Amateur Astronomy Under The Big Sky
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  • Winter Lecture Series 2012

    Join us for the 2012 Winter Lecture Series.  7:00  p.m. in the Hagar Auditorium at the Museum of the Rockies.  Admission is free, bring a friend.

    January 27, 2012: Enjoying the Aurora in Montana – Dr. Joe Shaw


    The Aurora Borealis is a colorful display of natural lights that can be seen frequently in the dark winter skies at high latitudes. Although people in the United States generally consider Montana to be a “northern” location, its location near 45 degrees latitude tells the true story that ours is really a mid-latitude location. Nevertheless, the aurora can be seen in Montana often enough to make it highly worthwhile to pay attention to the conditions and timing that lead to these beautiful displays. This presentation will review the physical causes of the aurora and demonstrate Internet sources of information that can help predict when an aurora might be visible in Montana. One of these tools is a recently developed online network of optical aurora detectors developed at Montana State University – Bozeman and installed around Montana. Beautiful photographs of the aurora will be included throughout the talk.



    February 24, 2012:  NASA’s Future Space Telescopes – Dr. Joe Howard


    What kind of telescopes are in space right now, and what is the future of telescopes in space?  What do we hope to discover with these long-gazing eyes? What goes into these machines built on Earth, and what is needed to keep them running in space?

    Dr. Joe Howard will discuss the past, present, and future state of optics in space. Joe serves as the lead optical designer for the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), the successor to Hubble Space Telescope.  He will discuss telescopes such as the Hubble Space Telescope, James Webb Space Telescope, and WFIRST missions.



    March 30, 2012: Archaeoastronomy of the Big Horn Medicine Wheel – Ivy Merriot


    The Big Horn Medicine Wheel rests at nearly 10,000 ft in Wyoming’s Big Horn Mountains, only a few miles from the Montana border. It is a federally recognized Historic Landmark and Sacred Site although no indigenous people claim to have built it or have knowledge of when it was built. Forty years ago, solstice and stellar alignments embodied in the Big Horn Medicine Wheel were discovered by the solar physicist John Eddy, who then used these alignments to date the wheel’s origin. His results were published in the research journal Science in 1974. Recognition of this American “Stonehenge” caused a world-wide stir in the popular media with major newspapers and National Geographic taking notice. In 2012, evidence suggests this ”observatory” continues to track and predict astronomical changes through time.