Southwest Montana Astronomical Society

Amateur Astronomy Under The Big Sky
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  • APOD of Interest

    Posted on January 30th, 2010 Robert Banfill 2 comments

    Take a look a this Astronomy Picture of the Day from the 20th. It is a tour of the known Universe and as the camera moves away from the Earth, it shows the limit of all radio transmissions from humans.  I found this to be very interesting and pertinent to Dr. Larson’s lecture last night.

  • Thank you Dr. Larson…

    Posted on January 30th, 2010 Robert Banfill No comments

    The SMAS Winter Lecture Series is always a hit and last nights lecture, Connections to the Cosmos: The Search for Life Beyond Earth presented by Dr. Shane Larson of Utah State University, was no exception.

    The question whether there are others like us or are we alone in the Universe has been asked since there has been someone to ask it.   Dr. Larson’s deep insights into this question, and the questions that it leads to, helped me to make some sense of these profound and fundamental issues.

    This was a wonderful presentation and I was very glad to see a large turnout at the Hager Auditorium at the Museum of the Rockies for the event.  A big thank you to Dr. Larson for coming up here on short notice and presenting this lecture and thank you to the Museum of the Rockies and the Montana Space Grant Consortium for their support of the Winter Lecture Series.   Thanks also to SMAS and it membership for making this all happen.

    I am really looking forward to next month and the next lecture in the series when Mike Murray, Programs Manager of the Clark Planetarium in Salt Lake City, will present Seeing in the Dark: Tales of an Amateur Astronomer.

  • Winter Lecture Series: Shane Larson of Utah State Univ.

    Posted on January 11th, 2010 1 comment

    Dr. Shane Larson of Utah State University will deliver a lecture discussing ‘CONNECTIONS TO THE COSMOS: The Search for Life Beyond Earth’. This event will be held in the Hagar Auditorium of the Museum of the Rockies on the evening of Friday, January 29th. Shane’s lecture will begin promptly at 7PM, and this presentation is free and open to the public.

    Presentation abstract:

    One of the most profound questions for modern scientists is whether or not Earth is unique in all the Cosmos.  Are there other worlds that may bear matter organized into patterns we call “life”?  Will such worlds be similar to our own or extraordinarily different?  In modern astronomy there are two distinct avenues of inquiry into this question: first, do other Earth-like worlds exist, and how might we detect them, and second, if there is life on other worlds what might it be like and how might we communicate with it?

    In this talk we will examine these questions.  Our conversation will range from how we are looking for other worlds that might harbor life, to imagining what strange forms that life might take on, and lastly exploring the scientific principles that would be employed to enable a conversation with other intelligent entities in the Cosmos, our neighbors on another world.

    Funding for the Winter Lecture Series is provided by SMAS, MOR, and MSGC.

  • John Bogard to talk Friday, Oct.30 at SMAS meeting

    Posted on October 27th, 2009 Richard Sabo No comments

    John Bognar, past director of MSU’s high altitude scientific balloon program (BOREALIS,) will talk about the current status of high altitude ballooning.
    John has a company (Anasphere) that has developed some radiosonde kits that let students gather their own atmospheric data with sensors they launch on small helium balloons. Their web site summarizes most of the educational work and outreach.

  • NASA’s Mars Phoenix Mission P.I. to give special SMAS presentation on October 8th.

    Posted on September 27th, 2009 Administrator No comments


    Dr. Peter Smith of NASA’s Mars Phoenix Mission will deliver a lectured entitled “Phoenix in Winter Wonderland” during a special meeting of SMAS that will be held on October 8th. This event will be in the Hager Auditorium of the Museum of the Rockies, and will begin promptly at 7:00PM. This event is free and open to the public.

    Dr. Smith’s abstract for the presentation is as follows:

    Phoenix recently completed a five-month-long investigation of the Martian arctic and found water ice just beneath the dry surface soil. Comparing Antarctic dry valleys with the Martian polar plains leads to the conclusion that liquid water helped create the minerals in the soil. Snow has been observed falling from overlying clouds and frost is seen on the surface. Water is clearly part of the climate cycle and leads to the question: Is this a location where life is possible on Mars?

  • MSU’s Littenberg to give September 25th SMAS lecture

    Posted on September 13th, 2009 No comments

    Dr. Tyson Littenberg of MSU’s Physics Department will deliver a lecture entitled “Revealing Einstein’s Universe: The Gravitational Wave Detection Problem” during our September 25th general meeting. This event will be held in the Redstart Classroom of the Museum of the Rockies and will begin promptly at 7:00PM. As always, this event is free and open to the public.

  • 1 Moon Sets, 3 Moons Rise

    Posted on August 26th, 2009 Charlie Rose No comments

    Ha, My son Matt & I set up the 13 inch Gorsky scope on the driveway just as our earths moon was setting.  We turned the scope to Jupiter and proceeded to watch 3 moons pop out from around Jupiter within 25 minutes.  I noticed on the Sky & Telescope Jupiter’s Moons program that this was going to occur and was glad to see it happen live.  As Europa cleared the planet it was visible as a little bump on Jupiter….So we called it a “Zit”.   Jupiter only appeared to have 1 moon for a time before the acne problem developed.

    On September 2nd at  10:45 pm or so, Jupiter will appear to be without any moons for 1hr & 45 minutes till 2 moons appear within 10 minutes.  This is something else I want to see.  Kinda funny that on this night, Our moon Luna, will be darn near full, and right next to Jupiter in the sky….(Apparently).

    The web site to track Jupiter’s moons is:

    Jupiter appearing moonless is a rare event that happens only about 20 times per century, and we have front row seats.

    Happy Gazing!

  • Stars Over Yellowstone – August `09

    Posted on August 25th, 2009 Robert Banfill No comments

    We had yet another great weekend in Yellowstone with Jim Manning, executive director of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, presenting two wonderful talks even through we were somewhat clouded out on Saturday night.

    Friday night was spectacular and we had the telescopes set up in the parking lot rather than down in the meadow below the amphitheater and this worked out quite well overall.  The turnout for Jim’s first campfire presentation was large and we had a huge crowd at the telescopes into the night.  Jupiter was rising as the Sun set and was high in the sky as Jim’s presentation was over and the crowd moved up to the telescopes.  Of course, everyone got to view Jupiter and the Galilean moons,  M14 The Hercules Cluster and many other jewels of the summer sky.

    On Saturday, Charlie, Dr. Sabo, Eric and Ester, and our friends from YVAA, Kevin Bebbe and Rich McCellan, were at Old Faithful for solar observing throughout the afternoon.  Burt Rutan and his wife Tonya stopped by and Eric, Charlie and I got to visit with them for a few minutes about SMAS, commercial space flight, and science education among other topics.  What a pleasant surprise and honor to meet and visit with these good folks.

    Jim’s campfire presentation Saturday evening, Galileo’s Universe, was wonderful and a large crowd turned out.  Duncan and I had decided to return to Bozeman after Jim’s presentation and so we missed the observing session but a great weekend overall.  I really can’t think of a better way to spend a weekend.  Cheers…

  • Stars Over Yellowstone – July `09

    Posted on July 26th, 2009 Robert Banfill No comments

    The kids and I headed down to Madison on Friday afternoon leaving a sweltering Bozeman behind us. As they always are this time of year, things were pretty busy in the park but the weather was beautiful and things were relatively quiet at the Madison campground. After hooking up with Dr. Stacy Palin, Dr. John Anderson and Dr. Shane Larson and family as well as other club members and having a nice dinner followed up with s’mores around the campfire, we all headed over to the amphitheater to get setup.

    Dr. Palin presented her lecture The Lives of Stars to a large audience while SMAS members got the telescopes setup below on the meadow. After the lecture it was fairly crowded but it looked as though everyone got to put their eye to the eyepiece on several telescopes and see the many wonders of a very dark sky. A few of the favorite objects viewed were M13, the Hercules Cluster, M51, the Whirlpool Galaxy, and of course, Jupiter and its Galilean moons as they rose in the southeast.

    As things quieted down, we toured Sagittarius and Scorpius on the big telescopes hitting many  of the wonderful emission nebulae in those constellations that we only get to see this time of year. As the night worn on, Dr. Larson and SMAS president Dr. Richard Sabo took a group of us on a wonderful tour of lesser known but spectacular objects such as NGC 5907, the Splinter Galaxy, NGC 6543, the Cats Eye Nebula, and the Veil Nebula supernova remnant.

    The weather did not cooperate much on Saturday. The solar observing session at Old Faithful was pretty much clouded and rained out, although Lynn Powers stuck it out and provided handouts and deployed the solar system scale model. In the evening, the skies began to clear and Dr. Palin presented Astrostories: Constellation Stories from the Ancients to a large audience at the amphitheater but high thin clouds preventing any observing.

    All in all, a good time was had by all over the weekend. Special thanks to Dr. Palin for her presentations and to all of the SMAS members who came and helped out. I also want the thank the National Park Service for letting us come and enjoy the dark skies of Yellowstone and share our love of astronomy with others.

  • 100 Hours of Astronomy Awards

    Posted on July 19th, 2009 Robert Banfill No comments

    Thanks primarily to the hard work and dedication of our Observing Chairperson, Lynn Powers, SMAS comes ‘Highly Recommended’ for our Community Outreach by the good folks at 100 Hours of Astronomy. Please take a look the 100 Hours of Astronomy site.

    Thank you Lynn and all of the other club members who help with our outreach programs and activities.