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.

  • Winter Lecture Series

    We are starting our Winter Lecture Series early this year.  We are adding December 6th, with a short club meeting to follow.

    All lectures are held at the Musuem of the Rockies at the Hagar auditorium, start time 7:00 p.m., are free and open to the public.

    December 6, 2013 – Dr. Robert Szilagy from MSU, Associate Professor Chemistry and Biochemistry: “A chemist’s perspective on the Hadean and its relevance to chemical origin of life.”

     The presentation will merge our scientific results on the investigation of various physical chemistry scenarios that could have contributed to the formation of complex organic molecules and the broader context of chemical origin of life. These results were obtained by a team of surface scientists, geochemists, physical chemists, spectroscopists, synthetic inorganic chemists, and theoreticians brought together by the NASA Astrobiology Institute. The breadth of scientific expertise covered by our team well represents the much needed interdisciplinary approach of this work. The presentation will attempt to place the most productive time of chemical evolution within time boundaries using data from geological record and planetology. An exciting future direction for research will be introduced for closing which have a chance to merge at least two leading theories in origin of life research with a possibility of providing a plausible scenario for catalytic conversion of small molecules to biologically relevant large molecules.

    January 31, 2014 – Dr. Neil Cornish from MSU Physics Department: “Black Hole Hunting with Pulsar Timing Arrays.”

    In a unique mariage of radio and gravitational wave astronomy, the regular radio pulses from rapidly rotating Neutron stars (Pulsars) are being used to search for gravitational waves. In the US, the NANOGrav collaboration uses the Green Bank and Arecibo radio telescopes to find an monitor dozens of radio pulsars, and together with partners in Europe and Australia, we form the International Pulsar Timing Array: a galactic scale gravitational wave detector designed to detect signals from black holes billions of times more massive than our Sun. The race is now on to make the first direct detection of gravitational waves – will it be by Pulsar Timing or by the LIGO/Virgo laser interferometers?

    February 28, 2014 – 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.
    March 28, 2014 – Dr. Sarah Jaeggli from MSU, Solar Physics Postdoctoral Researcher: “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 I’ll give an update on the IRIS mission and talk  about the new science that is being done here at MSU.
  • Come back Shane!

    It was great to hear Dr. Shane Larson speak about life out there, and space travel.   Thanks to everyone involved .