Amateur Astronomy Under The Big Sky
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  • Taylor Planetarium Upgrade

    Think back to 1985.  Where were you?  Remember what your phone was like, were you one of the lucky ones who had a cell phone? What about your computer? How about your hair style or your clothes? Were you just like Don Johnson on Miami Vice?  That was the year of Back to the Future, Cocoon and Rocky IV.

    Do you still use that same computer or phone?  Well our beloved Taylor Planetarium still uses the state of the art technology from when it opened back in 1985.  The Taylor Planetarium is a 40-ft, 104-seat domed theater located at the Museum of the Rockies. The Planetarium provides a unique look at the Montana night sky and has a variety of educational shows year-round.  The Taylor Planetarium currently uses an Evans and Sutherland Digistar Two digital planetarium projector and is in the initial stages of an upgrade to the projection system and planetarium equipment that is slated for 2013.

    A new Taylor Planetarium will open in March 2013

    Last year the Museum asked members about the planetarium in an online survey, and 485 responded. The bottom line was that although  members value the planetarium as a benefit of membership, it was time to update the technology and offer fresh, current programming. Teachers had been suggesting the same thing and since 88% of the schools that visit the Museum want to see a planetarium show, they took their concerns seriously, too.

    The new planetarium is going digital, meaning that you will be able to see the same shows that visitors to any big city planetarium could see. The MoR will acquire a collection of new shows that reflect current research and update our K-12 school shows to the digital format.  You’ll see other changes, too, including new and expanded seating, sound system, lighting, and a face-lift for the facility.

    As 2012 unfolds, there will be opportunities to help with the “Building Bigger Skies” $1.5 million fundraising effort. Since the Museum of the Rockies is the home of SMAS, we encourage you to take a look and join in on the efforts.  Thanks.

  • Event Calendar Issues Resolved

    The event calendar issues have been resolved and it has been enabled. To place an event on the calendar, simply post with the category set to ‘Events’ and set the times in the ‘Event Editor’ at the bottom of the ‘Add New Post’ screen and publish. That’s all there is to it!

  • Facebook and Twitter Integrations Disabled

    We have disabled our recently installed Facebook and Twitter integrations on the site for the time being as they seem to cause the Microsoft Internet Explorer browser to have issues loading pages from the site. We will try to address these issues in the future but for now these integrations are disabled.

  • Thank you Dr. Larson…

    The SMAS Winter Lecture Series is always a hit and last nights lecture, Connections to the Cosmos: The Search for Life Beyond Earth presented by Dr. Shane Larson of Utah State University, was no exception.

    The question whether there are others like us or are we alone in the Universe has been asked since there has been someone to ask it.   Dr. Larson’s deep insights into this question, and the questions that it leads to, helped me to make some sense of these profound and fundamental issues.

    This was a wonderful presentation and I was very glad to see a large turnout at the Hager Auditorium at the Museum of the Rockies for the event.  A big thank you to Dr. Larson for coming up here on short notice and presenting this lecture and thank you to the Museum of the Rockies and the Montana Space Grant Consortium for their support of the Winter Lecture Series.   Thanks also to SMAS and it membership for making this all happen.

    I am really looking forward to next month and the next lecture in the series when Mike Murray, Programs Manager of the Clark Planetarium in Salt Lake City, will present Seeing in the Dark: Tales of an Amateur Astronomer.

  • 1 Moon Sets, 3 Moons Rise

    Ha, My son Matt & I set up the 13 inch Gorsky scope on the driveway just as our earths moon was setting.  We turned the scope to Jupiter and proceeded to watch 3 moons pop out from around Jupiter within 25 minutes.  I noticed on the Sky & Telescope Jupiter’s Moons program that this was going to occur and was glad to see it happen live.  As Europa cleared the planet it was visible as a little bump on Jupiter….So we called it a “Zit”.   Jupiter only appeared to have 1 moon for a time before the acne problem developed.

    On September 2nd at  10:45 pm or so, Jupiter will appear to be without any moons for 1hr & 45 minutes till 2 moons appear within 10 minutes.  This is something else I want to see.  Kinda funny that on this night, Our moon Luna, will be darn near full, and right next to Jupiter in the sky….(Apparently).

    The web site to track Jupiter’s moons is:

    Jupiter appearing moonless is a rare event that happens only about 20 times per century, and we have front row seats.

    Happy Gazing!

  • Stars Over Yellowstone – August `09

    We had yet another great weekend in Yellowstone with Jim Manning, executive director of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, presenting two wonderful talks even through we were somewhat clouded out on Saturday night.

    Friday night was spectacular and we had the telescopes set up in the parking lot rather than down in the meadow below the amphitheater and this worked out quite well overall.  The turnout for Jim’s first campfire presentation was large and we had a huge crowd at the telescopes into the night.  Jupiter was rising as the Sun set and was high in the sky as Jim’s presentation was over and the crowd moved up to the telescopes.  Of course, everyone got to view Jupiter and the Galilean moons,  M14 The Hercules Cluster and many other jewels of the summer sky.

    On Saturday, Charlie, Dr. Sabo, Eric and Ester, and our friends from YVAA, Kevin Bebbe and Rich McCellan, were at Old Faithful for solar observing throughout the afternoon.  Burt Rutan and his wife Tonya stopped by and Eric, Charlie and I got to visit with them for a few minutes about SMAS, commercial space flight, and science education among other topics.  What a pleasant surprise and honor to meet and visit with these good folks.

    Jim’s campfire presentation Saturday evening, Galileo’s Universe, was wonderful and a large crowd turned out.  Duncan and I had decided to return to Bozeman after Jim’s presentation and so we missed the observing session but a great weekend overall.  I really can’t think of a better way to spend a weekend.  Cheers…

  • Stars Over Yellowstone – July `09

    The kids and I headed down to Madison on Friday afternoon leaving a sweltering Bozeman behind us. As they always are this time of year, things were pretty busy in the park but the weather was beautiful and things were relatively quiet at the Madison campground. After hooking up with Dr. Stacy Palin, Dr. John Anderson and Dr. Shane Larson and family as well as other club members and having a nice dinner followed up with s’mores around the campfire, we all headed over to the amphitheater to get setup.

    Dr. Palin presented her lecture The Lives of Stars to a large audience while SMAS members got the telescopes setup below on the meadow. After the lecture it was fairly crowded but it looked as though everyone got to put their eye to the eyepiece on several telescopes and see the many wonders of a very dark sky. A few of the favorite objects viewed were M13, the Hercules Cluster, M51, the Whirlpool Galaxy, and of course, Jupiter and its Galilean moons as they rose in the southeast.

    As things quieted down, we toured Sagittarius and Scorpius on the big telescopes hitting many  of the wonderful emission nebulae in those constellations that we only get to see this time of year. As the night worn on, Dr. Larson and SMAS president Dr. Richard Sabo took a group of us on a wonderful tour of lesser known but spectacular objects such as NGC 5907, the Splinter Galaxy, NGC 6543, the Cats Eye Nebula, and the Veil Nebula supernova remnant.

    The weather did not cooperate much on Saturday. The solar observing session at Old Faithful was pretty much clouded and rained out, although Lynn Powers stuck it out and provided handouts and deployed the solar system scale model. In the evening, the skies began to clear and Dr. Palin presented Astrostories: Constellation Stories from the Ancients to a large audience at the amphitheater but high thin clouds preventing any observing.

    All in all, a good time was had by all over the weekend. Special thanks to Dr. Palin for her presentations and to all of the SMAS members who came and helped out. I also want the thank the National Park Service for letting us come and enjoy the dark skies of Yellowstone and share our love of astronomy with others.

  • 100 Hours of Astronomy Awards

    Thanks primarily to the hard work and dedication of our Observing Chairperson, Lynn Powers, SMAS comes ‘Highly Recommended’ for our Community Outreach by the good folks at 100 Hours of Astronomy. Please take a look the 100 Hours of Astronomy site.

    Thank you Lynn and all of the other club members who help with our outreach programs and activities.

  • July & August Stars Over Bozeman Star Parties

    The Southwest Montana Astronomical Society is pleased to announce Stars Over Bozeman. As a group of amateur astronomers we wish to share our telescopes and knowledge of the night skies to all who wish to attend this free after dark event. Telescopes to be used range in size from small traditional 3 inch telescopes to our Pasley Dobsonian which has a 20 inch diameter lens mirror and is close to 8 feet tall when pointing straight up requiring the use of a ladder to look into the eyepiece. Bring your own telescope if you wish and members of SMAS will help you to use it.

    The events will be held at the 100 Acre Gallatin Regional Park located on Oak St 1.2 miles west of North 19th Street in Bozeman. The events will be held on Friday, July 17th and Friday, August 14th starting at 10:00 PM with better viewing after 11:00 PM.If it is cloudy, the event will be cancelled.

    [ Due to an editing error, the date was published in the Montana Pioneer as July 18th, so we need to have a few scopes out for a star party that night as well. ]
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  • Upcoming Star Party!

    Star Gazing Montana Style
    May 29, 2009
    9:30 – 12:00PM
    Gallatin Regional Park – West Oak Street

    The Southwest Montana Astronomical Society will be holding a public star party at the Gallatin Regional Park on West Oak Street on Friday, May 29th starting at 9:30PM. This event will last until mid-night, and if the weather is poor then the event will be rescheduled for Saturday, May 30th. The 100 acre Gallatin Regional Park is located 1.2 miles west of 19th street.