Amateur Astronomy Under The Big Sky
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  • Saturn, ISS and meteors, Oh My!

    Posted on August 10th, 2012 Lynn Powers No comments

    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.

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