Amateur Astronomy Under The Big Sky
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  • High Altitude Skywatching

    On Thursday  September 27, at 6pm at the Museum of the Rockies,  the Extreme History Project will sponsor a free public talk by Ivy Merriot, a PhD candidate at Montana State University. Ivy will share her research on the Big Horn Medicine Wheel, viewed as a pedagogical instrument for learning sky-earth relationships. If you were one of the forty people turned away from her spring talk due to a full house, this is another opportunity for entertainment and enlightenment.

    The Big Horn Medicine: Alive by Night

    The Big Horn Medicine Wheel, just south of the Crow and Cheyenne nation continues to draw visitors of every nationality and spiritual background. The knowledge there wells up from deep sources of indigenous ways of knowing and ancient astronomical skywatching skills.
    The talk will focus on historical interpretations of the Wheel and how these interpretations color the story of what has been and what continues to be feasible and practical at this Wheel. For past researchers who did not understand the depth of indigenous astronomical knowledge, it has been convenient to categorize the Wheel as a “ceremonial space” without delving deeper into what that might mean. Today, many historians accept that ceremonies have deep holistic ties to the landscape, to living beings on earth, and to the sky. What Western science calls “objective science” are now found to be fluently cohesive with subjective experience. We can now dismantle the filters of “primitive” and “religion” and attempt to construct a scientific evidence-based interpretation, admitting where the subjective unknowns leave us baffled. We now have a way to tell the story of the Big Horn Medicine Wheel without confining it to past prejudices (although this doesn’t free it from possible present prejudices!)

    “The Big Horn Medicine Wheel sleeps by day and awakens at night,” Merriot reminds us. Has history only looked at the Wheel during the day, while it sleeps? If so, what has this past, academic historical approach missed? Join us for an all-new talk about the “dark side” of the Big Horn Medicine Wheel. The talk is free and open to the public.
    Forty years ago, recognition of this American “Stonehenge” caused a world-wide stir in the popular media. In 2012, evidence suggests the wheel continues to track and predict astronomical changes through time. Join us and discover how this skywatching “observatory” continues to speak to us, 5000 years beyond the origin of this rock design in North America.
    9/27/12 8:00 p.m.
    Just back from this lecture.  Great turn out!  This was new and updated from her talk earlier this year and included pictures of her at the medicine wheel on the Autumnal Equinox a few days ago.  Thanks Ivy!
  • Summer Recap and Thanks!


    It’s been a busy summer.  We had a Solar Eclipse, the Transit of Venus, three great weekends at Stars Over Yellowstone, 3 Stars over Bozeman events – one with some aurora action, 7 weeks of solar observing at Lunch on the Lawn, 2 Space Camps at the Museum of the Rockies, and much much more.  Many members put in a lot of time to help share their love astronomy with the public.  Thank you!

    Stars over Yellowstone, Saturday August 18,2012.  Solar observing at Old Faithful.

  • Saturn, ISS and meteors, Oh My!

    The  SMAS  Stars over Bozeman had a great front page article with pictures in today’s paper, Friday August 10th. 

    Check it out!  Way to go Charlie!

    On Saturday night, the Perseids meteor shower will be at its peak, the golden planet Saturn will shine brightly overhead and the International Space Station will pass by twice.

    Members of the public are invited to observe those spectacular sights during “Stars Over Bozeman,” a free star party hosted by the Southwest Montana Astronomical Society.

    “This could be the best star party ever as far as things to see,” said member Charlie Rose.

    Amateur astronomers will share their telescopes and knowledge of the night sky starting at 9:30 p.m. at the Gallatin County Regional Park near Oak Street and Davis Lane. People are also welcome to bring blankets and lawn chairs, and to lie down and look up.

    Telescopes are expected to include an 8-foot-tall, Pasley Dobsonian with a 20-inch diameter mirror. People must climb a ladder to look into the eyepiece when the scope is pointing straight up.

    Rose said people should be on time to the event to get good views of Saturn and the space station. They should stay late for the meteors.

    “Saturn looks incredible,” Rose said. “It’s just such a thrill – the kids love it.”

    The sixth planet from the sun and the second largest planet in the solar system, Saturn is so visible now that, through a telescope, it looks fake, Rose said.

    “Kids think it’s a sticker of Saturn,” he said. “It looks like a glow-in-the-dark sticker of what you classically think Saturn would look like.”

    The International Space Station – the ninth space station to be inhabited – serves as a microgravity and space environment research laboratory, where crew members conduct experiments in biology, human biology, physics, astronomy, meteorology and other fields.

    The space station travels at an average speed of 17,227 mph and orbits the Earth every 92 minutes, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

    “It’s really fun to know that there are five or six people up there right now,” Rose said. “They’re looking down, and we’re looking up at them as they go over.”

    The Perseids meteor shower, one of the best summer displays of shooting stars, has an added bonus this year. It will occur on a night when the moon is in its waning crescent phase, so the moonlight won’t interfere with the view.

    “There will be all kinds of meteors to be seen, especially as it gets later in the evening,” Rose said.


    In addition, Rose said there’s a chance people will see the aurora borealis – better known as Northern Lights – on Saturday night as the sun has been very active lately.

    The Southwest Montana Astronomical Society, a nonprofit group headquartered in Bozeman, is dedicated to promoting amateur astronomy and studying the universe for recreational and scientific purposes. Membership is open to anyone interested in studying the night sky.


    UPDATE: 8/11/12 -due to the article and segment on the news, we had over 400 people come to observe.  We counted approx. 8 guests who brought along their own scopes.  We filled the meadow.  Saw Saturn, Mars, the ISS on two passes, many meteors, and other dark sky objects.  We will be back next summer for 3 more Stars over Bozeman events.

  • August 2012 events

    Summer is quickly passing by.  SMAS has several viewing opportunities in the month of August.

    Lunch on the Lawn, Wednesdays 11:30-1:30, Solar observing at the Emerson Cultural Center, Bozeman.  Different bands come to play, activities for kids, vendors with lunch options.

    Stars Over Bozeman, Saturday the 11th, 9:30 p.m. at the Hundred Acre Regional park off of West Oak. (Just over a mile west of 19th).  Saturn and Mars will be visible, the ISS will have two fly overs, and we are in the cusp of the Perseid meteor showers.  As it gets dark we will look at some deep space objects such as nebula, clusters, variable stars, and galaxies.  Free and open to the public.

    Stars over Yellowstone, Friday and Saturday August 17-18. Lecture and star party on the Friday and Saturday evenings at the Madison Amphitheater.  Saturday solar observing at Old Faithful Visitor Center.

  • July events

    SMAS has several opportunities for observing in the month of July.  Join us if you can.

    Stars over Bozeman – July 14.  Behind the berm at the hundred acre Regional Park off of West Oak at Yellowstone Ave.  Set up 9:15, observing as it gets dark.  Bring your scope.  This is our fourth year of having star parties in the summer here in Bozeman.

    Stars over Yellowstone – July 20-21.  Speakers are Shane and Michelle Larson.  Camping and observing under the dark skies of Yellowstone.  Let us know if you’d like to join us.  This is the 15th season of SMAS going to Yellowstone for these events.

    Lunch on the Lawn – Wednesdays in July at the Emerson.  11:30-1:30. Solar observing.  This is our third year of having solar observing during these musical events. We are even  listed on the Emerson’s webpage.  Bring a lunch and sunscreen!

  • PBS Special – City Dark

    If you missed the showing on PBS Last night… Just a quick reminder that the City Dark, an excellent documentary on the effects of light pollution, is now streaming for free on the PBS website until August 5. You can watch it here:

  • 2012 Stars Over Yellowstone

    The SMAS public outreach event Stars Over Yellowstone is ready to kick off it’s 15th year.  This coming weekend we will be heading to the Yellowstone National Park for two lectures followed by star parties at the Madison amphitheater,  and one solar observing at Old Faithful Visitor Center.  These are fun weekends!  We’ll post pictures when we get back.

  • Aurora display

    Stars Over Bozeman started their 4th season of star parties at the hundred acre park.  The evening started out cloudy but we still set up and had a few guests.  It cleard and an aurora gave a display. Dates for the next Stars Over Bozeman are: July 14 and August 11. Hope to see you then.

  • Received a deposit for 57.95

    Deposits made directly to the bank need to have Identified the person making the deposit. I have one I can’t read. If you made a deposit on 5/29 please let me know.

  • Transit of Venus

    It is one week until the Transit of Venus Celebration at Bobcat Stadium on Tuesday, June 5.  This is one of the rarest of astronomical events.

    3:30pm – Gates open
    4:00pm – Welcome address by President Cruzado.
    4:05pm – First contact (ingress exterior), ie the transit starts.
    4:30pm – Space Public Outreach Team presentation by Lincoln Gulley
    5:30pm – Transit of Venus presentation by David McKenzie
    7:00pm – Event ends
    The transit will be in progress until sunset.

    This event will be held rain or shine.  We will have a live NASA TV stream
    on the stadium scoreboard so even if it is cloudy or raining guests will be
    able to see the transit of Venus live from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory
    (SDO) satellite.  The Cat Shack will be open for concessions.  There will be
    a bounce house, face painting, and solar system activities.

    The Bozeman Daily Chronicle had a nice article with some more information regarding the transit.

    Update: Despite rain, hail, wind, lightening and thunder a crowd of 2,000 came out to the stadium for the transit.  We only got about 20 minutes of good viewing time, but what we saw was amazing!