Amateur Astronomy Under The Big Sky
RSS icon Email icon Bullet (black)
  • Winter Lecture Series: Mike Murray – Clark Planetarium

    Mike Murray, past member of SMAS and now Programs Manager of the Clark Planetarium in Salt Lake City, will give the second Winter Lecture at the Museum of the Rockies at 7:00PM, doors open at 6:30, Feb. 26th.   His talk is titled: “Seeing in the Dark: Tales of an Amateur Astronomer.”

    Sponsored by SMAS, MSGC, MOR.

    Amateur astronomy has been one of the fastest growing hobbies in the country for the last 20 years.  Why is that?  What gets people so “hooked” on astronomy and the night sky?

    Actually there could be many reasons.  For some, it’s just a naturally fascinating subject.  Look at how many non-science-major college students enroll in introductory astronomy courses to satisfy their general science requirement.  Or maybe it was a camping experience where you saw the Milky Way or a “shooting star” for the first time.  Or something that happened in the space program, like a moon mission, photos from Mars or a Hubble Space Telescope image.

    The reasons may be different, but the inspiration to explore the sky has one common thread – a curiosity to discover more of nature’s secrets and feel a personal connection to the universe.

    High quality observing equipment is now more widely available, and at affordable prices.  But as Mike will show, you don’t have to own a big telescope and lots of computer gear to do amateur astronomy.

    In this talk, Mike Murray (who worked at the Museum of the Rockies’ Taylor Planetarium in the 1990’s) will recount his moments of both inspiration and challenges as an avid amateur astronomer. From naked eye observing to getting your first telescope, Murray will demonstrate that there’s something for every age and any skill level when it comes to star gazing.  Topics covered will include binocular observing, “star hopping,” astronomy clubs, star parties, choosing your first telescope, observing techniques, how to use star charts, and much more.

    Mark your calendar for this outstanding speaker!!

  • Thank you Dr. Larson…

    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.

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

    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.


    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

    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.

  • Gallatin Valley Forum to feature Dr. Joe Shaw

    Club member and Montana State University professor, Dr. Joe Shaw, will present at the next Gallatin Valley Forum. Shaw’s presentation will discuss Preserving the Big Sky at Night and Montana Optical Technology. Within his presentation, Dr. Shaw will cover how he develops optical sensors and uses them to explore the natural Earth’s environment. This program will take place on Wednesday, April 29, 7pm at the Bozeman Public Library, and is free and open to the public.

    For more information, please call Paula Beswick at 582-2426.

  • Upcoming meeting: April 24th, 2009

    Ryan Hannahoe, director of client support services with the Fair Dinkum Skies Observatory and an MSU student, will discuss “Astronomical Imaging: The Point When Art Breaks Through Science” at 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 24, in the Museum of the Rockies’ Hager Auditorium.

    The lecture is free and open to the public.

    Participants are invited to join Hannahoe as he discusses the art of digital astronomical photography. Hannahoe is expected to share some of his works and process an image ‘on-the-fly’ for the audience to see how processing techniques can be applied.

    The Museum’s winter lecture series is sponsored by the Montana Space Grant Consortium, Museum of the Rockies and the Southwest Montana Astronomical Society.

  • Gravitational Waves

    Dr. Neil Cornish presented the second in our winter lectures series, Gravitational Waves: A new way of seeing the Universe, to a nearly packed house in the Hager Auditorium at the Museum of the Rockies this evening.  It is clear that his work, along with his colleagues in this new branch of astronomy, will bring a deep new understanding about our Universe in the very near future.

    Dr. Neil Cornish

    Dr. Neil Cornish

    His explanation of how observations of gravitational waves will complement electromagnetic observations and how this will help to resolve uncertainties and gaps in our current understanding of the cosmos was both comprehensive and understandable.  This lecture was enlightening on many levels and definitely helped me to understand what gravitational waves are and what we will learn from them.

    I want to thank Dr. Cornish, SMAS, The Museum of the Rockies, the Montana Space Grant Consortium, and everyone who came out this evening for making this event possible.  We wish him success in his work and hope that he will come back again soon and keep us all up to date on the progress in the new and exciting field.  Cheers…

  • Stars Over Yellowstone

    The August “Stars Over Yellowstone” will be held August 21 – 22 at Madison Campground in Yellowstone Park.

    Jim Manning, Executive Director of the Astonomical Society of the Pacific, will talk at the campground amphitheater followed by a public “Star Party” in the meadow behind the amphitheater.  Bring your own telescope or use one of the clubs.

    Prior to becoming Executive Director of ASP, Jim was the Head of Public Outreach at the Space Telescope Science Institute. Mr. Manning has worked in the planetarium field for many years, as Director of the Taylor Planetarium (Museum of the Rockies, Bozeman, MT), Director of the Staerkel Planetarium (Parkland College, Champaign, IL), and Assistant Director of the Morehead Planetarium (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC). He holds a BS degree in Mathematics and Astronomy from the University of Wisconsin and an MA in Physics and Astronomy from the University of North Carolina. He is a member of many planetarium and education organizations, and served as President of the International Planetarium Society from 1995-96.

  • Stars Over Yellowstone

    The June “Stars Over Yellowstone” will be held June 19-20 at Madison Campground in Yellowstone Park.

    Ryan Hannahoe from MSU’s Space Public Outreach Team will give a presentation entitled, “Listening to the Universe” at the campground amphitheater. Following the talk, a public “Star Party” in the meadow behind the amphitheater will occur.  Bring your own telescope or use one of the clubs.