Amateur Astronomy Under The Big Sky
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  • 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.

  • Sweet Pea – Stomp Rockets

    We had a long line at the Bozeman Sweet Pea festival making stomp rockets. We’ll be there again tomorrow, Sunday August 3, 2014.  Come by and make your own rocket.  

    Update:   We had around 350 stomp rockets made on Saturday and 200 made on Sunday – with multiple launches for each rocket.  Lots of help, thanks to everyone who came to help and those who came to make rockets.  Very fun event!

  • International SUN-day June 22nd

    Join SMAS on June 22nd at the Bozeman Public Library on Main Street from 3-5 for the first International SUN-day event!  Come celebrate the Sun with activities, education, speakers and safe solar observing.

    TALK:  The Dynamic Sun
    Speaker: Dr. Mark Weber, Astrophysicist (Harvard-Smithsonian Center forAstrophysics)

    As children, we learn to think of the Sun as a yellow ball. As students, we’re taught that the face of the Sun is occasionally blemished by sunspots. As adults, we hear about solar storms that can affect us here on Earth. But the Sun is even more varied and dynamic and mysterious and beautiful than you probably imagine. Let’s look at this incredible star with observations from some of the most advanced telescopes. We’ll explore the Sun as a dynamic system, touching upon what scientists have learned and what they are only beginning to understand.

  • May SMAS meeting

    NOTE: New time, one hour earlier.  Our May SMAS club meeting will take place on Friday May 30th, 6:00 pm in the Redstart room, downstairs at the Museum of the Rockies.

    With nice weather, it’s time to take out your telescope and start using it.  We will learn how to collimate a Newtonian dob type and a Schmidt Cassegrain type of telescope.  Having a properly collimated telescope enhances your viewing.  We will have club members demonstrate how to collimate a telescope and what tools to use.   Take out the eye piece  from your telescope and look into your telescope, see diagram to the left… hopefully it doesn’t look like view A or B above.  If it does, don’t worry, that is what we’ll help you to fix. A properly collimated telescope should look like view C.   Bring your telescope and you can work along side as you listen to our members show you how to get the best out of your telescope.  We will be inside as we do this class.  Weather permitting we may go and try out our properly aligned telescopes.  Come prepared in case we do.  Class from 6-8, sun set at 9:05 pm.

  • TEDx 2014

    As promised, TEDx info for Shane and Michelle Larson. Shane gave a presentation at Northwestern on Pluto and Michelle was in Bozeman and talked about verbs, aka action words. Also a link to Shane’s blog.
    Shane TEDx:
    Shane blog:
    Michelle’s TEDx: