Amateur Astronomy Under The Big Sky
RSS icon Email icon Bullet (black)
  • Parker Solar Probe

    Public Invited to Come Aboard NASA’s First Mission to Touch the Sun

    Want to get the hottest ticket this summer without standing in line?

    NASA is inviting people around the world to submit their names online to be placed on a microchip aboard NASA’s historic Parker Solar Probe mission launching in summer 2018. The mission will travel through the Sun’s atmosphere, facing brutal heat and radiation conditions — and your name will go along for the ride.

    “This probe will journey to a region humanity has never explored before,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, the associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “This mission will answer questions scientists have sought to uncover for more than six decades.”

    Understanding the Sun has always been a top priority for space scientists. Studying how the Sun affects space and the space environment of planets is the field known as heliophysics. The field is not only vital to understanding Earth’s most important and life-sustaining star, it supports exploration in the solar system and beyond.

    Submissions will be accepted until April 27, 2018. Learn more and add your name to the mission here:

  • Talking with Cosmonauts on the ISS

    Some good press from this week.  SMAS helped bring the Cosmonauts to Bozeman High School.  Lynn Powers was contact by Astronomers Without Borders to connect with Russian schools for a Space Lesson. Students were able to view through Virtual Reality googles videos taken on the International Space Station using the RT360 camera.  Students also interacted with schools in Tomsk, Sochi and Korolev during their Space Lesson on portholes.  Looking at historic portholes and the future of how portholes are used on spacecraft.  We were joined in Bozeman by Eduard Chizhikov, head of the RT360 team from Russia. This was a test of a pilot program that will connect schools from around the world with the Russian schools during future Space Lessons.  The test went very well and was encouraging to see that they will move the program forward.  Also joining us was the team by the 6th Dimension from the mall, who brought in their computer set up so students and staff could experience the RT360 videos in a VR headset.

    SMAS club member Yana and Ed from RT360

    SMAS club member Yana wearing a VR headset to view the ISS, along with Ed Chizhikov from RT360


    MOSCOW, APRIL 11RT partnered with US-based organization Astronomers without Borders to bring American and Russian students together during a live feed “space lesson” with cosmonauts aboard the International Space Station.

    RT, in collaboration with Astronomers without Borders, a US-based organization dedicated to bringing the world together through astronomy, connected Russians students from Tomsk, Korolev, and Sochi with American students from Bozeman, Montana and South Carolina, as well as cosmonauts working aboard the International Space Station for a special “Space Lesson.”

    During the live feed, the students learned about the importance of portholes on the spacecraft, before getting a chance to ask their own questions of the cosmonauts. The students also had the opportunity to exchange questions and answers about life in their respective home countries. When the lesson was over, the students in Montana had a chance to watch RT’s Space360 videos in VR glasses.

    RT started the educational “Space Lessons” project back in December in cooperation with GTRK Tomsk, RKK Energy, and Roscosmos. Using its unique, 360 videos filmed aboard the ISS, RT creates interactive lessons for Russian students learning about space and astronomy, but this was the first lesson to involve international participants.

    “The International Space Station is one of the few places where international cooperation is still a part of everyday life.  I am excited that today not only do we get to share what we do up in space, but also show that cooperation between Americans and Russians is not only possible but is welcomed,” said Russian cosmonaut Andrei Borisenko, who was aboard the ISS last year and narrated the first episodes of RT’s Space 360 project.

    Reflecting on the event, head of RT360 Eduard Chizhikov commented:  “It was a pleasure visiting Montana. Watching the kids’ reaction after talking to the ISS and watching the 360 videos was priceless. A simple view of Earth from space in a VR headset made this happen. I hope more schools will want to join in, and the communication between the kids will be a great example of what US and Russia can achieve in space.”

    Having grown up during the Space Race, Lynn Powers, a teacher at Bozeman High School, was excited to bring this special event to more than 50 students. “I see how important it is to show our students the possibilites of working together like we do on the ISS conducting research.  I have participated in several other programs with our students collaborating between different organizations, but to collaborate with our friends in Russia and the ISS was especially thrilling. This generation of students have the opportunity to ride the front of the wave into the new frontier of space exploration. Being able to participate today was truly an inspiration,” said Powers.

    RT is a leader among news outlets in the production of original content filmed in the groundbreaking 360-degree format.  Currently, the RT360 library has more than 180 original videos. RT’s panoramic videos are available on Facebook and on YouTube. You can also access them using RT360 mobile app (Google PlayApp Store and Oculus Store).

    About Astronomers Without Borders:  AWB connects people worldwide through innovative programs that are accessible to everyone regardless of geography and culture. Combining local events with online technology and a global community, AWB is a leader in promoting understanding and peaceful international relations, while also supporting outreach and education in astronomy. Our organization believes that online programs have the power to bring everyone together live to experience the wonders of space, and in the process of looking outward together, we learn about each other, breaking down borders that divide and create lasting bonds. It is this bond between people that Astronomers Without Borders hopes to foster.

  • Winter Lecture Series continues March 30th

    We’ll continue with the SMAS 2018 Winter Lecture Series next Friday, March 30th starting at 7:00 p.m. in the Bridger Library located in the high school.  Enter off of 11th Ave – across from Wendy’s.

    The still-unsolved Physics puzzle revealed by the Great American eclipsesolaralma_coronalheating_600
    by Dana Longcope
    Montana State University

    Among the torrent of news stories about last summer’s solar eclipse was an occasional mention of the Sun’s mysteriously hot corona — a mystery dubbed “the coronal heating problem”.  I will describe how that eclipse, and those before it, have confronted us with this enduring mystery.  I will explain the problem of coronal heating and what researchers at MSU, and elsewhere, have done to shed light on the still-unknown heating mechanism.  In the end I will describe what we now know about the solution, and what remains to be learned.

  • February SMAS meeting – 2/23

    Join us on Friday February 23rd starting at 7:00 p.m. in the Bridger Library at Bozeman High School.  We are asking everyone to bring some of their favorite tools that they like to use during night time observing.  Maps, books, apps, filters, red lights, etc.  We have several new members and it we were thinking it would be great to share some of this with them.

    We’ll have a talk about classification Catalogs.  Over 300 years ago Charles Messier, in his quest to find comets, found 110 objects in the night sky – many astronomers now use those objects when we are out viewing the dark sky and to share during public events. There are many other Catalogs (NGC, Caldwell, etc.), we’ll discuss those, look at some of the cross over and more.

    Mauna Loa Volcano - erupting and shooting spatter

    Mauna Loa Volcano – erupting and shooting spatter

    Followed by a talk about Spatter – What we’ve learned from Craters Of the Moon National Park and how it translates to other volcanic activity in the solar system.

  • What is the Ionosphere?

    What Is the Ionosphere?

    By Linda Hermans-Killiam
    High above Earth is a very active part of our upper atmosphere called the ionosphere. The ionosphere gets its name from ions—tiny charged particles that blow around in this layer of the atmosphere.

    How did all those ions get there? They were made by energy from the Sun!

    This illustration shows the layers of Earth’s atmosphere. NASA’s GOLD and ICON missions will work together to study the ionosphere, a region of charged particles in Earth’s upper atmosphere. Changes in the ionosphere can interfere with the radio waves used to communicate with satellites and astronauts in the International Space Station (ISS). Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Duberstein (modified)

    This illustration shows the layers of Earth’s atmosphere. NASA’s GOLD and ICON missions will work together to study the ionosphere, a region of charged particles in Earth’s upper atmosphere. Changes in the ionosphere can interfere with the radio waves used to communicate with satellites and astronauts in the International Space Station (ISS). Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Duberstein (modified)

    Everything in the universe that takes up space is made up of matter, and matter is made of tiny particles called atoms. At the ionosphere, atoms from the Earth’s atmosphere meet up with energy from the Sun. This energy, called radiation, strips away parts of the atom. What’s left is a positively or negatively charged atom, called an ion.

    The ionosphere is filled with ions. These particles move about in a giant wind. However, conditions in the ionosphere change all the time. Earth’s seasons and weather can cause changes in the ionosphere, as well as radiation and particles from the Sun—called space weather.

    These changes in the ionosphere can cause problems for humans. For example, they can interfere with radio signals between Earth and satellites. This could make it difficult to use many of the tools we take for granted here on Earth, such as GPS. Radio signals also allow us to communicate with astronauts on board the International Space Station, which orbits Earth within the ionosphere. Learning more about this region of our atmosphere may help us improve forecasts about when these radio signals could be distorted and help keep humans safe.

    In 2018, NASA has plans to launch two missions that will work together to study the ionosphere. NASA’s GOLD (Global-scale Observations of the Limb and Disk) mission launched in January 2018. GOLD will orbit 22,000 miles above Earth. From way up there, it will be able to create a map of the ionosphere over the Americas every half hour. It will measure the temperature and makeup of gases in the ionosphere. GOLD will also study bubbles of charged gas that are known to cause communication problems.

    A second NASA mission, called ICON, short for Ionospheric Connection Explorer, will launch later in 2018. It will be placed in an orbit just 350 miles above Earth—through the ionosphere. This means it will have a close-up view of the upper atmosphere to pair with GOLD’s wider view. ICON will study the forces that shape this part of the upper atmosphere.

    Both missions will study how the ionosphere is affected by Earth and space weather. Together, they will give us better observations of this part of our atmosphere than we have ever had before.

    To learn more about the ionosphere, check out NASA Space Place:

  • NASA is turning 60 this year!

    50eee709a8a8c3dfa08f67f72dd7e651The SMAS website has been around for several years and thanks to our members we have put together a nice page of resources.  Twice in the past few months we have received emails from students who have found our resource page useful, and have also sent a suggestion to add to those resources.  Today, Adam, a student from San Diego shared this website with us, it has a timeline of NASA.   It includes highlights of the agency, including this one:

    • July 29, 1958: The National Aeronautics and Space Act is signed into law, calling for the creation of NASA. Before NASA, the U.S. military conducted research regarding space exploration. The intention of the act was to ensure that space activity was “devoted to peaceful purposes.”

    We are coming up on the Sixtieth Anniversary of NASA.  Thanks Adam and Quentin for making suggestions to our site.

  • Super Red/Blue Moon Eclipse- SMAS Meeting January 26th

    What is all this hype about Super Moon’s?  Red Moon’s?  Join the Southwest Montana Astronomical Society for their January club meeting on Friday January 26th, starting at 7:00 p.m. in the Bozeman High School’s Bridger Library (room C6 – enter off of 11th Ave, across from Wendy’s).  Blue_Moons_lWe’ll look at the January 31st  Lunar Eclipse trifecta (The Full Moon will be a: Super Moon, Blue Moon and Red Moon) as well as how to observe the Moon and more. Open to the public, free.

  • Bozeman Astronomy on Tap

    Astronomy on Tap Bozeman: December 4, 2017

    Screen Shot 2017-12-01 at 9.08.29 AM

    5:30 pm, Monday, December 4th at  Mountains Walking Brewery . On this occasion we will have Dr. Dana Longcope talking about stars and the creation of heavy elements, and Dr. Neil Cornish discussing the neutron star merger and the production of even heavier elements. This is great opportunity for the community to learn about astrophysics, socialize and win prizes.

    Hope to see you and your friends (no matter what age) there!

    For more updates on Astronomy on Tap visit: or follow the Bozeman group on Facebook



  • Winter 2017 SMAS meeting

    WinterMeetingThe SMAS November/December Winter meeting will be on Friday December 1st at 6:30 p.m. for our annual Winter Meeting/pot luck/elections.

    See post below for directions to the Bridger Library at Bozeman High School, we are at the end of C-Wing in room C-6.

    SMAS will provide meat, plates/napkins/flatware, please bring a dish to share.

  • SMAS meeting – NEW LOCATION

    We are going to be meeting at the Bridger Charter Academy library, located in the Bozeman High School for our October 28th, December 1st and our January 26th meetings.  We’ll re-evaluate and possibly reserve more dates.  We’ve had meetings at the public library, but some people have been locked out.  Some meetings at the firehouse, but can’t always get the dates we want, and some at the Sore Elbow Forge -thanks to owner and SMAS VP Tom Holcombe.  It was costly to meet at the Commons for the Winter Lecture Series, then we found out about the 501c3 pricing through the district.  Click on the picture below for a better view!

    Screen Shot 2017-10-26 at 8.40.12 AM