Southwest Montana Astronomical Society

Amateur Astronomy Under The Big Sky
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  • 2013 Winter Lecture Series speakers announced

    Posted on December 13th, 2012 Lynn Powers No comments

    Friday, January 25
    FROM THE BIG BANG TO GALLATIN VALLEY: The Cosmic biography of atoms
    Shane L. Larson, Assistant Professor of Physics, Utah State University

    Shane Larson will describe the biography of an atom, from the Big Bang to the Gallatin Valley, and explore how the evolution and changes of a single atom can be traced and followed in the lives and deaths of stars.

    Friday February 22
    A Shout through Space and Time: Einstein’s Legacy
    Nico Yunes, Assistant Professor of Physics, Montana State University

    Join Nico Yunes as he describes Einstein’s gravitational waves and how they encode the secrets of black holes – as well as, neutron stars and our current efforts to detect them and verify Einstein’s last untested prediction.

    Wednesday March 27
    Einstein’s Legacy: Studying Gravity in War and Peace
    David Kaiser, Germeshausen Professor, MIT

    David Kaiser examines ways in which research on general relativity was embedded in, and at times engulfed by, the tumult of world politics over the course of the twentieth century.

  • Congratulations to Michelle Larson

    Posted on December 12th, 2012 Lynn Powers No comments

    Dr. Michelle Larson, Adler President



    CHICAGO (December 11, 2012) The Board of Trustees of the Adler Planetarium has elected accomplished astrophysicist and experienced academic leader Michelle B. Larson, PhD, as president. Dr. Larson will become the Adler’s ninth leader and the first female president of America’s First Planetarium. Her appointment begins January 1, 2013.  As president, Dr. Larson will oversee a 21st century space science center that includes the  institution’s landmark museum complex, exhibition galleries and three theaters; a robust research enterprise; one of the world’s leading collections documenting  the history of science; and an award-winning education and outreach program. Annually, more than  470,000 people visit the Adler, making it one of Chicago’s leading tourist attractions.

    Read the rest of the press release on the Adler’s website.

    Shane adds, This is a highly visible and prominent position; the Adler is the oldest planetarium in the Western Hemisphere, and is one of the more prominent cultural institutions for astronomy education in North America (together with the Hayden Planetarium in New York where Neil deGrasse Tyson is director, and the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, where Ed Krupp is director).

    Very exciting news, congratulations!

  • SMAS last meeting of 2012

    Posted on November 29th, 2012 Lynn Powers No comments

    SMAS combines our November and December meetings to meet the first Friday of December.  We will meet on Friday December 7th at 7:00 in the Redstart room, downstairs at the Museum of the Rockies.

    We will have our Board elections, discuss a few agenda items, and have some year end holiday cheer and social.  See you then!

  • Summer 2013 Montana Starwatch

    Posted on November 25th, 2012 Lynn Powers No comments

    Save the date: August 1-4, 2013 for Montana Starwatch.

    The following just came in from Russ and Joe:

    Just wanted to announce that the Starwatch web site is now online and  capable of taking reservations whenever you want to do it. The Ruby Valley site is no longer up. We would like to have the reservations in  by the first of July. Visit it at

     Over Thanksgiving week, we will do some checking on getting WiFi to the site, get a parking map  started to go on the web site, and whatever else we can think of to help  keep light pollution, dust, and traffic to a minimum. 

    Nice going!  Visit their website for more information and pictures. Thanks

  • SMAS Board elections

    Posted on November 3rd, 2012 Lynn Powers No comments

    SMAS combines our November and December meetings on the first Friday of December for elections.

    We will meet at the Museum of the Rockies on Friday December 7, 2012 at 7:00 p.m.

    See you there!

  • SMAS in the community

    Posted on October 27th, 2012 Lynn Powers No comments

    SMAS is contacted by many different organizations in our community to come out and make presentations.  Here is a short sample of some events that are coming up in the next month.

    The Children’s Museum of Bozeman – asked SMAS to give a night sky observing party as a raffle item for their annual fundraiser. (10/27)

    Butte Public Schools – asked SMAS to give presentations and night sky observing. (11/10)

    Boys and Girls Club of SW Montana – asked SMAS to make a presentation and run a program with the MoR portable planetarium. (11/12)

    Science Olympiad at MoR – SMAS will again have an activity table at the MoR hosted event, this year we will have a diffusion cloud chamber to show the students. (11/19)

    Bozeman Public Library – asked SMAS to put on a program regarding Mars and Curiosity. (11/27)


  • October Meeting

    Posted on October 21st, 2012 Lynn Powers No comments

    The October 26, 2012 SMAS club meeting will be held in the Museum of the Rockies board room starting at 7:00 p.m.  A presentation from one of our members on Astrophotography will be followed by a short club meeting.

    Not all attempts at photographing the night sky are successful.  Learn some tricks of the trade.  Hear about tools to use.  The picture in this post is the Big Dipper  from a first time astrophotography attempt.  Come and see some photos of near and deep space objects and learn how you can get started with this hobby.

  • Cosmos Mariner

    Posted on September 25th, 2012 Lynn Powers No comments

    Shane Larson with two of his home built telescopes

    Cosmos Mariner (or simply “Mariner“) is a recently completed homebuilt 22” f/5 Dobsonian telescope made by SMAS member Shane Larson.


    Cosmos Mariner is what I consider to be my third “personal” telescope; all have been homebuilt. The first was an 8″ f/6 called Albireo that I built in 1995. It served me well for almost six years. I spend a lot of time looking at deep sky objects, and eventually found I was pushing the boundaries of what I could see with Albireo. So when I got my PhD, I decided to step up in aperture, and built my second scope, a 12.5″ f/4.7 Dobsonian named Equinox in 2000.

    In 2007 we moved to a house in the mountains of Utah with dark skies. With Equinox I found I could see things from my new house that I had only seen from dark sky star parties! Like Stephan’s Quintet, the Cocoon Nebula (IC 5146), and extended detached parts of the Veil Nebula. I had just gotten my first tenure track job as an assistant professor, I had fantastically dark skies out my back door, so clearly: it was time to step up in aperture!

    Read the rest of the story and see more pictures on Shane’s website.  Congratulations Shane!


  • High Altitude Skywatching

    Posted on September 19th, 2012 Lynn Powers No comments

    On Thursday  September 27, at 6pm at the Museum of the Rockies,  the Extreme History Project will sponsor a free public talk by Ivy Merriot, a PhD candidate at Montana State University. Ivy will share her research on the Big Horn Medicine Wheel, viewed as a pedagogical instrument for learning sky-earth relationships. If you were one of the forty people turned away from her spring talk due to a full house, this is another opportunity for entertainment and enlightenment.

    The Big Horn Medicine: Alive by Night

    The Big Horn Medicine Wheel, just south of the Crow and Cheyenne nation continues to draw visitors of every nationality and spiritual background. The knowledge there wells up from deep sources of indigenous ways of knowing and ancient astronomical skywatching skills.
    The talk will focus on historical interpretations of the Wheel and how these interpretations color the story of what has been and what continues to be feasible and practical at this Wheel. For past researchers who did not understand the depth of indigenous astronomical knowledge, it has been convenient to categorize the Wheel as a “ceremonial space” without delving deeper into what that might mean. Today, many historians accept that ceremonies have deep holistic ties to the landscape, to living beings on earth, and to the sky. What Western science calls “objective science” are now found to be fluently cohesive with subjective experience. We can now dismantle the filters of “primitive” and “religion” and attempt to construct a scientific evidence-based interpretation, admitting where the subjective unknowns leave us baffled. We now have a way to tell the story of the Big Horn Medicine Wheel without confining it to past prejudices (although this doesn’t free it from possible present prejudices!)

    “The Big Horn Medicine Wheel sleeps by day and awakens at night,” Merriot reminds us. Has history only looked at the Wheel during the day, while it sleeps? If so, what has this past, academic historical approach missed? Join us for an all-new talk about the “dark side” of the Big Horn Medicine Wheel. The talk is free and open to the public.
    Forty years ago, recognition of this American “Stonehenge” caused a world-wide stir in the popular media. In 2012, evidence suggests the wheel continues to track and predict astronomical changes through time. Join us and discover how this skywatching “observatory” continues to speak to us, 5000 years beyond the origin of this rock design in North America.
    9/27/12 8:00 p.m.
    Just back from this lecture.  Great turn out!  This was new and updated from her talk earlier this year and included pictures of her at the medicine wheel on the Autumnal Equinox a few days ago.  Thanks Ivy!
  • Summer Recap and Thanks!

    Posted on August 26th, 2012 Lynn Powers No comments


    It’s been a busy summer.  We had a Solar Eclipse, the Transit of Venus, three great weekends at Stars Over Yellowstone, 3 Stars over Bozeman events – one with some aurora action, 7 weeks of solar observing at Lunch on the Lawn, 2 Space Camps at the Museum of the Rockies, and much much more.  Many members put in a lot of time to help share their love astronomy with the public.  Thank you!

    Stars over Yellowstone, Saturday August 18,2012.  Solar observing at Old Faithful.