Southwest Montana Astronomical Society

Amateur Astronomy Under The Big Sky
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  • SMAS March club meeting

    Posted on March 4th, 2021 Lynn Powers No comments

    Join us on zoom, Thursday, March 4, 2021, starting at 7:00 p.m. as we welcome Sally Jensen, Solar System Ambassador for her talk on the Mars 2020 Mission and see what Pereverane is doing now that it has safely landed on Mars. Followed by Question and Answer time.

  • Great Conjunction 2020

    Posted on December 7th, 2020 Lynn Powers No comments

    The Great Conjunction of 2020


    This Summer, majestic planets Jupiter and Saturn sat high in the southern sky, and since that time they have traveled as a pair down towards the southwest with each successive night. Soon they will set below the horizon and after a short winter break, reemerge next Spring low in the southeast. Hopefully, you have noticed that the two planets have also been getting closer and closer to one another as the months’ pass. Because Jupiter’s orbital speed is greater than Saturn’s, it moves faster along the ecliptic (the plane of the solar system) and will soon overtake the ringed planet. On December 21st, the two will have a brief, but significant meeting in the night sky.

    Since the Sun, Moon, and planets all move along the ecliptic upon the celestial sphere, we get to witness a number of “close encounters” between various objects in the night sky throughout the year. Of course, this is just a matter of perspective, as they are all still quite distant from one another once “depth” is added into the equation. Astronomers call these apparent get-togethers between the Moon and planets, multiple planets, and even planets and bright stars, “conjunctions.” The Great Conjunction of 2020:While there have been a number of wonderful conjunctions this year, all pale in comparison to what will be taking place in the early evening hours of December 21st. In fact, a meeting of this significance is called a “Great Conjunction.” And great it is! Jupiter and Saturn, the two largest planets in our solar system, will have an angular distance from one another of just 1/10th of a degree! To put that into perspective, that’s the relative *thickness* of a dime held at arm’s length. In fact, the two planets will be so close to one another, they will initially appear “as one” to the unaided eye. Upon inspection, those with good visual acuity should be able to separate the two even with the glaring brightness of Jupiter. All the same, you may wish to have a pair of binoculars or a telescope on hand. Whatever you do, don’t miss this amazing conjunction, as it is the closest the two have been in 397 years! We are fortunate to have another like Great Conjunction this century, but in the year 2080, it might be a bit too long to wait for many of us.

    Where and When:

    Jupiter and Saturn, once high in the late evening sky, are now setting earlier and earlier. By Monday the 21st, they will already be visible low in the Southwest sky during the hours of Civil and Astronomical Dusk, between 5:20 and 7:00 pm MST. The pair will set shortly after that but will probably be lost from view well before that time at your horizon. On Monday the 21st, go outside around 5:20 pm MST, preferably in a location with a clear view of the southwest horizon, and look about 15° above the sky-line. It may take a few moments to find them this early, but should come into view as they will be the first and brightest “star” in the area. Depending on your location, you will have just about one hour to enjoy this amazing astronomical event. It should be noted, that the day before and the day after, Jupiter and Saturn are nearly the same distance, so you really have three days to experience the Great Conjunction should the weather be an issue.

    Telescopic Views:

    If you are fortunate enough to have a telescope on hand, a magnification of 75x to 275x will be able to present both planets within the same field of view. Note, however, the *quality* of view will not only depend on your equipment but the state of the atmosphere as well. Unfortunately, with the two planets being so close to the horizon, atmospheric refraction will be an issue.

    A good pair of binoculars or a spotting scope will also give you a close-up view of this event. Enjoy!

  • November SMAS update

    Posted on November 4th, 2020 Lynn Powers No comments

     Sorry for the late notice for our virtual meeting this month – which happens to be tomorrow night!  Luisa has offered to do a talk for us, but tomorrow she is doing an online talk for the George Mason Observatory.  The Universe in the Infrared – Spitzer’s final voyage.  Starts at 8 p.m. Eastern/ 6 p.m. Mountain. 
    This page has more information:
    Along with the log on information: 
    To join this Evenings Under the Stars session and future sessions, here is the Zoom meeting connection info:
    Meeting ID: 929 6449 9451
    I’m sharing that page with you so you can log into other talks in the future. 
    We’ll get Luisa for our club member meeting after the new year.  

    Also, there is another online talk on Friday night that looks interesting, too: The first portrait of a black hole and beyond. 
    Caltech virtual lecture series Friday 11/6 starting at 7:pm Pacific time/ 8 p.m. Mountain
    It will be a youtube live event from the Caltech Astro page
    Again this site has past events in their archive – things to keep you busy for a very long time. 

    Next month is our year-end holiday pot luck and elections meeting.  Considering how the numbers are ramping up, we are considering a virtual pot luck SMAS member meeting.  Let us know your thoughts. 

  • SMAS October guest speaker

    Posted on September 24th, 2020 Lynn Powers No comments

    This Saturday is International Observe the Moon Night – if you can try to get outside and take a look! I got a sneak peek last night and the ISS flew overhead a beautiful site!

    Our October meeting will be a virtual meeting:  Thursday, October 1st via zoom – so you can join from the comfort of home. Starting at 7:00 p.m. mountain time. 

    “You can almost touch the stars”  By guest speaker Tom Field

    Even if you wanted to touch a star, they’re all impossibly distant.  Despite these great distances, astronomers have learned an enormous amount about stars. How?  The most common method to study stars is called spectroscopy, which is the science of analyzing the colorful rainbow spectrum produced by a prism-like device. 
    Until recently, spectroscopy was too expensive and too complicated for all but a handful of amateurs.  Today though, new tools make spectroscopy accessible to almost all of us.  You no longer need a PhD, dark skies, long exposures, enormous aperture … or a big budget! With your current telescope and FITS camera (or a simple webcam or even a DSLR without a telescope), you can now easily study the stars yourself.  Wouldn’t you like to detect the atmosphere on Neptune or the redshift of a quasar right from your own backyard?! 
    This talk, with lots of interesting examples, will show you what it’s all about and help you understand how spectroscopy is used in research. Even if you are an armchair astronomer, understanding this filed will enhance your understanding of things you have read about the night sky.  
    This 45 minute live via zoom presentation will be followed by a Q&A session. 

    Tom Field has been a contributing editor at Sky & Telescope Magazine for the past 7 years. He is the author of the RSpec software which received the S&T ‘Hot Product’ award in 2011.  Tom is a popular speaker who has spoken to hundreds of clubs via the web and in-person at many conferences, including NEAF imaging conference, the Winter Star Party, the Advancing Imaging conference, and others. 

    An email reminder along with the login information for zoom will be sent soon!

  • Space and Astronomy

    Posted on September 1st, 2020 Lynn Powers No comments

    It’s not just our little club in our part of the country that is seeing dramatic changes this year.

    We’ve missed heading out this past summer for all the events, star parties and outreach programs. And here we are into September with a meeting only a few days away – but we are still dealing with gathering and staying safe.

    Our October 1st meeting will be a virtual meeting – with several others planned. Members will receive emails with log in information.

    Until then – we thought you’d be interested in this article that outlines how this time of COVID-19 is impacting others. From Sky and Telescope magazine, enjoy the read.

  • Hubble 30th Anniversary

    Posted on July 12th, 2020 Lynn Powers No comments

    NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope is celebrating the 30th anniversary of its launch aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery. ACRM has been selected as one of a limited number of locations across the nation to unveil the Hubble 30th anniversary photo to the public. Handouts and activities provided by NASA and the Southwest Montana Astronomical Society.

    Join us on:

    • SATURDAY, JULY 18, 2020
    • 12:00 PM  4:00 PM

    To watch a video that describes the special 30th image, check out this on youtube.

  • Spring 2020 update

    Posted on March 28th, 2020 Lynn Powers No comments

    SMAS is following all the guidelines that are coming down from the various agencies during these quickly evolving and changing times. Until further notice we are distancing ourselves and have cancelled all club meetings, workshops and outreach events over the next few months. However, we are still working on plans for the future – if not this summer then next summer. We are hoping that the collaboration with the Camera Club of Bozeman and SMAS on an astrophotography event will happen in late Spring or early Summer.

    With all the preparations that would need to be in place, but with the uncertainties of what we will see this summer, we’ve decided to postpone Montana Starwatch for 2020 and are planning on a 2021 event either at the Ruby Reservoir or out near the Crazy Mountains.

    We hope that you are taking advantage of these times to get outside and look up! Stay safe!

  • March SMAS club meeting

    Posted on February 25th, 2020 Lynn Powers No comments
    Parker Solar Probe via NASA

    Join us at the American Computer & Robotic Museum on Thursday March 5th starting at 7:00 p.m. for a presentation on the Parker Solar Probes, they’ve made it around the sun 3 times, see what we’ve learned so far.

  • February 2020 Lecture

    Posted on January 20th, 2020 Lynn Powers No comments
    By Notanee Bourassa

    Join SMAS on Thursday February 6th at the American Computer & Robotics Museum for our Winter Lectures Series as we welcome famed Aurora chaser and photographer Notanee Bourassa, a citizen scientist who gave STEVE his name. The meeting starts at 7:00 p.m., free and open to the public.

  • SMAS meetings for 2020

    Posted on December 31st, 2019 Lynn Powers No comments

    SMAS will be moving all of our meetings from the Last Friday of each month to the FIRST Thursday of each month (February 6th, March 5th, April 2nd, May 7th and June 4th.

    We are also moving our meeting locations to the American Computer & Robotics Museum located at: 2023 Stadium Drive, Suite 1-A in Bozeman.

    All meetings will start at 7:00 p.m. and run to 8:30 p.m.

    Our speaker series information will be posted soon.