Southwest Montana Astronomical Society

Amateur Astronomy Under The Big Sky
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  • Summer Observing

    Posted on June 8th, 2011 Lynn Powers 3 comments

    Dates have been set for some summer time observing.

    Stars over Bozeman – Friday July 8th and Friday August 5th.  Set up scopes around 9:00, observing when it gets dark.  We’ll be at the Hundred Acre Park off of Oak Street again this year.

    Solar Sidewalk Observing – We’ll be at the Lunch on the Lawn at the Emerson on Wednesdays 11:30-1:30 starting on July 6th. (July 13, July 20, July 27, Aug. 3, Aug. 10 and Aug. 17)

    Solar Sidewalk Observing at Sweet Pea.

    Plan on coming and join us this summer for some observing.

  • Telescope Class

    Posted on April 30th, 2011 Lynn Powers No comments

    Do you own a telescope that has turned into an expensive coat rack?  Did you lose your instructions and forgot how to set it up?  Well dust off that scope and bring it over to the Museum of the Rockies (come even if you don’t own a telescope but intend to purchase one) on Saturday May 28th between 1:00 and 3:00 and meet some of the SMAS telescope experts.  We can help you get it set up, show you how to align it and collimate it if necessary.  Then we’ll show you how to use it to find some objects in the night sky.  Free with admission to the Museum of the Rockies.


    Posted on December 31st, 2010 No comments

    Our popular series of winter lectures returns in 2011, with a lecture on the last Friday night of the month in January, February, and March. The winter lecture series is sponsored by the Southwest Montana Astronomical Society and the Museum of the Rockies. All lectures begin at 7:00, doors open at 6:30, and all are free and open to the public.


    January 28th – IRIS: a Fresh Look at the Solar Chromosphere

    Dr. Charles Kankelborg, MSU Physics Department Space Science and Engineering Laboratory

    The Sun is a fairly typical G-type star, about 4.5 billion years old. Well established stellar models accurately predict the radius, temperature and luminosity of a star of a given mass. Yet the Sun has observable characteristics that are not predicted by any model, including a million degree corona. But to understand the corona, we may first have to understand an older riddle: the solar chromosphere. Ironically, professional and amateur astronomers have been observing the chromosphere (and, in less detail, the chromospheres of other stars) from the ground for more than a century, yet it remains the most enigmatic layer of the Sun’s atmosphere. The NASA IRIS mission, to be launched in 2012, will observe the chromosphere from space in unprecedented detail and explore how the chromosphere interacts with the rest of the Sun’s atmosphere.


    February 25th – Astrobiology: The Search for Life in the Universe

    Dr. John Peters, MSU Director of the Thermal Biology Institute

    How did life begin and evolve? Does life exist elsewhere in the universe? Join MSU Professor John Peters as he examines these questions and explains the search for life in the universe. Peters is also the director of the MSU Astrobiology Biogeocatalysis Center, part of NASA’s Astrobiology Institute. Peters will explain why Yellowstone National Park is important to NASA scientists and discuss some of the pioneering research happening in Montana.


    March 25th – Creating the Giant: Fabricating the Mirrors of the European Extremely Large Telescope

    Dr. Christina Dunn, MSU Solar Physics research engineer

    A new generation of astronomical telescopes is taking shape, giants three or four times larger than the world’s current largest telescopes. Bringing these massive designs from theoretical possibility to reality will require a revolution in optical fabrication techniques and technologies, combining the craft traditions of master opticians with the cutting edge in robotic machinery. In this talk, the challenges of creating a telescope mirror wider than the wingspan of a Boeing 737 will be addressed, as well as the solutions that have been devised to meet those challenges.

  • The Astronomer

    Posted on November 17th, 2010 fredbirk 1 comment

    ‘The Astronomer’

    It appears my reputation as ‘The Astronomer’ precedes me.  Here is an example.  I was at the office of my dentist.  Everybody there knows already of my interest.  During the examination Tanya (name changed), one of the technicians, walked by and asked

    “Hey Fred, how are the stars these days?”

    Fred: “Good, they are still there”

    Later I thought I needed to amend my simplistic answer.

    F.: “Actually, somewhere out there in the vast universe some stars have exploded in the meantime, they are called novae.”

    Now Dr. Perry (name changed) is interested.

    P.: “Will the sun explode too?”

    F.: “No, it will not, it is not massive enough. But, it will toward the end of its life turn into a red giant and swell in size to the orbit of Mars and most likely consume the four inner planet including Earth.”

    P.:“Whow, when will this happen?”

    F.: “In about four to five billion years.”

    P.: “Ah, that’s good to hear, that’s a long time out.  But if ‘we’ still inhabit Earth at that time we better make sure we have left the planet.”

    F.: “We have four billion years to learn how to practice interstellar space flight”

    P.: “Yeah that is a good justification of space flight.”

    There is always an opportunity to ‘spread the word’.  I have practiced this for a long time and always enjoy it.  If we all do this kind of thing, slow but steady, we might make a tiny dent every time that we have this opportunity.

    F.B. 11-17-2010

  • Co-founder and chief scientist of the SETI@home to give next SMAS lecture!

    Posted on September 27th, 2010 Administrator 1 comment

    Dan Werthimer, co-founder and chief scientist of the SETI@home project, will present “IS ANYBODY OUT THERE? The Search for ET with help from Eight Million Volunteers,” on Friday, Oct. 15, at 6 p.m. in the Hager Auditorium at the Museum the Rockies.

    Werthimer will discuss the possibility of life in the universe and the search for radio and optical signals from other civilizations. He will also discuss other citizen science projects, next generation telescopes, instrumentation, and algorithms for SETI, as well as speculate on when earthlings might discover other civilizations.

    Doors open at 5:30 p.m. The lecture is free and open to the public.

    Sponsors of the lecture include the Montana State University Physics Department, Museum of the Rockies, Montana ESPCoR and Southwest Montana Astronomical Society.

  • “The Discovery of Saturn’s Largest Ring” lecture set for September’s SMAS meeting

    Posted on August 25th, 2010 No comments

    Dr. Anne Verbiscer
    Department of Astronomy
    University of Virginia

    Location: Hager Auditorium of the Museum of the Rockies
    Date: September 24th, 2010
    Time: 7:30, doors open at 7:00PM

    Abstract: Recent observations by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope revealed that Saturn has an enormous outer ring, by far the largest planetary ring in the Solar System. The ring is associated with one of Saturn’s dark, outer moons called Phoebe. The discovery of this huge ring appears to solve an age-old mystery in planetary science. Since its discovery in 1671, astronomers have puzzled over the odd, two-toned appearance of Saturn’s moon Iapetus. One side of the moon is as bright as snow, but the other is dark, like Phoebe. The new ring explains how dark material originally launched from Phoebe moves inward toward Iapetus, slamming one side of the icy moon like bugs on a windshield. Dr. Verbiscer will discuss how she and her team found the ‘Phoebe Ring’ and post-discovery observations.

    Presentation sponsored by:
    Museum of the Rockies, Montana Space Grant Consortium, and Southwest Montana Astronomical Society

  • Getting some press

    Posted on July 16th, 2010 Lynn Powers No comments

    Stars Over Bozeman got some press coverage today.  Mike Mestas from NBC-KTVM met with Charlie Rose this afternoon and filmed a segment for today’s news.

    KTVM interviewing Charlie Rose for Stars over Bozeman

  • Stars over Bozeman star parties planned

    Posted on July 16th, 2010 Lynn Powers 2 comments

    The Southwest Montana Astronomical Society (SMAS) is pleased to announce:

    Stars over Bozeman”

    Friday, June 11th , back up date in case of cloud cover June 12th

    Friday, July 16th, back up date  in case of cloud cover July 17th

    Friday, August 13th, back up date in case of cloud cover August 14th

    Setup at 9 pm with viewing by 10:00 pm; with better viewing after 11:00 pm.  These events will be held at the 100 Acre Gallatin Regional Park located on Oak St 1.2 miles west of North 19th Street in Bozeman.

    As a group of amateur astronomers we wish to share our telescopes and knowledge of the night skies to all who wish to attend this free after dark event.  Club telescopes to be used range in size from small traditional 3 inch telescopes to our Pasley Dobsonian which has a 20 inch diameter lens mirror and is close to 8 feet tall, when pointing straight up. This requires the use of a ladder to look into the eyepiece for most people.   We are excited to use the Pasley this summer following a refurbishing project that included having the mirror refinished.

    Bring your own telescope if you wish and members of SMAS will help you to use it.

  • Mini Star Party with the 13″ Gorsky

    Posted on June 27th, 2010 Charlie Rose 1 comment

    Tonight in the park in front of my house here in Harvest Creek, I put on a star party for some teen kids playing in the park at dusk and 5th grade kids up the street having a birthday party sleep over thing. I got Saturn just as it was visible and was able to zoom in pretty good. The air was great with steady viewing. Then moved onto double stars Mizar, and Alberio. As it got dark enough the Ring and Hercules Cluster came into view well.  This is what the teenage kids got to see. At 10:30, on cue, the International Space Station flew right over and the 5th graders all showed up and got good views of Saturn & such.  A great night for a spur of the moment event here on the first really nice evenings of summer. There were 7 teens, 8 Fifth graders and 5 adults. Lots a fun. Gorsky worked great.

  • Bozeman Aurora

    Posted on May 4th, 2010 Lynn Powers No comments

    On today’s web site, a beautiful picture of the Aurora was posted.  What makes it so great is that the picture was taken in Bozeman!  By Dr. Joe Shaw of MSU, our July Stars over Yellowstone speaker.  Nice going Joe.  Check out the website!

    “AURORAS INVADE THE USA: A high-speed solar wind stream hit Earth’s magnetic field on May 2nd, sparking a geomagnetic storm that lasted more than 15 hours. Red auroras spilled across the Canadian border and were spotted in several US states. Joseph Shaw sends this picture from Bozeman, Montana:

    “The red auroras were just visible to the naked eye and easily captured by my Nikon D300,” says Shaw. “Excellent treat!”