Beyond the Big Sky – Montana Learning Center


Recently the family and I had the opportunity to attend one of a series of astronomy lectures at the Montana Learning Center.

In 3 hours we learned some stuff we might have already known, and even more stuff we didn’t know.

Our speaker for the evening event was Derek Demeter, Director of the Emil Buehler Planetarium at Seminole State College of Florida. He writes and produces live interactive shows for the Planetarium and oversees its operation. He is also an astrophotographer, and much of his work has been featured by NASA, Astronomy Magazine, and other publications.

When we first arrived at the center it was cloudy. I began to wonder if we were going to be able to use the telescopes that night because of the clouds.
Our Son was somewhat disappointed to see the clouds too when we first arrived, because he had brought his own telescope to use during the evening while we were there.

During the lecture, which was held outdoors under the Big Sky, the clouds began to disperse revealing a sky full of billions of stars.

By the time the lecture was over we had our pick of which part of the sky we wanted to look at. The Montana Learning Center has a grand total of 7 telescopes, each specialized and/or tooled for different sky gazing tasks.

Montana Learning Center 25 inch telescope
Montana Learning Center 25 inch telescope

Ryan Hannahoe, Montana Learning Center’s executive director, was extremely pleasant and informative. He takes great pride in the newest telescope at the center — It’s Montana’s largest public-use telescope. With the new 25 inch telescope, you’ll see nebulae and galaxies like you have never seen them before. It’s great for cruising the Milky Way and large deep sky objects.

Programs of interest at The Montana Learning Center include but may not be entirely limited to:

Camp Discovery is a four-day, day-only, science camp for students entering grades 1-3.
Camp Young Naturalist Adventures is a five-day, overnight camp for students entering grades 4-6.
Camp Innovations is a five-day, overnight camp for students entering grades 7-9.
Extreme Yellowstone Expedition is a six-day, overnight adventure for students entering grades 9-12.
Camp Dinosaur – Space is limited to 12 students who are entering 9th – 12th grade.

Visit the Student Programs to learn more about these camps and to discover even more camps.

Camp Tuition Financial Aid is also available.

Montana Learning Center campus
Montana Learning Center campus

The Montana Learning Center at Canyon Ferry Lake provides and promotes quality immersion experiences for all in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in a unique lakeside environment.

Ryan Hannahoe mentioned to me that some of the programs (not all) were going to re-worked for the 2024 season in order to possibly include more attention being directed to those attending high school.

If you want to learn more about the Montana Learning Center, or if you have any other questions, simply visit

You can call: (406) 475-3638 or write:

The Montana Learning Center is located at:

7653 Canyon Ferry Road
Helena, MT 59602



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here