Amateur Astronomy Under The Big Sky
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  • February 2017 Winter Lecture Series – by Dr. Ivy Merriot

    Join SMAS on Friday February 10th starting at 7:00 p.m. at the Commons (Baxter Lane at Love Lane) for a free public talk by Dr. Ivy Merriot. Bighorn Medicine Wheel

    The Dance of Stars Above the Big Horn Medicine Wheel

     The Big Horn Medicine Wheel, an eighty-foot circle of stones at nearly 10,000 feet in the mountains of Wyoming has long been known to “point” to the Sun on the morning of the longest day of the year. Ivy Merriot, PhD will share her current research on astronomical medicine wheels, showing how these wheels mirror the stars above, giving us an enduring, accurate, and cosmo-tuned method of marking time and tracking cosmic events. The Wheel’s mirroring of the sky above creates a dynamic star chart you can walk inside of, like the holographic map room in Star Trek. With a skywatcher’s skill-set, any visible celestial object can be studied over time from this type of astronomical Wheel, the Sun, Moon, planets, comets, asteroids, etc. The stone design of these astronomical medicine wheels make them instruments as useful in visual astronomy today as they were five thousand years ago.

  • October SMAS Meeting

    big-glass-mirrorJoin us on Friday October 28th at the Sore Elbow Forge starting at 7:00.

    Last month we voted to up the memory for our web page. That was done, and we have uploaded the Big Glass Powerpoint Presentation that Bill M. did for us in the spring. Thanks Bill, hope you all enjoy viewing the slides, you can find them under the Gallery tab above.

  • March Winter Lecture Series

    Join us on March 28, 2014 at 7:00 p.m., Hagar Auditorium at the Museum of the Rockies to hear Dr. Sarah Jaeggli from MSU, Solar Physics Postdoctoral Researcher, her talk will be an IRIS mission update.

    The Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS) is a new mission to look at the Sun which was launched June 27, 2013.  IRIS was designed to look at a very mysterious region above the Sun’s visible surface where the very hot gas of the corona (1 million degrees Celsius) meets the very cool gas of the chromosphere (5000 degrees Celsius).  The mystery lies in how the Sun maintains the chromosphere at such a cool temperature while transferring energy through it into the hot corona.  The MSU solar physics group is part of the international team responsible for building  the instrument, operating it, and analyzing the images it sends back to Earth.  In this lecture she’ll give an update on the IRIS mission and talk  about the new science that is being done at MSU.
  • March: National Women’s History Month 2014

    The theme for National Women’s History Month this year is: Celebrating Women of Character, Courage and Commitment.  NASA is spotlighting women in STEM careers and has asked local clubs to highlight this locally.

    Several events are planned in and around Bozeman.  The bookclub selection and children’s storytime for the Bozeman Public Library this month have been chosen with this theme in mind.  A talk from SMAS will be given at ParkHaven on Tuesday March 11th.   The library’s Family Science night on Tuesday March 18th is being put on by the Bozeman High School Astronomy Club with several of the girls from the club conducting the activities.  On Friday March 28th, SMAS is having Dr. Sarah Jaeggli give an update on the IRIS mission for the winter lecture series to close out the month of activities.

  • February Winter Lecture speaker


    for the next installment of the Southwest Montana Astronomical Society’s 2014 Winter Lecture Series.  7:00 p.m. at the Museum of the Rockies in the Hagar Auditorium.  Free and open to the public.


    Dr. Nate McCrady, Associate Professor, University of Montana Department of Physics and Astronomy:

    “Minerva: Big Science with Small Telescopes.”

    One of the most profound questions NASA poses is: Are we alone? To look for life, we look for planets around other stars with conditions suitable for sustaining life. Detailed spectroscopic follow-up studies of these exoplanets will enable us to determine if there are anomalous amounts of methane or oxygen imprinted in their atmospheric spectra, an indication of life residing on the planet’s surface. With our partner institutions Harvard, Penn State and Caltech, the University of Montana is building and operating Project Minerva, a dedicated observatory for detection of rocky, Earth-like exoplanets orbiting nearby stars.


  • High Altitude Skywatching

    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!
  • Stars Over Yellowstone 2012

    The dates are set for our 15th year of Stars Over Yellowstone Summer 2012.

    Put these dates on your calendar and come join us for the fun.

    June 22 & 23 – speaker: Jim Manning
    July 20 & 21 – speakers: Michelle and Shane Larson
    Aug. 17 & 18 – speaker: SPOT program from MSU

    Be sure and check the details on our Stars Over Yellowstone page.

    Enjoy a few pictures from our July 2011 event, more pictures are posted on our Stars Over Yellowstone page.


  • From the Big Bang to Broadway: How Things Evolve – Lecture at MOR

    Thursday, Sept. 1 at 7pm, Museum of the Rockies
    Join Robert M. Hazen of the Carnegie Institute of Washington for a presentation on how things evolve. Hazen will compare evolution is everything from the development of language and progress in culture and the arts, to the formation of chemical elements in stars following the Big Bang and diversification of minerals on Earth-like planets. The similarities and differences among these systems underscore general principles of emergent complexity and underscore the power and plausibility of biological evolution.
    Free and open to the public. Presented by the MSU Astrobiology Biogeocatalysis Research Center.

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

    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.

  • Fred Birk, Past President of SMAS to speak on VLA

    Fred Birk, past president of SMAS, will give a talk during the March 26th meeting of SMAS. 7:00 in the Redstart room, downstairs at the Museum of the Rockies.  Fred’s talk will be followed by a short club meeting with updates on Stars over Yellowstone, Stars over Bozeman, and the upcoming Astronomy Day event.  Bring a friend!

    National Radio Astronomy Observatory
    VLA, The Very Large Array in New Mexico
    Guide Post to the Future
    The talk puts the VLA in context with the radio astronomy world of today and the past.  A detailed narrative of a tour of the entire facility including the inner sanctum of electronics processing.  The audience should walk away from the talk with a good understanding of what radio astronomy is all about.