Southwest Montana Astronomical Society

Amateur Astronomy Under The Big Sky
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  • 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.

  • SMAS year end meeting

    Posted on December 2nd, 2019 Lynn Powers No comments

    We combine our November and December meetings yearly. We hold our elections and we celebrate the end of the year with a potluck. Join us this Thursday – December 5th at 7p.m. at the home of our vice president Tom Holcombe – contact me for directions.

    Watch for upcoming Winter lecture series info coming soon.

  • Astrophotography

    Posted on October 30th, 2019 Lynn Powers No comments

    One of our SMAS members took this picture this week of M42, the Orion Nebula. Thanks for sharing Bill Macgregor!

    M42 Orion Nebula 10/26/2016 by Bill Macgregor

    It always amazes me when someone in our group takes up astrophotography. It is something that I’ve had a desire to try. I’ve done some smart phone photography with my cell phone through an eye piece of my telescope. I’ve taken pictures of the 2017 solar eclipse using a camera mounted to my telescope. I bought a digital camera to start playing with all sky photography to get the Milky Way or an aurora. However, I’ve still not taken much time to work on my skills. Kudos to those that do!

  • October SMAS meeting

    Posted on October 23rd, 2019 Lynn Powers No comments

    Sorry guys! Thought I hit the submit button on this info earlier:

    How did we get to the last week of the month already?
    The October SMAS meeting is this week. Friday October 25th starting at 7pmWe’ll be meeting at the Sore Elbow Forge Address: 955 Story Mill Rd, Bozeman, MT
    We have some club business to discuss, elections and a short presentation to follow regarding the new Artemis Mission. Free and open to the public.
    Calendar of events coming up: ~Bozeman Girl Scouts Moon event 10/26 (80 girls registered)~Butte Girl Scouts Moon event 10/27 (45 girls registered)~Transit of Mercury 11/11 – in progress when sun rises ~Nov/Dec combined meeting/potluck/elections – place to be determined.

  • Mercury Transit 2019

    Posted on October 22nd, 2019 Lynn Powers No comments

    Did you know that there are two other objects in our skies that have phases like the Moon? They’re the inner planets, found between Earth and the Sun: Mercury and Venus. You can see their phases if you observe them through a telescope. Like our Moon, you can’t see the planets in their “new” phase, unless they are lined up perfectly between us Earthlings and the Sun. In the case of the Moon, this alignment results in a solar eclipse; in the case of Mercury and Venus, this results in a transit, where the small disc of the planet travels across the face of the Sun. Skywatchers are in for a treat this month, as Mercury transits the Sun the morning of November 11!

    You may have seen the transit of Venus in 2012; you may have even watched it through eclipse glasses! However, this time you’ll need a solar telescope to see anything, since eclipse glasses will only reveal the Sun’s blank face. Why is that? Mercury is the smallest planet in our solar system, and closer to the Sun (and further away from Earth) during its transit than Venus was in its 2012 transit. This makes Mercury’s disc too small to see without the extra power of a telescope. Make absolutely certain that you view the transit via a telescope equipped with a safe solar filter or projection setup. Do NOT combine binoculars with your eclipse glasses; this will instantly burn a hole through the glasses – and your eyes!

    What a fun opportunity to see another planet during the day! This transit is expected to last over five hours. Folks on the East Coast will be able to watch the entre transit, weather permitting, from approximately 7:35 am EST until around approximately 1:04 pm EST. Folks located in the middle of North America to the west coast will see the transit already in progress at sunrise. The transit takes hours, so if your weather is cloudy, don’t despair; there will be plenty of time for skies to clear! You can find timing details and charts via eclipse guru Fred Espenak’s website:

    Mercury’s orbit is small and swift, and so its position in our skies quickly changes; that’s why it was named after the fleet-footed messenger god of Roman mythology. In fact, if you have a clear view of the eastern horizon, you’ll be able to catch Mercury again this month! Look for it before dawn during the last week of November, just above the eastern horizon and below red Mars. Wake up early the morning of November 24th to see Mars, the Moon, and Mercury form a loose triangle right before sunrise.

    Discover more about Mercury and the rest of our solar system at

    This photo from the same 2016 transit event shows Mercury a bit larger, as it should; it was taken at a higher magnification through a large 16 inch telescope! Credit: J. A. Blackwell

    By David Prosper

  • SMAS September meeting

    Posted on September 18th, 2019 Lynn Powers No comments

    Join SMAS out at the Sore Elbow Forge on Friday September 27th starting at 7:00 p.m. We’re going to do an inventory of our club scopes and see what needs to be worked on. Bring your own scope and see what needs to be tightened, collimated, WD-40’d, repaired and more.

  • Trip around the Triangle

    Posted on August 22nd, 2019 Lynn Powers No comments

    Spot the Stars of the Summer Triangle

    David Prosper

    September skies are a showcase for the Summer Triangle, its three stars gleaming directly overhead after sunset. The equinox ushers in the official change of seasons on September 23. Jupiter and Saturn maintain their vigil over the southern horizon, but set earlier each evening, while the terrestrial planets remain hidden.

    The bright three points of the Summer Triangle are among the first stars you can see after sunset: Deneb, Vega, and Altair.  The Summer Triangle is called an asterism, as it’s not an official constellation, but still a striking group of stars. However, the Triangle is the key to spotting multiple constellations! Its three stars are themselves the brightest in their respective constellations: Deneb, in Cygnus the Swan; Vega, in Lyra the Harp; and Altair, in Aquila the Eagle. That alone would be impressive, but the Summer Triangle also contains two small constellations inside its lines, Vulpecula the Fox and Sagitta the Arrow. There is even another small constellation just outside its borders: diminutive Delphinus the Dolphin. The Summer Triangle is huge!

    The equinox occurs on September 23, officially ushering in autumn for folks in the Northern Hemisphere and bringing with it longer nights and shorter days, a change many stargazers appreciate. Right before sunrise on the 23rd, look for Deneb – the Summer Triangle’s last visible point – flickering right above the western horizon, almost as if saying goodbye to summer.

    The Summer Triangle region is home to many important astronomical discoveries. Cygnus X-1, the first confirmed black hole, was initially detected here by x-ray equipment on board a sounding rocket launched in 1964. NASA’s Kepler Mission, which revolutionized our understanding of exoplanets, discovered thousands of planet candidates within its initial field of view in Cygnus. The Dumbbell Nebula (M27), the first planetary nebula discovered, was spotted by Charles Messier in the diminutive constellation Vulpecula way back in 1764!

    Planet watchers can easily find Jupiter and Saturn shining in the south after sunset, with Jupiter to the right and brighter than Saturn. At the beginning of September, Jupiter sets shortly after midnight, with Saturn following a couple of hours later, around 2:00am. By month’s end the gas giant duo are setting noticeably earlier: Jupiter sets right before 10:30pm, with Saturn following just after midnight. Thankfully for planet watchers, earlier fall sunsets help these giant worlds remain in view for a bit longer. The terrestrial planets, Mars, Venus, and Mercury, remain hidden in the Sun’s glare for the entire month.

    Discover the latest in space science from the NASA missions studying our universe at

    Caption: Once you spot the Summer Triangle, you can explore the cosmic treasures found in this busy region of the Milky Way. Make sure to “Take a Trip Around the Triangle“ before it sets this fall! Find the full handout at

    Caption: This wider view of the area around the Summer Triangle includes another nearby asterism: the Great Square of Pegasus.

    This article is distributed by the NASA Night Sky Network

    NASA’s Night Sky Network program supports astronomy clubs across the USA dedicated to astronomy outreach. Visit to find local clubs, events, and more!

  • SMAS Summer lecture

    Posted on July 13th, 2019 Lynn Powers No comments

    Join us on Friday July 26th at the Bozeman Public Library small conference room at 5:00 p.m. as we welcome back to Bozeman Dr. Shane Larson.   Shane will be giving us an update on The Dark Side of the Cosmos: Dark Matter and Energy.
    This is at the Public Library, 626 E Main St. The high school is not available during the summer. Free event, open to the public.

  • Happenings in March

    Posted on March 20th, 2019 Lynn Powers No comments

    Our next SMAS club meeting is next Friday, March 29th at 7:00 p.m. at Bozeman High School. We’ll be welcoming Solar System Ambassador Sherre Boothman who will give a presentation on the Apollo Mission 50th Anniversary.

    On Saturday March 30th you are invited to join us at the Bozeman Public Library at 4:00 p.m. to learn more about Globe at Night and their 2019 Adopt-A-Street campaign. More info can be found here: Adopt-A-Street

  • SMAS February 2019 meeting

    Posted on February 19th, 2019 Lynn Powers No comments

    Join us on Friday February 22nd at 7:00 p.m. for our next meeting.  Part of our Winter Lecture Series, we’ll hear from SMAS club member Russ Lucas and John Harrington from Boston, both are Glacier Astronomy VIP’s in the park. They will give us an update on the new observatory, plans for the future including public outreach this summer. We’ll be meeting in the Bozeman High School Bridger Charter Academy wing, room C-6.  Free and open to the public.


    UPDATE: Here is the link to the Glacier National Park Astronomy VIP Program.  Thanks to Russ, John and Mike for the great presentation!  We can’t wait for updates on your progress.