Amateur Astronomy Under The Big Sky
RSS icon Email icon Bullet (black)
  • March 2013 Winter Lecture

    NOTE: New night – WEDNESDAY March 27th.  Same place – Museum of the Rockies, Hagar Auditorium. Same time – 7 p.m. Same great price – Free and open to the public.

    Einstein’s Legacy: Studying Gravity in War and Peace

    A popular image persists of Albert Einstein as a loner, someone who avoided the hustle and bustle of everyday life in favor of quiet contemplation. Yet Einstein was deeply engaged with politics throughout his life; indeed, he was so active politically that the FBI kept him under surveillance for decades, compiling a 2000-page secret file on his political activities. His most enduring scientific legacy, the general theory of relativity – physicists’ reigning explanation for gravity and the basis for nearly all our thinking about the cosmos – has likewise been cast as an austere temple standing aloof from the all-too-human dramas of political history. But was it so? In this talk, David Kaiser – Germeshausen Professor and Department Head of MIT’s Program in Science, Technology, and Society -examines ways in which research on general relativity was embedded in, and at times engulfed by, the tumult of world politics over the course of the twentieth century. Kaiser’s books include Drawing Theories Apart: The Dispersion of Feynman Diagrams in Postwar Physics (2005), and How the Hippies Saved Physics: Science, Counterculture, and the Quantum Revival (2011). A Fellow of the American Physical Society and recipient of the Pfizer Prize from the History of Science Society for best book in the field, Kaiser has also received MIT’s highest awards for excellence in teaching. His work has been featured in Science, Nature, Scientific American, the London Review of Books, and the Huffington Post, as well as on NOVA television programs, NPR, and the BBC.

  • Comet Panstarrs

    A few of our club members have taken pictures of comet Panstarrs. We will add more as we get them. This first one was taken with a 200 mm lens on March 10th from Bozeman.

    This next one was taken from the Cottonwood Observatory,  3/16/13.  Let us know if you’d like us to post your pictures, too.



  • Celebrating Einstein

    Celebrating Einstein is a multidisciplinary outreach event centered around communicating the beauty and significance of Einstein’s theory to the general public; this event will be one of the first in the nation to celebrate the centennial anniversary of general relativity. Celebrating Einstein will culminate in events the first week of April of 2013 in Bozeman, Montana. All events are free and open to the public with seating available on a first come, first served basis.

    For a list of events visit:

  • New speaker added for Celebrating Einstein lecture series

    Knocking on Heaven’s Door: How Physics and Scientific Thinking Illuminate the Universe and the Modern World

    A talk by Lisa Randall, Frank B. Baird, Jr. Professor of Science at Harvard University

    Friday, March 1st, 7:30pm, Crawford Theatre, Emerson Cultural Center, this event is free and open to the public.

    The bestselling author of Warped Passages, one of Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World,” and one of Esquire’s “75 Most Influential People of the 21st Century,” Lisa Randall gives us an exhilarating overview of the latest ideas in physics and offers a rousing defense of the role of science in our lives. Featuring fascinating insights into our scientific future born from the author’s provocative conversations with Nate Silver, David Chang, and Scott Derrickson,Knocking on Heaven’s Door is eminently readable, one of the most important popular science books of this or any year. It is a necessary volume for all who admire the work of Stephen Hawking, Michio Kaku, Brian Greene, Simon Singh, and Carl Sagan; for anyone curious about the workings and aims of the Large Hadron Collider, the biggest and most expensive machine ever built by mankind; for those who firmly believe in the importance of science and rational thought; and for anyone interested in how the Universe began…and how it might ultimately end.


    Lisa is a leading expert on particle physics and cosmology, and in particular, the possible role of extra dimensions of space.
    She was the first tenured woman in the Princeton University physics department and the first tenured female theoretical physicist at both MIT and Harvard University. Lisa is the author of two best selling books, ” Warped Passages: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Universe’s Hidden Dimensions” and “Knocking on Heaven’s Door: How Physics and Scientific Thinking Illuminate the Universe and the Modern World”. Both books have received stellar reviews, including the following review by President Clinton “Lisa Randall has written Knocking on Heaven’s Door in the same witty, informal style with which she explains physics in person, making complex ideas fascinating and easy to understand. Her book . . . just might make you think differently—and encourage you to make smarter decisions about the world.”


    For more info on MSU’s Celebrating Einstein, visit:

  • Celebrating Einstein

    The Southwest Montana Astronomical Society presents Celebrating Einstein for the 2013 Winter Lecture Series.  

    NEW lecture added:  Friday March 1st at the Emerson starting at 7:00 p.m.  NOTE DIFFERENT LOCATION FROM USUAL

    Join us this Friday February 22nd at the Museum of the Rockies starting  at 7:00 p.m.

    A Shout through Space and Time: Einstein’s Legacy Join MSU Assistant Professor Nico Yunes as he describes Einstein’s gravitational waves and how they encode the secrets of black holes – as well as, neutron stars and our current efforts to detect them and verify Einstein’s last untested prediction. Yunes is one of the newest members of he MSU physics department and was an Einstein Fellow at MIT before coming to Montana.

    This event is open to the public and free.


    For more info on MSU’s Celebrating Einstein, visit:

  • February 2013 Winter Lecture Series

    A Shout through Space and Time: Einstein’s Legacy 
    Friday, February 22, 7pm Hager Auditorium

    In 1905 and then again in 1915, a young office clerk put forth several revolutionary ideas that would soon shake the foundations of physics.  Albert Einstein elevated these ideas to physical theories and all of his predictions have come to pass, except one: gravitational waves. These waves are produced in the most violent and energetic events in the Universe, such as when black holes and neutron stars collide, but they have so-far evaded direct detection due to their inherent feebleness. Join MSU Assistant Professor Nico Yunes as he describes Einstein’s gravitational waves and how they encode the secrets of black holes – as well as, neutron stars and our current efforts to detect them and verify Einstein’s last untested prediction. Yunes is one of the newest members of he MSU physics department and was an Einstein Fellow at MIT before coming to Montana.

  • Help name Pluto’s new Moons

    From SETI:   Help Us Name the Moons of Pluto!

    Images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope in 2011 and 2012 revealed two previously unknown moons of Pluto. So far, we have been calling them “P4” and “P5”, but the time has come to give them permanent names. If it were up to you, what would you choose?  By tradition, the names of Pluto’s moons come from Greek and Roman mythology, and are related to the ancient tales about Hades and the Underworld.   Alternatively, if you have a great idea for a name that we have overlooked, let us know by filling out the write in form. If you can make a good case for it, we will add it to the list. SETI  will take your votes and suggestions into consideration when we propose the names for P4 and P5 to the International Astronomical Union (IAU). Voting ends at noon EST on Monday, February 25th, 2013.
    Visit their website for more information:
  • Science Fun Night

    The Stars Still Talk to Us…
    Next Tuesday, I will attempt to share some fun of the astronomical sky-connections of the Big Horn Medicine Wheel with families at the public library.  Please come! and share this with your friends.  –Ivy

    Family Science Night: Star Wheels  at the Bozeman Public Library on February 19,2013  6:30- 7:30 pm

    Free and open to the public

    In this family science workshop, we will create our own astronomical medicine wheels, patterned after the Big Horn Medicine Wheel that resides at nearly 10,000 ft elevation in the Big Horn Mountains just south of the Montana border.  The Big Horn Medicine Wheel, whose glowing white rocks under starlight and moonlight,  are able to convey the actions of celestial objects throughout vast expanses of time and space.  We will create smaller wheels that can be useful in connecting our own home to the Sun, stars and planets, bringing increased delight and meaning to our evening skywatching. Family members may make individual wheels or work on one together. All ages welcome.

  • Final push for Building Bigger Skies

    The planetarium remodel is almost complete. The final push for raising the last $60,000 of the $1.5 million will take place this coming week with the help of a telethon on KBZK.  During the local 10 p.m. news, members of SMAS, MSGC, MoR, and MSU will man the phones.  When the Taylor Planetarium reopens on March 2, 2013 it will be one of the first planetariums in the US to have an Evans and Sutherland Digistar Five digital planetarium projector. It is the only public planetarium in the state of Montana and in a 400 mile radius.  We are lucky to have such a great facility in our backyard.  Please support the telethon!

  • Light Fight

    A recent article in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle is generating a good debate about our dark skies:

    Professor says Baxter sign affects optics research, local companies

    Sign owner says he will turn it off at closing time each night.

    AMANDA RICKER, Chronicle Staff Writer, Posted: Tuesday, January 15, 2013

    A professor and optical technology expert at Montana State University says the relighting of the “Hotel Baxter” sign downtown affects MSU’s optics research and Bozeman’s growing optics industry.

    Meanwhile, the sign’s owner says he will try to alleviate some of the concerns by turning the sign off at 1 a.m. each night.

    Joseph Shaw, director of MSU’s Optical Technology Center and a professor of electrical engineering and physics, said light from the bright, red Baxter sign affects sensitive optical receivers being tested on the roof at Cobleigh Hall.

    “We’re sitting on one of the tallest buildings on campus, looking directly over the top of the Baxter,” Shaw said Monday. “It’s like somebody taking a competing light source and holding it up to get as close to our measurements as possible. I know they didn’t design (the sign) to do that, but that’s why it’s a particular problem.”

    Shaw said MSU researchers are inventing new sensors and using them to conduct research ranging from weather forecasting and climate studies to military sensing.

    “These sensors depend on being able to see into the night sky without a lot of extraneous light pollution,” he said.

    Further, Shaw said the research contributes to a growing number of optical technology companies in town, such as ILX Lightwave and Bridger Photonics. Since 1980, he said, more than 24 optics companies have set up shop in Bozeman. And in many cases, Shaw said the companies use technology or ideas developed in concert with the university.

    “So, if we impair the optics research at MSU, we are also impairing the health of the optics companies in town,” he said. “It isn’t an us-versus-them thing. It’s very much an issue that I think is important for the entire community.”

    Shaw said a recent study funded by the governor’s office found that Bozeman optics companies are an up-and-coming component of the Montana economy, as one of the few places in the state where there’s a significant amount of high-tech companies clustered together.

    Bozeman has significantly less light pollution than the average city, Shaw said. People can still look up at night and see the faint band of stars created by the Milky Way or the rare northern lights moving across the sky.

    The city of Bozeman does a better job than most cities in protecting dark skies, Shaw said, but a growing number of streetlights and improper lighting techniques are threatening that status.

    Shaw said in addition to affecting optics research, the Baxter sign and the increasing amount of light pollution in Bozeman affects the Montana Aurora Detector Network, which sends text and email alerts to stargazers when the aurora borealis is occurring.

    Proper lighting techniques include shielded fixtures that point the light down and away from the sky, reduced brightness and restricted color content, Shaw said.

    Shaw and David Loseff, the majority owner of the Baxter, have scheduled a meeting to discuss ways to compromise.

    “We respect the university and are sensitive to these issues,” Loseff said. “Our sign was a 1929 sign, which predated their current project, and I hope (Shaw) can be as sensitive to the history of the community and historic preservation.”

    Loseff said Monday he plans to turn the sign off each night at 1 a.m. when businesses close in the Baxter building. The sign is turned on at 5 p.m.

    Loseff suggested perhaps MSU’s equipment could be tested in more rural areas outside of town.

    “Bozeman is a large and growing community,” he said.