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About the Cottontail Observatory Outreach Programs

This page contains just a few examples from the many outreach activities that Joe and Gwen Witherspoon provide at their Cottontail Observatory and many other places. Joe also has student classes at the observatory on a regular basis.

280 Wet Georgia Road
Twin Bridges, Montana 59754
Phone (406) 490-3163 

Cottontail Observatory Programs

In this DVD scholars discuss if the Star of Bethlehem was a real astronomical event?

What is a comet? You make a comet. Where do comets come from? Why do comets have tails? What are periodic comets & sun grazers?

STAR PARTY (WEATHER PERMITTING i.e. must be able to see the stars)
When coming to a Star Party you should dress warm. It does get cold at night, even in the summer. Bring a red flashlight. If you don’t have a red flashlight, the observatory can cover the lens of a flashlight with a red covering. This is to protect everyone’s night vision. The observatory also has hand & toe warmers, a covered building, and hot drinks will be available. The observatory does not charge for these Star Parties but does accept donations. The party starts at Astronomical Twilight, which is when the Sun is approximately 18 degrees below the horizon (about one hour after sunset). Beginning with; how to and finding the North Star. We proceed with a tour of the night sky pointing out constellations, planets, asterisms, and where some astronomical objects are located. After the tour there will be telescopes set up for viewing of astronomical objects. If you have a telescope and would like to participate come early to set up. Astronomers are more than willing to help you set up and help you find astronomical objects in the sky. Handouts with pictures of some of the astronomical objects that can be seen the night of the Star Party are available (free) as a memento of the Star Party. This handout has a place where the astronomer fills out telescope information, and their name. You can then show your friends what you saw at the star party. This event can also be done at your location.

Here some student astronomers watch with Joe in the Observatory control room as a comet crashes into the sun. Joe has student classes at the observatory on a regular basis. Check the Cottontail Observatory Calendar for dates and times.

These pictures are from the Twin Bridges flotilla day 2013.
Kids really love stomp rockets!
Click on the thumbnail images to see a larger image.


Here's Gwen Witherspoon at the Butte Science Mine launching stomp rockets !


Glacier National Park and is northern counterpart in Canada, Waterton, are establishing astronomy programs for the visiting public. It's very exciting and gratifying to show people from all over the world things most of them have never seen. With the wondrous natural beauty of Glacier and Waterton as a primer, it's pretty easy for us to "wow" them. Here's Joe and Gwen with good friend and fellow amateur astronomer Jerry Armstrong from the Tacoma Astronomical Society setting up in Waterton. joining them were a few members of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. Several of us will return to Waterton this August 15 (Update: 2015 date is July 17-18) to make this an annual event.


Here are some pictures taken by Joe Witherspoon from the Cottontail Observatory on the 22nd of June 2015 from 10:30 to midnight. Joe used a modified Cannon 40D Digital SLR camera. Click on any image to see a larger version.