Amateur Astronomy Under The Big Sky
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  • SMAS in 2015

    To give you an Idea of what we are planning for the year: 
    • January SMAS meeting –  How to set up your new telescope
    • February SMAS meeting – The night sky and how to use a planesphere
    • March SMAS meeting – Star Hopping and Messier objects
    • APRIL SMAS MEMBERS – Messier Marathon
    • May SMAS events – Potluck and plan out Astrofair
    • June SMAS events – Astrofair, Summer equinox and Stars over Bozeman star party
    • July SMAS events – Stars over Bozeman star party and 2nd annual International SUN-day
    • August SMAS events – Montana Star Watch, Stars over Bozeman star party and Sweet Pea stomp rockets
    • September SMAS meeting – Meteor showers and comets, 5th annual International Observe the Moon Night
    • October SMAS meeting – tbd
    • Nov/Dec SMAS meeting – Elections and potluck

    2015 is the Centennial of General Relativity and the International Year of Light, watch for upcoming events

  • November\December SMAS meeting

    We combine our November and December meetings, so our next meeting will be on Friday December 5, 2014 at 6:00 p.m. We will be meeting at the Bozeman Fire Station #3 located off of Davis Drive between Babcock and Oak Streets.  Enter in by the flag pole.  Contact  me if you need directions.  We will announce election results and finish off with a potluck.  SMAS will provide the main dish, members are asked to bring a side dish, salad, or dessert to share.


    UPDATE:  It was a fabulous potluck with great food and conversations. It was nice to catch up with everyone and share what is going on with our shared hobby.  We talked about new scopes and old scopes, we discussed astrophotography and the new Orion Mission that went up today – history in the making!   Here is a screen shot from shortly after take off this morning 12/5/14.  I watched the event on NASA tv. 

  • Where the Heavenliest of Showers Come From

    By Dr. Ethan Siegel

    You might think that, so long as Earth can successfully dodge the paths of rogue asteroids and comets that hurtle our way, it’s going to be smooth, unimpeded sailing in our annual orbit around the sun. But the meteor showers that illuminate the night sky periodically throughout the year not only put on spectacular shows for us, they’re direct evidence that interplanetary space isn’t so empty after all!

    When comets (or even asteroids) enter the inner solar system, they heat up, develop tails, and experience much larger tidal forces than they usually experience. Small pieces of the original object—often multiple kilometers in diameter—break off with each pass near the sun, continuing in an almost identical orbit, either slightly ahead-or-behind the object’s main nucleus. While both the dust and ion tails are blown well off of the main orbit, the small pieces that break off are stretched, over time, into a diffuse ellipse following the same orbit as the comet or asteroid it arose from. And each time the Earth crosses the path of that orbit, the potential for a meteor shower is there, even after the parent comet or asteroid is completely gone!

    This relationship was first uncovered by the British astronomer John Couch Adams, who found that the Leonid dust trail must have an orbital period of 33.25 years, and that the contemporaneously discovered comet Tempel-Tuttle shared its orbit. The most famous meteor showers in the night sky all have parent bodies identified with them, including the Lyrids (comet Thatcher), the Perseids (comet Swift-Tuttle), and what promises to be the best meteor shower of 2014: the Geminids (asteroid 3200 Phaethon). With an orbit of only 1.4 years, the Geminids have increased in strength since they first appeared in the mid-1800s, from only 10-to-20 meteors per hour up to more than 100 per hour at their peak today! Your best bet to catch the most is the night of December 13th, when they ought to be at maximum, before the Moon rises at about midnight.

    The cometary (or asteroidal) dust density is always greatest around the parent body itself, so whenever it enters the inner solar system and the Earth passes near to it, there’s a chance for a meteor storm, where observers at dark sky sites might see thousands of meteors an hour! The Leonids are well known for this, having presented spectacular shows in 1833, 1866, 1966 and a longer-period storm in the years 1998-2002. No meteor storms are anticipated for the immediate future, but the heavenliest of showers will continue to delight skywatchers for all the foreseeable years to come!

    What’s the best way to see a meteor shower? Check out this article to find out:

    Kids can learn all about meteor showers at NASA’s Space Place:  

    Image credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / W. Reach (SSC/Caltech), of Comet 73P/Schwassman-Wachmann 3, via NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, 2006.

  • Poetry, dance, physics unite in Nov. 7, 8 performances of ‘Rhythms of the Universe’

    UPDATE: Bravo!  Hopefully you were able to make one of the performances, I did and it was very impressive – great going!

    You may remember in April 2013 Nico Yunes from MSU invited SMAS to his Celebrating Einstein events.  He wanted us to know about the next installment called Rhythms of the Universe.  Nico received NASA’s Einstein Fellowship in 2010 and researches Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity and gravitation, specializing in black holes, neutrons stars and compact binaries.   This show combines astrophysical concepts, poetry and dance.  Participants spent several months learning about black holes, neutron stars, etc., then wrote poetry that incorporated those concepts. They will perform their poems in a spoken-word format, and the Headwaters Dance Academy will interpret the poems

    BOZEMAN — Poetry, dance and physics will be entwined in a new show to be performed at 7 p.m. Nov. 7 and 8 in the Emerson Cultural Center theatre in Bozeman.

    The free public event, “Rhythms of the Universe: Words and Worlds in Motion,” will combine science and the arts in the vein of last year’s “Celebrating Einstein” event, said Montana State University physicist Nico Yunes who organized both.

    The event will consist of a series of spoken-word performances that will use astrophysics imagery to convey human and social issues, followed by contemporary dance pieces aimed at providing an interpretation for the poems, Yunes said.

    See more information at:



  • Pictures from the 10/23/2014 partial solar eclipse

    The view from the sun spotter right around maximum, we were lucky that the clouds parted.  Note the very large sunspot near the middle. 

  • View Responsibly

    Yes, today is the day that the partial solar eclipse will happen – but will we be able to see it?  We are hoping this predicted storm doesn’t interfere with our viewing of this event.

    Here is a reminder from NASA to view responsibly:

    NASA has a great website with activities, here is a link to activities specifically for eclipses:

    And here is the link to 365 Days of Astronomy and the podcast for today’s eclipse is made by a friend of mine:


  • Partial solar eclipse visible in Bozeman 10/23/14 starting at 2:58 p.m.

    Join the Southwest Montana Astronomical Society and the Bozeman High School Astronomy Club at the Bozeman Public Library (626 E Main Street, Bozeman), on Thursday October 23rd, starting at 2:58 p.m. for the Don’t Look at the Sun Solar Eclipse Event!

    As you all should know ~~ You could damage your eyes if you look at the sun.

    At maximum, around 4:19 p.m. the Moon will be covering the solar disk ~55%

    We will be at the library with safe solar viewing using a sun spotter, white light filter telescope, an h-alpha filter telescope and many supplies for making your very own solar projector — also feel free to bring your own projector.  All the students in the Bozeman School district have been challenged to make their own solar projector.

    What is a solar projector?

    Anything with a small hole that you can project the sun through and view the shadows.






  • Great picture of lunar eclipse – how did your pictures turn out?

    From the Livingston Enterprise: Published: Wed, 10/08/2014 – 8:50pm

    Blood Moon: Fall moon eclipse puts on dramatic early morning show

    Enterprise photo by Hunter D’Antuono

    Wednesday morning’s lunar eclipse as viewed from Livingston around 5 a.m. This eclipse was the second in a series of four consecutive total lunar eclipses, known as a tetrad.

    A total lunar eclipse, or what was billed as the “Blood Moon” in the media, was visible throughout the western United States in the wee hours of this morning.

    Lunar eclipses are the result of the Earth coming directly between the moon and the sun, which leads to the Earth’s shadow being cast on the surface of our celestial neighbor. The light of sun passing through the Earth’s atmosphere before it reaches the moon is what creates the rusty color.

    Fall eclipses tend to be more dramatic, according to Eric Loberg, planetarium program manager at the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman.

    “In October sometimes you still have forest fires, so it adds to that red color,” Loberg said. “When the moon’s lower on the horizon, it will look bigger.”

    Lynn Powers, who holds a master’s in Science Education and is president of the Southwest Montana Astronomical Society, said eclipses are a great opportunity to address misconceptions about space and the moon.

    Powers said it’s common for people to think the moon emits it’s own light, but in reality it merely reflects light from the sun.

    “Some people talk about vampires and how they don’t like sunlight but love moonlight,” she said.

    She points out that if vampires were real, they’d be in just as much trouble under the light of the full moon, because it is still sunlight.

    “We are no longer looking up, but looking down into a scope or at technology,” she said of people’s relationship with the sky. “We are getting more disconnected with our naked eye viewing, which is sad. Events like this get people out.”

    This eclipse was the second in what’s called a tetrad — an event in which four lunar eclipses occur in secession without a partial eclipse in between. The events are spaced about six months apart. The next eclipse in the series will occur April 4, 2015, but will not prove as spectacular a display from Montana as Wednesday’s event. The next tetrad will occur through 2032 and 2033.

    “It’s still more interesting to see the real thing than watch it online,” said Loberg.

    Coming up in other astronomical news, a partial solar eclipse will be visible from Montana at 2:58 p.m. on Oct 23. Powers reminds the public to never look directly into the sun.


    Hunter D’Antuono may be reached at

  • SMAS is on the move! September 2014 meeting in new location!

    PLEASE NOTE NEW LOCATION:      Our September 26th SMAS club meeting will be at the Bozeman Fire Station #3.  This is the fire station at the Regional Park where we hold our summer star parties.  The building is over by the Dinosaur playground.

    Enter Vaquero Parkway off of Davis Lane (between Oak and Baxter).  Park on the west side of the building, the door should be open, we will be in the meeting room.

    Meeting starts at 7:00 p.m.

    The new Mars mission, MAVEN, inserts into the the Martian atmosphere on Sunday September 21st.  We will have a brief overview of the MAVEN mission and discuss the upcoming partial Solar Eclipse in October.

    Why the new location?? Come to the meeting and we will discuss this turn of events.

    Hope to see you all soon!


  • 2014 Montana Starwatch

    Tent area from 2013

    August is here already!  Montana Starwatch is coming up later this month.   It starts on Thursday the 21st and runs for 3 dark sky nights.  Throw in a speaker or two, Barbecue, catching up with friends and making new friends.

    Be sure to visit the website for more information, including schedule, directions and registration:


    UPDATE: Skies were cloudy and even a bit of snow on Saturday night.  However, the talk was great and entertaining, much was learned – thanks Robert Howell.   Many thanks to all of those that came. It was so much fun catching up with everyone. With the inclement weather we stayed inside and shared ideas and tools of the trade.   The food and the hospitality was fabulous!  Thanks to Russ, Gwen and Joe for all the prep work to make this another successful event.