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NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day
Glowing Elements in the Soul Nebula

What's Up - Week of August 20th

  • Astronomical twilight ends at 22.35 BST at the start of the week and 22.13 BST at the end

  • The Moon is waxing and will be Full on Sunday

  • Comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner is heading for a close approach (0.39 AU) to Earth on 10th September. It should be visible at magnitude 7 in binoculars (more details next week)

  • The Sun has one small quiet sunspot

  • The ISS makes no passes this week

  • There are no bright evening Iridium flares this week


Random Blackett Image
Projects - GCSE Drawings

News - 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

27th July

Total Lunar eclipse: A group of some 25 Friends, locals and Summer School guests gathered at the Dome in the hope of seeing the eclipsed Moon or Mars at Opposition. Sadly the cloud prevented even a single star being seen

25th July

Foreign and Commonwealth Office visit: 13 retired members of the FCO came down to Avebury with the FCO Association. After a very hot tour of the Henge, the group led by CEB drove to the Observatory and viewed the Sun in goggles, Solarscope, ETX and the 10 inch (with H alpha). The Photosphere was entirely blank, but 3 small prominences were visible in H alpha

Summer School week 3: 40 Summer School guests and staff attended the Dome on another clear, warm evening. After dividing into 3 groups led by CEB, JAG and GKWJ, the instruments were used to view all the usual targets (including the waxing Gibbous Moon) outside and Jupiter and 3 moons (Io was occulted) and then Saturn and 3 moons (unusually for such a bright night, Tethys and Rhea were both visible) in the 10 inch. Clouds had begun to gather before Mars could be viewed in the 10 inch. An excellent overhead ISS pass was also seen

24th July

Summer School Astronomy Course: GKWJ brought his course member up to the Dome for Solar viewing. The Sun was viewed between clouds with solar goggles, the Solarscope, an ETX with white light filter and the 10 inch in H alpha. No active regions were seen, but a faint filament and a small prominence were visible

23rd Ju;y

Summer School Astronomy Course: On the first night of the course GKWJ brought a group of 10 up to the Dome. Conditions were reasonable, very warm with some passing hazy cloud. A wide range of equipment was used outside including 15x80 binoculars, two small refractors and two small reflectors. We started by viewing the waxing Gibbous Moon, then the parade of planets; Venus, Jupiter, Saturn and Mars. Saturn, with Titan and a peppering of other moons clearly visible, followed by a hazy Mars were also viewed in the 10 inch. Two passes of the ISS were seen, first at 21:48 and then again at 23:24. The group also enjoyed a naked eye tour of the summer constellations

18th July

Summer School week 2: Some 30 Summer School guests joined CEB, JAG, DGR and GKWJ at the Dome under clearing skies. Venus was seen in the twilight and then Jupiter (first with 3 moons and then with IO appearing from its shadow) in the 10 inch, then Saturn with Titan and finally Mars, which showed more detail than last week and a discernable bright ice cap. The ETX and various binoculars were used outside to view the Moon, M13 and M31 and to split Mizar. A couple of metors were seen, but we missed the low ISS pass

14th July

Impromptu observing: GKWJ and JAG hosetd a small group of six visitors at the Dome under excellent clear moonless skies and good Seeing. The 10 inch viewed Jupiter and its four Galilean moons, Saturn and possibly five of its moons, a dusty featureless, but bright and very red Mars, double star Albireo, M57, the Ring Nebula, M56, a Globular Cluster in Vulpecula and M27, the Dumbbell Nebula. An OIII filter was used with M27 and it definitely improved definition of the shape (a sheaf of wheat). The summer constellations and the Milky Way were good with naked eye outside and M31 and the Double Cluster through binoculars. A large number of meteors were seen throughout the evening. Five meteor shower radiants are close together near the southern horizon around midnight; Southern Iota Aquariids, Southern Delta Aquariids, Piscis Austrinids, Alpha Capricornids and June Scutids. All have their maxima later this month

11th July

Summer School week 1: CEB was joined by JAG, DGR and GKWJ at the Dome under clearing skies for group of some 20 Summer School guests. Bright stars were spotted as they appered in cloud gaps and then in improving conditions Jupiter and 4 moons was viewed in ETX and Binos and in the 10 inch, which showed some colour on Io and 4 bands on the planet. The 10 inch then moved to Saturn and not only was the Casini Division well defined, but 4 moons were visible. After most visitors had gone the 10 inch moved to view the Double binary in Lyra. As we left the Dome bright red Mars was rising and was viewed as a bright disc in the ETX

27th June

External visit: A small group of friends from Oxford were followed by a Norwegina Reuters' Fellow and colleague from Oxford University. Both groups had clear skies and super views of the Sun through goggles, in the SolarScope and ETX and in H alpha in the 10 inch. A huge triangular shaped prominenece was seen in good detail

24th June

External visit: A small group from London came to the Dome for an afternoon of solar observing. The Photosphere was viewed in goggles, projection box and ETX (where spot group 2715 was easily visible) and then the Chromosphere with several active regions in the 10 inch

21st June

Solstice observing: JAG and GKWJ joined CEB and a small group of Friends to see out the Solstice. The night was warm and clear and as the sky darkened, there were plenty of targets to observe, including a bright Iridium flare. The Moon was viewed in the ETX and the 8 inch Smith and Binos. Venus showed its 70% illuminated phase in ETX. Jupiter and 4 moons were seen in ETX then Smith then 10 inch, with Io and Ganymede overlapping. The 10 inch then moved to Saturn, very orange and low on the horizon, then Antares in search of Antares B. Some thought there was a little assymetry in the twinkling star. Vesta was then well veiwed as a steady disc. M10 was too faint to see detail but M57 was clear. Saturn was viewed again with both Titan and Rhea now visible. The evening ended just before midnight with a viedw of Albireo, such a beautiful bi-coloured double of the blue B8 and yellow K2 stars

19th June

Wetton Workshop and lecture: CEB attended the official opening of the Roswitha Wetton Telesope (RWT), a new 2 radio dish interferometer on the roof of the Denys Wilkinson Building. Following the unveiling a lecture on Exoplanet discoveries was delivered in the Martin Wood lecture theatre and then dinner in Christ Church

14th June

External visit: In the last Swindon Academy group visist, 11 year 10 girls and their teacher came up to the Dome. The Sun was viewed in goggles between clouds and in the projection box and then in the ETX. The 10 inch showed a couple of prominences on the southern limb in H alpha

13th June

External visit:12 year 7 girls and their teacher from Swindon Academy came up to the Dome. The sky was cloudy

12th June

External visit: 22 year 7 pupils and 2 teachers from Swindon Academy came up to the Dome as part of their stay at the College. They were accompanied by a postgrad from Imperial College and undergrad from Birkbeck. The sky was sadly cloudy

Observing evening: The two University visitors joined GKWJ and JAG at the Dome as the sky had cleared for a tour of the sky with the 10 inch. Jupiter and its moons, Vega, Albireo, M13 and Saturn, still rather low to the horizon, were viewed

17th May

Solar open day: Under sunny skies but sadly increasing high cloud, the Dome opened to public, Friends and College staff. The Sun was viewed in solar goggles, the projection box and the ETX in white light and a dedicated small solar refractor and the 10 inch in H alpha. Despite a totally blank disc, reflecting the minimum in the solar cycle, there was a decent quiescent loop prominence visible in H alpha when the sky was clear enough. JAG and GWJ helped CEB welcome families, Friends and staff from 3 yrs and up

30th April

Lunar imaging: GKWJ attempted a mosaic of the lunar surface at the Full Moon. Despite clear patches, the Seeing conditions were poor

21st April

GCSE Solar observing: Remove set 1 came up to the Dome under clear if hazy skies. The Sun was viewed in goggles then via projection and in the ETX, where the faint spot 2706 was seen. The H-alpha filter on the 10 inch showed no activity due to the poor clarity

19th April

GCSE Solar observing: Remove set 2 came up to the Dome in hot sunshine as part of Topic 11 and the Sun's surface. The Sun was viewed in goggles, via projection and the ETX the blank photosphere in white-light and then the 10 inch showed a couple of Chromosphere prominences in H-alpha

18th April

GCSE Solar observing: The Hundred Astronomy set came up to the Dome in their afternoon lesson under clear skies. The Sun was viewed in goggles, projection box, ETX and white-light filter and then despite no sunspots, there was activity in the form of an erruptive prominance and quiescent prominance in H-alpha through the 10 inch

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