Amateur Astronomy Under The Big Sky
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  • Stars Over Yellowstone 2013

    Dates for SOY Summer 2013, our 16th year.

    June 14-15, July 12-13, and August 9-10

    June – Jim Manning:

    Friday night, 6/14: Cosmic Update 2013 – what’s up, what’s new, what’s hot in the big wide universe and our exploration of it.

    Saturday night, 6/15: Did Mars Start Out like Yellowstone? – a look at our search for life elsewhere, and how Mars may have started out like Yellowstone as a possible source of life.

    July – Tyler Nordgren:

    Friday night, 7/12: Curiosity for Mars – Everywhere we look on Earth we see life (even in the boiling hot pools of Yellowstone); might we find the same on Mars? Four hundred years of wondering about the Red Planet has brought us to the exciting missions roving across Mars today. What will we find now that we are there? And how can what we find there tell us about our own planet back here?

    Saturday night, 7/13: Stars Above, Earth Below – A star filled sky with a Milky Way stretching from horizon to horizon is now as rare a sight as the grizzly bears and geysers that bring visitors to America’s national parks every year. The park service that protects our national parks by day has also protected these amazing sights at night. What can we see when we look up in a pristine starry sky at night? How can we learn about our own planet and distant planets by what we see there? In the national parks the sky begins at your feet.

    August – Van Allen Storm Probes Mission – Space weather: Dr. Harlan E. Spence
    Mysteries of the Radiation Belts Revealed

    Learn how new observations from NASA’s Van Allen Storm Probes mission are answering mysteries of Earth’s radiation belts, as well as revealing incredible new ones.

    Dr. Harlan E. Spence is Director of the Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) where he also holds a Professorship in the Department of Physics. His research interests include theoretical and experimental space plasma physics; cosmic rays and radiation belt processes; heliospheric, planetary magnetospheric, lunar, and auroral physics. Prior to joining UNH, Spence was a Professor of Astronomy at Boston University and member of the technical staff at The Aerospace Corporation. Spence is principal investigator on several space experiments, including NASA’s Van Allen Storm Probes mission.

  • 18th Year for SMAS Astro Fair

    On Saturday April 20th 1-4 p.m at the Museum of the Rockies, SMAS will be participating in the 18th Annual Astro Fair. Now part of the national Astronomy Day events, SMAS started Astro Fair in 1995 to bring astronomy to the Bozeman community.  The club will set up some of our scopes. MSU departments have joined in on the fun.  There will be many activities, come join us!

  • Bozeman High School Astronomy Club

     NASA lets Bozeman High students reach for the stars

    GAIL SCHONTZLER, Chronicle Staff Writer

    Posted: Saturday, March 30, 2013 12:15 am

    Hannah Cebulla and Madie Kelly may be only teenagers, but they and other students in Bozeman High School’s Astronomy Club have the chance to do original research on Mars and the stars, thanks to NASA.

    The students are doing such a good job, two or three will get to travel in June to Caltech and the Jet Propulsion Lab to learn more about star formation and how to conduct astronomical research.

    “I’m so excited,” said Cebulla, a sophomore, adding that the Jet Propulsion Lab is where she’d like to work someday.

    “It’s incredible,” said Kelly, a junior who wants to become an astrophysicist.

    Bozeman High’s club is also one of five student teams remaining in the Mars Exploration Student Data Teams competition.

    They’ve been working with NASA and Arizona State University scientists to do research on Mars, using images taken by an instrument called CRISM (Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars) aboard NASA’s Mars Renaissance orbiter.

    One image from CRISM of a region called Nili Fossae makes the red planet look as colorful as tie-dyed shirts. The colors actually help scientists determine what kind of rocks are on Mars. The students are analyzing the region to see if it would make a good landing site for a future Mars Rover, and if the geology suggests there once was water flowing on the planet and possibly the right conditions to support life.

    The Astronomy Club adviser is Lynn Powers, Bozeman High library secretary, a passionate amateur astronomer who is president of the Southwest Montana Astronomical Society and a NASA-JPL “solar system ambassador.”

    Powers said for the Mars competition, students are preparing an online PowerPoint presentation that will be judged in April by scientists at Arizona State. The winners will get a free trip to Washington, D.C., in June to present their research at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.

    The Bozeman High club members are so dedicated, they even gave up part of spring break to work on their project, she said.

    “They’re doing phenomenally well,” Powers said. “It’s amazing.”

    As soon as the Mars project is finished, the students will jump into a new research challenge. Using images from space collected by the Herschel Space Observatory, the students will analyze an area of cold, dense gas in the constellation Cassiopeia where stars are being born.

    “It will be like pulling the blanket off a baby in a bassinette,” Powers said. “We’re going into the nursery.”

    The Herschel telescope has gathered thousands of hours of data that have been archived because NASA doesn’t have enough man-hours to look at everything, Powers said. So the space agency has created opportunities for citizen-scientists.

    Powers has been working with scientists from Harvard and Caltech and teachers from Illinois, Connecticut and Virginia to gear up for the stars project.

    Astronomy Club members said they got hooked on the stars in different ways. Brittany Suisse, a sophomore, said she has always liked watching astronomy documentaries with her dad. Brandon Kelly, a freshman, said he loves watching “The Universe” in high-definition on the Science channel. Cebulla said when she was younger, she read a book on astronaut Sally Ride and “she became my idol.”

    “I’ve always been a fan of science fiction,” said Matthew McWhorter, a sophomore. “The one thing cooler than science fiction is science fact.”

  • 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: