Unfortunately, due to the Coronavirus pandemic,
Week of 30th March
Detailed view at closest approach in August 2003. Showing the Southern Ice cap and many surface features. (NASA, Hubble)
Messier Marathon: it was a great shame that the College Messier Marathon attempt had to be cancelled this year due to the Coronavirus outbreak. Typically, conditions could not have been more perfect: New Moon and clear skies. GKWJ and JAG could not let the opportunity pass by, so decided to make the Messier Marathon 2020 attempt 'behind closed doors' on Sunday night. The session started at 19:20 with a stunning view through the 10inch of Venus in its dichotomy phase. The hunt for as many of the 110 Messier objects with the 10inch then started in earnest. Two online Zoom sessions were held during the evening, allowing a number of the GCSE pupils and DGR to join the hunt from home. As we were working in very dark conditions this was more of a radio link than video! Highlight objects through the night included: open clusters M34, M35, M38, M52 and M67, galaxies M51, M81 and M82, planetary nebulae M27 and M57, nebulae M17 and M42 and globular clusters M3, M13, M14 and M92. During the night, Comet ATLAS was viewed twice and its significant movement was noticed. Great empathy was felt with Messier, who was of course trying to find new comets, compiling his catalogue of objects that were not comets and to be avoided on future nights. It is amazing how much a globular cluster looks like a comet! Several breaks were taken and the night sky outside was admired; Betelgeuse was noted to be markedly brighter at around mag +1. Saturn and Jupiter, with all four Galilean moons visible, were viewed through the 10inch in the morning twilight. The Marathon finished with M2 being the final observation at 04:53. In total, 96 out of 110 Messier objects were seen. The fourteen missed were due either to the bright evening and morning twilight sky or because they were below the horizon for the 10inch. It was a very successful night, but hopefully the 2021 attempt will be enjoyed by a full team of pupils too.
Radcliffe Society: 10 pupils from Sixth Form, Hundred and Remove attended the March meeting of the Radcliffe Society with GKWJ and JAG. GKWJ gave the monthly What's Up guide, a video interview with Subir Sarkar (University of Oxford) discussing 'The Evidence for Dark Energy' was watched and then two Upper Sixth pupils gave presentations on 'The Standard Model and Neutrinos' and 'Entropy'. Next meeting: 4th May
GCSE Observing: A good cold and clear winter's night enabled 6 Hundred Pupils to join CEB and GKWJ at the Dome to finish their Aided Observing Tasks. The session started with views through the 10inch of a Gibbous Venus and the 4 day old waxing crescent Moon with obvious Earthshine. Arcturus, the Spring marker star was seen for the first time this year. 4 pupils used the 10inch to draw Messier Objects: M1, the Crab Nebula and M42 with M43, the Orion Nebula, all enhanced with a UHC Nebula Filter. 1 pupil took photographs through the Smith 8inch of: M45, M42, M1, M51, M81 and the Double Cluster. 1 pupil took a star trail photo sequence around the NCP. Finally, the Double Cluster was viewed through binoculars and 9th magnitude Comet C/2017 T2 (PANSTARRS) was observed through the 10inch
House Visit: The Shell visit season ended in fine style with a clear sky for the 12 Shell boys from Turner and their Tutor to enjoy with GKWJ. The session started with a sky tour of the winter constellations, then M42, the Great Orion Nebula, was viewed in the 10inch and finally M45, the Pleiades, was viewed through binoculars
House visit: 10 Shell boys from Summerfield and a Tutor came to the Dome with GKWJ. It was cloudy.
Next House visit: Tuesday 25th February (TU)
External visit: 17 Year 5 pupils and 2 staff from Swindon Academy Primary School visited the Dome with NMA under clear skies. This was the last of the four Swindon Academy visits this academic year. Venus was seen through binoculars as it set in the West and the first magnitude stars were observed as they appeared in the darkening twilight. Familiar asterisms including the Plough, Cassiopeia and Orion were identified by naked eye
GCSE Observing: 5 Hundred pupils joined GKWJ at the Dome. Unfortunately the clear forecast did not hold true and broken cloud hindered project work. One pupil managed to take photographs of star trails. The waning Gibbous Moon was enjoyed through binoculars as it rose
Radcliffe Society: 8 members of the Radcliffe Society visited the White Horse Bookshop Gallery to see the exhibition 'In the Marlborough Night Garden 2', GKWJ and JAG's collection of astrophotographs and accompanying book
GCSE Observing: 12 Remove pupils joined CEB and GKWJ at the Dome on a clear but moonlit night. They made angular measurements of Orion to calculate its angular speed. They drew the Winter Wreath and estimated apparent magnitudes and celestial coordinates of its member stars given information about Rigel. The waxing Gibbous Moon was viewed in the 10inch
House visit: 12 Shell girls from New Court and a tutor enjoyed a clear sky at the Dome with GKWJ. A sky tour was followed by viewing the Pleiades (M45) in binoculars, to finish, the waxing Gibbous Moon was observed in the 10inch.
Next House visit: Thursday 13th February (SU)
House visit: 14 Shell girls from Morris, a Tutor and JAG visited the Dome with GKWJ. Early cloud parted to give a clear sky dominated by the waxing Gibbous Moon. The group enjoyed a sky tour, including Venus setting in the West and the dim Betelgeuse. The Moon was then viewed in the 10inch, with good detail visible along the terminator.
Next House visit: Thursday 6th February (NC)
EPQ Observing: An EPQ pupil came to the Dome with GKWJ and used the Smith 8inch to gather spectra of a range of stars as part of their project investigating methods of determining astronomical distancesMore news...