Southwest Montana Astronomical Society

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.

  • 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:

  • 2012 Stars Over Yellowstone

    Posted on June 20th, 2012 Lynn Powers No comments

    The SMAS public outreach event Stars Over Yellowstone is ready to kick off it’s 15th year.  This coming weekend we will be heading to the Yellowstone National Park for two lectures followed by star parties at the Madison amphitheater,  and one solar observing at Old Faithful Visitor Center.  These are fun weekends!  We’ll post pictures when we get back.

  • Aurora display

    Posted on June 16th, 2012 Lynn Powers No comments

    Stars Over Bozeman started their 4th season of star parties at the hundred acre park.  The evening started out cloudy but we still set up and had a few guests.  It cleard and an aurora gave a display. Dates for the next Stars Over Bozeman are: July 14 and August 11. Hope to see you then.

  • Received a deposit for 57.95

    Posted on June 8th, 2012 No comments

    Deposits made directly to the bank need to have Identified the person making the deposit. I have one I can’t read. If you made a deposit on 5/29 please let me know.

  • Transit of Venus

    Posted on May 29th, 2012 Lynn Powers No comments

    It is one week until the Transit of Venus Celebration at Bobcat Stadium on Tuesday, June 5.  This is one of the rarest of astronomical events.

    3:30pm – Gates open
    4:00pm – Welcome address by President Cruzado.
    4:05pm – First contact (ingress exterior), ie the transit starts.
    4:30pm – Space Public Outreach Team presentation by Lincoln Gulley
    5:30pm – Transit of Venus presentation by David McKenzie
    7:00pm – Event ends
    The transit will be in progress until sunset.

    This event will be held rain or shine.  We will have a live NASA TV stream
    on the stadium scoreboard so even if it is cloudy or raining guests will be
    able to see the transit of Venus live from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory
    (SDO) satellite.  The Cat Shack will be open for concessions.  There will be
    a bounce house, face painting, and solar system activities.

    The Bozeman Daily Chronicle had a nice article with some more information regarding the transit.

    Update: Despite rain, hail, wind, lightening and thunder a crowd of 2,000 came out to the stadium for the transit.  We only got about 20 minutes of good viewing time, but what we saw was amazing!

  • Taylor Planetarium Upgrade

    Posted on May 21st, 2012 Lynn Powers No comments

    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.

  • First Light

    Posted on May 21st, 2012 Lynn Powers No comments

    This past weekend SMAS club members gathered out in the country for a potluck on Saturday evening.  It was great seeing everyone and the food was fantastic.  We did some observing while we were out there.  Luckily we did, because we were skunked out for the eclipse on Sunday.  We got first light on the updated 12″ SCT and the H-Alpha.  Truly amazing. Photos have been promised to show all the work that the guys have been doing.  These will be added to the gallery as soon as I get them.

    Next big event… the ToV!  Wahoo, can’t wait.