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| February 2023 |

Montana Learning Center to Host Stargazing Nights at State’s Largest Public-Use Observatory

For three weekends this summer, Montana Learning Center at Canyon Ferry Lake will open its state-of-the-art astronomical park to the public. The park consists of three observatories housing five telescopes, including the largest public-use telescope in Montana. The park is the largest astronomical facility of its kind open to the public in the Northwestern United States.

Each event will begin after sunset with a presentation and question & answer session with one of the Learning Center’s experts, followed by a tour of the night sky using the Center’s world-class telescopes. Each night’s presentation will be different.

The first two events will be held on June 23 & June 24, and will feature professional astronomer and Mars Society observatory director Peter Detterline. In his role as observatory director for the Mars Society, Detterline operates two telescopes, a solar observatory and a robotic observatory. Detterline was the Director of the Boyertown Planetarium for 35 years before joining the Mars Society, and recently received the prestigious Thomas Brennan Award for exceptional achievement in teaching astronomy. He teaches college students and also teaches the Learning Center’s online robotic telescope training courses for teachers, offered in partnership with Montana State University.

On July 21 & July 22, Shawn Backbone, a member of southern Montana’s Apsáalooke/Crow Tribe, will share Apsáalooke stories about the night sky. Shawn has served as a tribal officer and legislator, with a strong belief in empowerment and giving back to his community.

The final events on August 11 & August 12 will feature astrophotographer and director of the Emil Buehler Planetarium at Seminole State College of Florida Derek Demeter. In addition to overseeing the Planetarium’s operations, Demeter writes and produces all of its live, interactive shows. His work as an astrophotographer has been featured by NASA, Astronomy Magazine and other publications. Over the years, Demeter’s passion for teaching people about the wonders of the universe has earned him many accolades and worldwide recognition.

Attendance at each event is limited to 100 people and advance ticket purchase is required. Tickets are $25 per adult (age 18 and over) and $15 per child per event. Attendees must be 12 years old or older. Tickets are non-refundable and the events will be held rain or shine, with night-sky observing being weather-permitting.

Beyond the Big Sky is sponsored by the Montana Department of Commerce, Discover Magazine, Astronomy Magazine, Visit Southwest Montana, Visit Helena Montana and Montana Learning Center at Canyon Ferry Lake.

To register or for more information, please visit the event webpage.

Montana Learning Center at Canyon Ferry Lake offers youth summer camps in a variety of STEM fields, live and online teacher learning opportunities and a range of astronomy programs for students, teachers and members of the public. The Center boasts a picturesque lakeside setting, which is ideal for exploring Montana’s night sky.

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