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Getting ready for 46P!

Next event is December 13th for the Geminid meteor shower

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day

What's Up - Week of December 10th

  • Astronomical twilight ends at 18.01 UT at the start of the week and 18.03 UT at the end

  • The Moon is waxing and will be First Quarter on Saturday

  • Venus is a magnificent morning star in the SSE at magnitude -4.8

  • The Sun is again blank after spot 2729 departs

  • Comet Wirtanen (46P) is now an easy target in binoculars (grey fuzzy smudge) and at the start of the week is close to magnitude 4.7 Menkar (alpha Cetus) before it heads into Taurus. This short period comet (5.4 years) which only gets as far out as Jupiter is returning to make a very close pass to Earth. The closest for a long while. It was the original target for the Rosetta and Philae lander mission. On December 16th, at its closest, it will be only just over 7 million miles from Earth or 20 Lunar Distances. It should then be easy to locate at this stage between the Hyades and Pleiades in Taurus. Over Christmas and into January it will fade and head towards a vanishing point in Ursa Major. The comet was discovered in 1948 and, due to its frequent solar passes is realtively small at just over one km in diameter

  • China has launced a mission to land the first rover on the far-side of the Moon. It is heading for the South Pole-Aitken basin

  • The ISS makes its last passes for a while this week: Monday at 18.04.08 from W to SSE reaching 26 degrees altitude. Tuesday 17.11.47 W to SE to 38 degrees. Wednesday 17.56.46 WSW to S to 15 degrees. Thursday 17.04.03 W to SSE to 22 degrees and Sunday 16.56.51 WSW to SSW to 12 degrees

  • There are no bright evening Iridium flares this week


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News - 9th December

Extended project: GKWJ and JAG were at the Dome to facilitate L6 astrophotography project work using the 8 inch and 10 inch. M33 and then Mars were targets. CEB also came up to locate 46P, which was very easy in 8x50 binoculars about 5 degrees south of Menkar in Cetus. In the 10 inch the coma was too large and diffuse to show well (some possible assymetry was seen, but no clear tail). In the binoculars it was a fuzzy patch and underwhelming

6th December

Swindon Academy visit: NMA and DGR again hosted a group of pupils from Swindon Academy in the Marlburian and at the Dome. The sky was cloudy

House visit: 12 pupils from DA Shell came up to the Dome. The sky was cloudy

Next House vist: Thursday 10th January 2019 (MM)

3rd December

Extended Project work: GKWJ and JAG supervised a sixth form pupil who was imaging M31. The 10 inch was used to locate 46P for the first time and the unintegrated naked-eye view was underwhelming, given its large coma diameter. The magnitude was estmated at +6 to 7. 12 meteors were seen, potentially early Geninids, including an exploding fireball

29th November

House visit: 10 CO Shell came up to the Dome. The sky was clearing but there was a light drizzle, so the main dome remained closed. M45 was viewed in Binos and M31 identified by eye

Next House visit: Thursday 6th December (DA)

27th November

Blackett Science lecture: The 14th Blackett lecture as delivered by Professor Giovanna Tinetti from UCL. The talk 'Brave New Worlds - planets in our galaxy' was attended by a large audience of pupils and Friends of the Marlborough Telescope

22nd November

House visit: 12 pupils from C3 Shell came up to the Dome. The sky was cloudy and very bright due to the Full Moon

Next House visit: Thursday 29th November (CO)

21st November

GCSE observing and project work: JAG and GKWJ opened the Dome for 2 hours of Extended Project work. Images were taken of the Moon to make a mosaic and the of M42. The sky was very bright and there was some haze, with high humidity. DGR looked after 3 Remove pupils who came up to draw the Moon and Cygnus with rather dim limiting magnitude

20th November

House visit: 14 pupils from EL Shell came up to the Dome. Th sky was cloudy

Next House visit: Thursday 22nd November (C3)

17th November

Leonid watch: Some 2 dozen Friends and families came up to the Dome. Only 4 Leonids were seen over the evening but all were able to view the Terminator of the waxing Gibbous Moon through the 10 inch which showed clearly the double central mountains of Copernicus and the ejecta rays. The 8 inch Smith was used by GKWJ and an EPQ pupil, taking images of M31 and the Moon and the Perseus double cluster. The ETX viewed Mizar A abd B and M45 the Pleiades were viewed in the Binos

15th November

House visit: Shellpupils from C2 came upot the Dome. The sky was cloudy

Next House visit: Tuesday 20th November (EL)

2nd-12th November

International Olympiad: CEB acted as Team leader for the UK team of five 17 year old pupils from different schools (2 stae and 3 independent) around the UK in the 12th International Olympiad (IOAA) held this year in Beijing. After gruelling 5 hour exams in theory, data-analysis and and hour of observation, the UK team came away with 2 silver medals and 2 honourable mentions. 39 countries competed. The top countries were Iran, Russia and China. The top scoring student was from Russia. Next IOAA will take place in Hungary in August. The selection process (British Olympiad in Astronomy and Astrophysics (BOAA) for the 2019 team has already begun

30th October

GCSE Observing: As temperatures dropped to freezing the sky cleared and, though the seeing was only fair due to the humidity, all bar 4 of the Hundred and Remove astronomers were able to gather for the best night this year. The ETXs were used for star counts in Cygnus and Uma. the Binos were used for drawing Pleiades and Hyades Open Clusters. The 10 inch tracked M57, the Ring nebula for drawing. The Remove all drew Cygnus and the Milky Way. The lack of Moon was a real advantage. Several meteors were also seen

28th October

Optical Doubles: Sadly only a couple of Friends joined CEB, JAG and GKWJ at the Dome on the best night this year. The Moon was absent for the first hour and the sky completely clear (though poor Seeing) as we toured Optical Doubles and Binary systems. The Binos and ETX were intially used to view Mars and M45 and M13. The 8 inch was aligned and motorised for the first time and tracked well, enabling many of the Doubles to be seen and also M15, M31 and M110. The 10 inch resolved the following: Alpha Her (just resolved at 4" - Orange and Green), Albireo, Epsilon Lyr, Alpha Cap, Gamma Del, Epsilon Peg, Zeta Aql, 94 Aql and finally 8 Lac. An amazing evening, some easy and some hard and plenty of argument over colour

10th October

GCSE observing: 4 Hundred astronomers joined DGR at the Dome under clouding skies to draw M45 (Pleiades)

9th October

External visit: DGR looked after a group of 20 scouts and 3 leaders at the Dome under clear skies. All the small instruments were in use

GCSE observing: 7 of the Remove astronmers came up to the Dome with CEB under warm and humid but clear skies and drew their first constellation drawings including Cassiopeia and the Saucepan. The ETX was used to view Mars and the 10 inch showed the centre of M31 and then the disc of Uranus and some (much debated) colour

4th October

House visit: The second House visit of the year took place with 10 pupils and a Tutor from C1 Shell coming to the Dome. The sky was cloudy

Next House visit: Thursday 15th November (C2)

1st October

Friends outer planets: A small group of Friends (including our youngest aged 4yrs) joined CEB, JAG and GKWJ at te Dome. The skies largely cleared and follwing an excellent ISS pass, we were able to observe between clouds Mizar and Alcor, Mars and M31 (described as 'an eye' by our young visitor) in the ETX. In 10 inch we first viewed Mars, which showed slight detail in the centre of the disc and a brighter (ice cap) edge. The 10 inch then viewed Uranus, described variously as a 'huge green circle', to grey, to turquoise to greeny. Neptune was then resolved but barely showed any colour, though more blue than anything else. The Central 0.5 degrees of M31 Andromeda galaxy was then viewed, followed by a very fiant outline of M110.

22nd September

External talk: CEB was invited to give a talk on raising awareness of the British Astronomy and Astrophysics Olympiad (BAAO) and the need to widen our search for star students (under 19) across the UK, at the Federation of UK Astronomical Societies (FAS) in York

21st September

Friends' Drinks: The 14th anniversary Friends' drinks part was held at the Dome. The cold wind (and of course clear skies!) meant we were inside, but a good group of old and new supporters gathered to reflect on the year past and look forward to the year ahead

6th September

Comet 21P: GKWJ and JAG set off at 2.30am to attempt observing Comet 21P/Giocobini-Zinner in Auriga. At 10 degres centigrade and a waning Moon, conditions were excellent. The 10 inch slewed accurately to the Comet. Sketches were made and the first photographic run with a Canon EOS 1Dx started at 03.11. 45 frames of 16 seconds with a 20 second interval between frames. The run finished at 04.14. A time lapse of the 90 frames was then produced, see Vimeo at https://vimeo.com/288544707. The Comet moved 739 pixels in an hour at a resolution of 0.375 arcseconds per pixel. Later calculations gave a speed across the line of sight of 22km/s, in close agreement with other estimates. A great effort in the early hours

27th - 29th August

British Astronomy and Astrophysics Olympiad (BAAO) training camp: The observatory again was the venue for the 2 day observational training section of the weeks Camp, based in Oxford, for the UK 5 student team (This year all year 12). 4 boys and one girl and the second team leader joined CEB for 2 days in the College running through the high level knowledge and understanding needed to compete in the Observational rounds of the International Competition (IOAA). CEB will lead the team for the 12th Olympiad, which will tale place in Beijing in November. Despite cloudy skies, we managed some hands on experience at the Dome and a short burst of Solar observing

23rd August

Mid-Atlantic observing: As part of a his 2018 lecture series for Cunard, CEB gathered a group of some 150 guests on Deck 13 of the Queen Mary 2 in balmy 23 degree temperature, 3 days out from New York. Tours of the sky were given using the laser pointer, including very bright Mars and major asterisms. Though M31 was viisble, the Milky Way was drowned out by the Waxing Gibbous Moon. Binoculars were used to observe Mars and M31

21st August

Astrophotography evening: JAG joined GKWJ in calm and 15ÂșC.A camera was set up to make a star trails image, running for two hours (roughly 30 degree arcs) Second, Mars was imaged, clearly showing dark detail and an icecap. Third, the 10 inch observed two globular clusters M2 and M15 and then NGC 7009, the Saturn Nebula, a small and relatively faint planetary nebula in Aquarius. In 50mm eyepiece, it appeared as a small mark on the lens but the 28mm eyepiece showed definite elongation and it became clear as to why it was so named. Finally, binoculars were used to find Brocchi's Cluster, the Coathanger, in Vulpecula

10th August

Early Persieds: JAG and 2 College staff observed (and CEB seperately) under a very clear sky with no Moon and incredibly bright Milky Way. Disapointingly only 12 Persieds were seen (they seemed to be fainter) The number of satellites equalled the number of meteors

9th August

Early Perseids: JAG and 2 visitors observed for 90 minutes seeing 17 Persieds (including a -5 fireball) and 5 sporadics

5th August

Early Perseids: CEB and family, including 2 visiting Australians, observed 10 Perieds (including a fireball) in an hour on a warm, clear night. Many satellites were also seen

1st August

Summer School week 4: For the first time since starting 15 years ago, all 4 Wednesday evenings of Summer School have been clear. Now noticeably darker, some 40 Summer School guests and staff, including 10 from the School of English and Culture, came up to the Dome joining CEB, JAG and GKWJ. Outside targets included Jupiter, Saturn and Mars, M13 and M31, Mizar A and B and Albireo. An excellent ISS pass was viewed by all at the start of the evening and an Iridium flare and a couple of meteors were also seen. The 10 inch tracked Jupiter and 4 moons (Io just emerging from behind the planet at the start of the evening) then Saturn with Titan and 2 other inner moons and finally Mars. Mars to the naked eye was as bright as ever and the best since 2003 (though at low altitude). Shining at magnitude -2.8, it outshone Jupiter by nearly a magnitude and dominated the SE sky. Through the 10 inch it was incredibly bright and showed a brigher ice-cap and some darker markings. Many nationalities were represented in the group including, Ukraine, Spain, Syria, Poland, Syria, Italy, France, Germany and Eritrea

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