Beyond the Big Sky




Astronomy Program



Public Stargazing Nights at MLC

Join us at Montana Learning Center’s state-of-the-art astronomical park to gaze at the wonders of the universe through Montana’s largest telescope. This summer, MLC will host a public stargazing series at the MLC Campus along the banks of Canyon Ferry Lake.

Available Once a Month from June – August

Event Details

For one evening a month from June through August, MLC will open its observatories to the public at sunset. The evening will start with a presentation from one of MLC’s astronomy experts, after which you’ll have the opportunity to use your newfound knowledge to better appreciate the night skies as we gaze through one of MLC’s state-of-the art telescopes.

The 2022 public observing nights and speakers will be:

Shane Mayer-Gawlik – June 24th 

Shane Mayer-Gawlik
grew up under the dark skies of southwest Colorado. He received a bachelors degree in physics from Fort Lewis College and did his undergraduate research at the colleges off-site observatory on the eclipsing binary star known as Algol. His interest in night sky photography began while studying for his masters degree in physics at Montana State University. His nightscapes focus on the blending of multiple images by using a tracker for long exposures, then adding long exposures of the foreground to help expose hidden details. He has used his astronomical imagery for educational outreach, dark-sky preservation and astronomy instruction.

Ryan Hannahoe – July 23rd


Ryan Hannahoe is the Executive Director of MLC and the driving force behind the creation of the Mike & Lynn Rice Astronomical Park for the Sciences and the Arts on MLC’s campus. Ryan has been active in astronomy since early childhood. In high school, he was part of the Student Telescope Network, which was actively involved in the field of remote telescope hosting and developed the first fully remote controllable telescope for students and teachers to use. Throughout college, Ryan worked at the New Mexico Skies Remote Observatories. He also worked as an intern for NASA on the James Webb Space Telescope, the recently launched successor to the Hubble Space Telescope. Ryan spent 7 years teaching science in public schools before becoming MLC’s full-time Executive Director. He now spends his time leading MLCs programs, which include summer science camps for kids, science teacher training, MLCs astronomy program and NASA-funded programs for Montana middle and high school students. His astronomical photography has been featured in NASAs Astronomy Picture of the Day, the Smithsonian, and Astronomy Magazine.

Peter Detterline – August 5th


Peter Detterline is an avid professional astronomer whose interests cover a wide range of the astronomical spectrum. As the Observatory Director for the Mars Society, Peter operates two telescopes, a solar observatory and a robotic observatory. For the 35 years before he joined the Mars Society, Peter was the Director of the Boyertown Planetarium, where he presented astronomical programs to over half a million people. This past year, he received the Thomas Brennan Award from the Astronomical Society of the Pacific for exceptional achievement in teaching high school astronomy. He continues to teach astronomy at Montgomery County Community College and also co-teaches MLC’s online robotic telescope courses for teachers through Montana State University.

View up close the wonders of the night sky

Ticket Purchase

Attendance at each event is limited and requires advance ticket purchase.  Please use the links on this page to register for your preferred date.

Tickets are $15 per person per event.
Attendees must be ten years old or older.

Events to occur rain or shine.
Night-sky observing is weather permitting.

Our Observatory Facility at Canyon Ferry

Event Guidelines




What to Bring

Consider bringing the following personal items to the event:

  • Red flashlight or headlamp (red flashlights will be available for purchase at each event)
  • Comfortable camp chair for speaker presentations, which will be held outdoors on MLC’s grounds
  • Warm blanket, hat and/or gloves (most nights will be cool, even in the height of summer)



Event Guidelines

Keep the following guidelines in mind while attending the event:

  • No food or drink of any kind is permitted inside the observatory. Food and/or drink may be consumed on MLC’s grounds. The use of alcohol or drugs anywhere on MLC’s grounds is strictly prohibited and will lead to expulsion from the event.
  • Avoid using white lights (including camera flashes and phone flashlights) and use red lights sparingly while on MLC’s grounds. If, for some reason, you must use a white light while outdoors, give fair warning to those around you. Use of white lights of any kind inside the observatory is strictly prohibited.
  • Avoid loud and boisterous behavior. Astronomy is a quiet, peaceful activity.
  • Keep MLC’s campus beautiful and clean. Deposit all trash in the labeled trashcans and all recyclables in the labeled recycling bins, both of which can be found in multiple locations on MLC’s grounds.
  • Drive slowly on MLC’s dirt roads to avoid kicking dust up into the atmosphere.
  • Children must be under adult supervision and well behaved at all times.
  • Above all, be kind and considerate of others. We’re all here because of stardust.



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