints on the lenses.

The instructions for assembling the scope were clear and simple. Note the lens needs to be inserted in a specific direction.

Putting the tube together and getting the focuser in place and installing the telescope ends was all very simple.

The eyepieces were a tad more difficult. The small lenses are hard to work with. Getting the lenses in the correct configuration and in the right spot took some fiddling and here the directions weren’t as clear. For example there is a second eyepiece that barely gets a mention in the directions and I found myself trying to remember lens optics stuff from introductory physics. Still it wasn’t too bad.

The eyepieces fit neatly into the completed tube and the simple focus-by-sliding worked very well. I got a couple of shots through the scope with my digital camera.

This is a GREAT project for families or schools. The work doesn’t really require an adult to supervise although it may make the process easier. I say go buy one now. I plan to get a classroom set if I can. The scope seems easily enough to disassemble so you can show how the thing works and how to put it together.

Completed Galileoscope