About the Big Sky Astronomy Club

In the Spring of 2000, several valley residents were attending a Continuing Education astronomy class at our local Flathead Valley Community College. As a result of their common interest in the subject, the instructor and several of the class participants began discussing the possibility of forming a club. The Big Sky Astronomy Club was formed in August of that year. Today, the club claims a membership of about 30 amateur astronomers of all ages and backgrounds.

The Big Sky Astronomy Club is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt non-profit corporation, registered with both the State of Montana and the I.R.S.

Donations to the Big Sky Astronomy Club are 100% tax deductible and your support will be very much appreciated.

The "Donate" button below will take you to our secure PayPal© donation page.

After you make your donation, please feel free to add a message.

(Note To Club Members: You can also use the "Donate" button above to go to PayPal and pay your dues.)

Our Mission:

The mission of the Big Sky Astronomy Club is to share our varied interests in, our collective knowledge of and unbridled passion for the science of astronomy amongst its members, with the residents of our fair valley and, to the extent possible, the rest of the residents of our Pale Blue Dot.

Our Vision:

  • To deepen our club members understanding and knowledge of the science of astronomy.

  • To gain a personal appreciation of the beauty of the universe through actual physical observation of objects in both the nighttime and daytime skies.

  • To promote public awareness of astronomy through the sponsorship of public presentations and star parties.

  • To acknowledge the detrimental effects of light pollution and to promote and encourage the use of night-sky-freindly lighting amongst our members and the general public.

Some Recent Examples of our Mission and Vision:

    Public Star Parties

  • In conjunction with the Montana Department of Fish Wildlife and Parks, we host an annual public star party at Lone Pine State Park in Kalispell. In response to the many wonderful comments he received about our event, former Governor Schweitzer sent our club members a personal thank-you for our participation.

  • The Big Sky Astronomy Club has partnered with Glacier National Park to promote and support an ongoing Summer Astronomy Program for the park's visitors. Club members assist the Park's Visiting Astronomers by providing additional telescopes and personnel for both daytime and nighttime viewing. We also cohost three or four public star parties at the parking lot of the Vistors' Center at Logan Pass at the summit of Going-To-The-Sun Road each summer. These star parties have become incredibly popular with the Park's vistors. Attendance at each of these events approaches 500 people!

  • The club hosts an annual, state-wide star party for our fellow amateur astronomers on property owned by one of our club's members who lives outside of Twin Bridges, Montana. In addtion to a large, open site to host the star party, Joe has built a very nice, private observatory for his own use on this truly dark-sky site.

  • Upon request, our club often makes arrangements with other organizations to do informational lectures on various topics of astronomy. These functions can include interesting PowerPoint presentations as well as private star parties. Organizations for whom we have provided these services have included several area elementary and secondary schools, several Boy and Girl Scout troops, a local Homeschool Association, an assisted living center and the Swan Ecosystem Center in Condon, Montana.

    Public Workshops

  • The club has provided public "Telescope Workshops" geared towards assisting beginning telescope owners who might be struggling to set up and use a newly purchased scope. In addition to assisting owners of new telescopes, the workshops also provide information on the various types and sizes of telescopes to assist individuals before they actually purchase a scope.

  • We also conducted a daytime, Solar Observing session at the Central School Museum during one of its fundraising events.

  • Our club provides public presentations during special astronomical events. These have included Lunar and Solar eclipses, bright auroral displays, periodic meteor showers, the appearance of bright comets in the night sky as well as the recent (and relatively rare) transits of Mercury and Venus across the face of the sun. At these special events, club members set up their scopes and allow visitors to view, first hand, these awesome celestial occurances. Special events such as these are publicized in advance and are held at various locations around the valley.

    Other Public Service Activities

  • The club was very active in assisting the City of Kalispell with the development of its recently adopted Outdoor Lighting Standards, which are now part of the City's Zoning Ordinance. Based on the City of Kalispell's model, the other cities in the Flathead Valley have also adopted similar Outdoor Lighting Ordinances.

  • Our Work With Glacier National Park

    Our club has partnered with Glacier National Park for well over a decade to assist them with several ongoing astronomical programs.

  • Each year, we provide much needed volunteer support for their popular and highly successful Summer Astronomy Program. This propular program offers afternoon solar observing, followed by nighttime observing sessions five days a week from July through early September. These sessions are held at the Apgar Visitors' Center on the west side of the park and at the St. Mary Visitors' Center on the ease side. Club members volunteer their time, their telescopes and their knowledge of the night sky to assist Glacier's visitors enjoy the truly dark skies in the park.

  • During the peak observing months of July and August, the Big Sky Astronomy Club and the park jointly host three public star parties under the incredibly dark skies at the Logan Pass Visitors' Center, located at Logan Pass at the summit of Going-To-The-Sun Road. Between 500 and 700 visitors attend each of these very popular events. Attendees are first treated to a green laser pointer "sky tour" led by park staff and club members and then que up at the large amateur telescopes to take in closeup views of the Moon, planets, star clusters, nebulae and galaxies.

  • In 2017, after several years of work, Glacier National Park and its Canadian sister Waterton Lakes National Park jointly achieved a significant milestone. They were awarded the world's first trans-border International Dark Sky Park designation by the International Dark Sky Association. The Big Sky Astronomy Club provided a significant amount of support in the park's efforts towards achieving this goal. Club members spent the better park of three summers inventorying all of the park's existing outdoor lighting, which was only one of the many requirements of the application. The goal of performing the lighting inventory was threefold: (1) to identify and remove any obsolete and unnecessary outdoor fixtures, (2) to identify every necessary outdoor light fixture in the park that did not comply with "dark sky" standards and then to replace those outdated fixtures with new, energy efficient, dark-sky compliant lighting and (3) to establish a multi-year plan to bring all of the necessary lighting in each park up to Dark Sky Standards. Being able to assist Glacier/Waterton in the creation of this "first-of-its-kind" trans-border International Dark Sky Park was one of the Big Sky Astronomy Club's proudest moments.

  • Also in 2017, the Park initiated a project to construct an observatory, complete with a research-grade, 20-inch Plane Wave telescope near its St. Mary Visitors' Center on the east side of the park. Funding for the project came from a special grant by the Glacier National Park Conservancy. BSAC club members assisted with the observatory's construction, configuration and startup. It was formally dedicated on Thursday August 22, 2019.

The Dusty Star Observatory - Glacier National Park
Photo: Ben Allen Smith

Why Join the BSAC?

  • Our members bring with them a wide range of interests and experience. Whatever your interest is, it is likely that one or more of our members also share that interest. No matter what your level of knowledge of astronomy is - from novice to PhD - all that is required is a basic interest in or simple curiosity about the marvelous wonders that exist in our awe-inspiring universe.

  • Our meetings and star parties offer our members a chance to make new friends, to discuss our own personal astronomical "discoveries" and to learn about exciting, recent developments in astronomical research.

  • The club meets monthly at the fire hall at the West Valley Volunteer Fire Department on Farm-To-Market Road. Located approximately six miles northwest of Kalispell, the facilities offer a very nice meeting room and relatively dark skies. Our meetings are scheduled during the dark of the moon each month. This provides us an opportunity to set up our scopes in the large parking area at the fire hall and, as a group, do some observing following the meeting (weather permitting, of course).

Additional Benefits of Membership

  • Magazine subscription discounts - Both Astronomy Magazine and Sky and Telescopeoffer our club members discounts on subscriptions to their magazines. To be eligible for the discount, you must process your initial subscription or renewal through the club.

  • Star Parties - We typically sponsor several public star parties each year. Undeniably, these events are the highlight of our summer observing season. Check our Events Page Calendar for details on this year's upcoming events.

  • Other Public Outreach events - Throughout each year, BSAC club members provide Public Outreach services to many different groups. Various youth groups, such as the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts and Brownies, have taken advantage of programs offered by the BSAC. Club members have provided classroom astronomy programs to elementary, junior and senior high students and, for several years, offered a Continuing Education Course at Flathead Valley Community College. Upcoming outreach programs can be found on our Events Page Calendar.

Individual Memberships are $36.00 per year, while Family Memberships are $48.00 per year.

Below is a Link to our On-Line Membership Application:

Join the Big Sky Astronomy Club

For more information, you can download a copy of the club's informational brochure and membership application by clicking on the thumbnail image below. (You can use the membership application in the brochure, if you'd rather not apply online).

BSAC Informbation Brochure