Southwest Montana Astronomical Society

Amateur Astronomy Under The Big Sky
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  • 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.

  • 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.

  • August 2012 events

    Posted on August 8th, 2012 Lynn Powers No comments

    Summer is quickly passing by.  SMAS has several viewing opportunities in the month of August.

    Lunch on the Lawn, Wednesdays 11:30-1:30, Solar observing at the Emerson Cultural Center, Bozeman.  Different bands come to play, activities for kids, vendors with lunch options.

    Stars Over Bozeman, Saturday the 11th, 9:30 p.m. at the Hundred Acre Regional park off of West Oak. (Just over a mile west of 19th).  Saturn and Mars will be visible, the ISS will have two fly overs, and we are in the cusp of the Perseid meteor showers.  As it gets dark we will look at some deep space objects such as nebula, clusters, variable stars, and galaxies.  Free and open to the public.

    Stars over Yellowstone, Friday and Saturday August 17-18. Lecture and star party on the Friday and Saturday evenings at the Madison Amphitheater.  Saturday solar observing at Old Faithful Visitor Center.

  • July events

    Posted on July 6th, 2012 Lynn Powers No comments

    SMAS has several opportunities for observing in the month of July.  Join us if you can.

    Stars over Bozeman – July 14.  Behind the berm at the hundred acre Regional Park off of West Oak at Yellowstone Ave.  Set up 9:15, observing as it gets dark.  Bring your scope.  This is our fourth year of having star parties in the summer here in Bozeman.

    Stars over Yellowstone – July 20-21.  Speakers are Shane and Michelle Larson.  Camping and observing under the dark skies of Yellowstone.  Let us know if you’d like to join us.  This is the 15th season of SMAS going to Yellowstone for these events.

    Lunch on the Lawn – Wednesdays in July at the Emerson.  11:30-1:30. Solar observing.  This is our third year of having solar observing during these musical events. We are even  listed on the Emerson’s webpage.  Bring a lunch and sunscreen!

  • PBS Special – City Dark

    Posted on July 6th, 2012 Lynn Powers No comments

    If you missed the showing on PBS Last night… Just a quick reminder that the City Dark, an excellent documentary on the effects of light pollution, is now streaming for free on the PBS website until August 5. You can watch it here: