Southwest Montana Astronomical Society

Amateur Astronomy Under The Big Sky
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  • May SMAS update

    Posted on May 14th, 2017 Lynn Powers No comments

    We are still working on getting a date set for our trip into the Belts to see a medicine wheel and cairns.  We’ll send out information when we have something set up.

    We are less than 100 days until the August 21st solar eclipse. Many dates have been set up around the valley for outreach and education. Check it out.

    Several club members are participating in large solar outreach events during the eclipse, including: Citizen CATE Experiment, EclipseMob, Megamovie, GLOBE and more.


  • April 2017 Winter Lecture Series

    Posted on April 18th, 2017 Lynn Powers No comments

    slider_image_5The next installment of the Southwest Montana Astronomical Society Winter Lecture Series takes place this Friday, April 21st, 7:00 p.m. at the Commons (Baxter at Love Lanes), down in the classrooms on the East side of the building.   We’ll welcome Dave Hoffman for his talk about his journey from the Navy to NASA and how jobs skills can be used to further space exploration.  Dave is a current student at Montana State University and a Johnson Space Center co-op intern.

    The followed by, next weekend April 29th, for club members only, we will be holding our Messier Marathon.  Potluck sign up and directions to the site in Gallatin Gateway will go out next week via email to club members.

  • March 2017 Winter Lecture Series with Dr. Joe Shaw

    Posted on March 11th, 2017 Lynn Powers No comments
    Join SMAS at 7:00 p.m. on Friday March 31st at the Commons for the next installment of the Winter Lecture Series when we host Dr. Joseph Shaw, professor at Montana State University and Director of the Optical Technology Center for a free talk.  His new book, Optics in the Air, recently published, will be the focus of this talk.

    Optics in the Air16806950_1248884115205139_3774019949648302751_n

    The world around us is full of beautiful and interesting displays of light and color, ranging from the colors of the sky and rainbows to the swirling Aurora Borealis. Many of these optical phenomena can be seen from an airplane, and some are best viewed while airborne. This talk is an introduction to optical phenomena in the natural world, primarily in the atmosphere and seen from an airplane (“in the air”). We will follow a simple approach that can be understood and enjoyed by all levels of scientific training.

  • eXtreme Gravity – lecture

    Posted on March 2nd, 2017 Lynn Powers No comments

    MSU professor and astrophysicist Neil Cornish will present Cornish“Extreme Gravity,” at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 7, at the Museum of the Rockies’ Hager Auditorium. A reception will follow.

    There are places in our Universe where gravity is so strong that it blurs the separation between space and time, and transforms matter into strange new forms. This the realm of extreme gravity. Gravity eventually causes stars to collapse, sometimes forming diamonds the size of the moon, other times forming mountain sized orbs of nuclear matter. The fate of the largest stars is even stranger, as gravity crashes matter out of existence to form a black hole – a region of space from which not even light can escape. Today we are able to explore the realm of extreme gravity for the first time using a new generation of telescope, one the size of the Earth, one that will soon be attached to the International Space station, and another that listens to the vibrations of gravity itself.


  • February 2017 Winter Lecture Series – by Dr. Ivy Merriot

    Posted on January 29th, 2017 Lynn Powers No comments

    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.

  • 2017 and the Great American Eclipse

    Posted on January 28th, 2017 Lynn Powers No comments

    On the morning of Monday August 21, 2017 a total solar eclipse will cross North America.  Screen Shot 2017-01-24 at 1.07.17 PMOnly those along the path of totality will experience the sun being totally blocked by the moon and the sky going black.  All others from Canada through the US and Mexico, and on down to Central America will experience a partial eclipse.  Here in Bozeman it will be approximately 95% coverage.  If you plan to go south into Wyoming or Idaho, you could experience totality. If you plan on staying here in Bozeman, be sure you have proper equipment to observe the eclipse.  For a better view click on the image:

    AAS-Solar-Eclipse-Safety-v160824  Follow this link for more information on how you can safely observe the eclipse

  • January SMAS meeting

    Posted on January 21st, 2017 Lynn Powers No comments

    Join us at the Sore Elbow Forge on Friday January 27th at 7:00 p.m. guest speaker Deanta Kelly will talk about the Pulsar search collaboration that Montana State University is doing with local high school students.   Stay tuned for the Winter Lecture Series: Feb – Dr. Ivy Merriott will update us on her Medicine Wheel research, March – Dr. Joe Shaw will share his new book with us, April – Dave Hoffman will talk about what he is doing as a NASA intern.   April the club will have a members only Messier Marathon.  In May SMAS members will travel to private land to view and research a set of cairns and a medicine wheel. 2017 will be a fabulous year!

  • SMAS 2016 winter meeting

    Posted on November 21st, 2016 Lynn Powers No comments

    The next SMAS club meeting will be on December 2nd, 7:00 at the Sore Elbow Forge.  We normally combine our November and December club meetings and meet the first Friday in December – and hold our annual elections. SMAS club secretary Chris Roulson is working on the slate for the board, contact him if you have any questions.

    There are a lot of exciting events coming up in 2017, including:

    January, February and March we will have our Winter Lecture Series, stay tuned for a list of dates and speakers.

    August 21st – the Great American Eclipse!

  • ISS turns 16

    Posted on November 7th, 2016 Lynn Powers No comments

    920x920This week NASA celebrated the sixteenth anniversary of the International Space Station. From 1998 to 2011, space agencies from 15 different countries amalgamated to form what is to date, the largest ever structure in space. November 2, 2016 celebrates the continuous presence of humans on board.
    Here are some links that show the history of the ISS. Enjoy!
    16 GIFS for 16 years.
    Interactive ISS

    NASA video ISS fly through in HD, get a look at the inside.

    Spot the ISS – Watch the ISS go over head.  Make sure you set your location.

  • Free online Astronomy book

    Posted on November 3rd, 2016 Lynn Powers No comments

    We are excited to let you know about a national, non-profit project to develop a high-quality, introductory astronomy textbook that is free to students and the public alike. The publisher, OpenStax, is located at Rice University and supported by several major foundations (including the Gates Foundation.) They have already done over 20 free textbooks in other fields, used by hundreds of thousands of students around the country.

    With the help of over 75 astronomers and astronomy educators (several that I know), the textbook (cleverly named Astronomy,) has been adapted, expanded, and updated from earlier textbooks the three authors have written. The book is free to students in the electronic version, and can be custom printed on demand – at cost. Even more interesting, the book is open source, which means you can use it as is, or develop your own electronic version of it, selecting only the sections you want to read.

    Astronomy book

    Featuring such current topics as the results from the New Horizons exploration of Pluto, the classification of exoplanets from Kepler and other projects, and the discovery of gravitational waves, the book is up-to-date and peer reviewed. At the same time, it is written in everyday language specifically for non-science majors or amateur astronomers, with many analogies from students’ lives, clear diagrams, the latest color images, and occasional touches of humor.

    Math boxes throughout the chapters put topics on a quantitative footing for those who want to use math. Each chapter has math problems at the end. However, if you don’t use math, these boxes and problems can easily be skipped. Chapters also include suggested collaborative group activities, especially useful for discussion sections, links to web resources, biographies of astronomers, interdisciplinary connections, and much more.