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Blackett Observatory Dome
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Marlborough College
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Blackett Observatory Radio Meteor Detection System - Live Stream

The radio meteor detection system is now being live streamed on YouTube 24/7, click HERE to view on the Blackett Observatory YouTube channel. Don't forget to subscribe to the channel!

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Unfortunately the Observatory will remain closed to visitors
while social distancing measures are in place

A range of talks and observing sessions will be delivered online instead

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NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day

What's Up!

Week of 18th January

  • Astronomical twilight ends at 18:32 UT at the beginning of the week and at 18:40 UT by the end of the week

  • Mars and Uranus appear close together this week, easily fitting in to the field of view of a pair of 10x50 binoculars. On Wednesday they will be at their closest, with a separation of just 1° 37 minutes and on Thursday they will be joined by the waxing Gibbous Moon, just a few degrees away.

  • Mercury reaches greatest elongation east on Sunday and will be visible sinking from about 10° above the southwestern horizon for the hour after sunset. Take care if using binoculars

  • The Moon is First Quarter on Wednesday

  • The Sun has one small active region (AR 2796) currently visible. The sunspot number is 15

  • The ISS makes visible evening passes this week as follows:

    Tuesday: 18:29, S to SSE, max 14°
    Wednesday: 19:16, SW to SSW, max 21°
    Thursday: 18:29, SSW to E, max 29°
    Friday: 17:41, SSW to SE, max 21° & 19:17, WSW to WSW, max 33°
    Saturday: 18:29, SW to ESE, max 52° & 20:06, W to W, max 12°
    Sunday: 17:42, SW to E, max 39° & 19:18, W to W, max 39°

More...

Video


Random Blackett Image
Comet C/2006 P1 McNaught 10.1.07 in evening twighlight, as seen by eye

News

16th January

Friends Observing: A group of a dozen Friends met on Zoom for the annual 'Bring Your Own Telescope / Binoculars' observing session. Cloudy conditions prevailed, so a Q&A session was enjoyed. A whole range of questions were raised, ranging from 'how do I actually find objects with a pair of binoculars?', through to 'what is the best approach to start astrophotography with my 9.25 inch Celestron telescope?'. It was a stimulating session, with great participation from all attending

14th January

House visit:7 Shell pupils from MO joined CEB on Zoom. Several were based overseas and thus the event was recorded. The night was mild and cloudy

Next House visit: Thursday 21st January (NC)

7th January

House visit: The first House visit of the term occured remotely via Zoom, a new venture. The majority of Shell pupils from MM were able to attend and the visit was recorded for those in different time zones. The night was cold and foggy, but only CEB was exposed to this. The pupils could sit in the warm in their homes for the observatory tour

Next House visit (Zoom): Thursday 14th January (MO)

2nd January 2021

Friends Observing: A group of around a dozen Friends joined CEB, GKWJ and JAG online via Zoom to observe the Quadrantids meteor shower. It was cloudy, so observation was only possible with the Radio Meteor Detection System. CEB gave an introduction to the Quadrantid shower and GKWJ gave an update on the radio system. We then watched for meteors, but it was relatively quiet with only a small number of short 'pings' seen. The peak of the Quadrantid shower evidently hadn't started yet. The radio detector live stream continued online through the night and activity has increased significantly, with a constant stream of events visible by the morning

20th December

Great Conjunction: A remarkably still and clear sky, hindered only by occasional passing bands of cloud, allowed CEB, JAG and GKWJ to observe the Great Conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter through the 10-inch. The separation between the planets was down to just 9 arcminutes. A group of Friends joined a live stream of the event via Zoom. All four Galilean moons of Jupiter were clearly visible and Saturn's moon, Titan, became visible as the sky darkened. This was a truly historical observation of the Great Conjunction as the planetary pair have never been viewed this close together through a telescope. Unfortunately, the forecast for the 21st, when the planets will be at their minimum separation of 6 arcminutes for this conjunction, is for cloud, so it is probable that the view today will be the best we are allowed

19th December

Friends Observing: Beautiful clear skies finally returned, allowing a group of over a dozen Friends to meet on Zoom and enjoy a tour of objects in the Winter Hexagon live streamed from the 10-inch. CEB first spoke about the Great Conjunction, showing GKWJ's photos from the 15th and the 19th, including a view of Jupiter and Saturn in the same field of view through the 10-inch. The Winter Hexagon was introduced with a photograph of the area. We then went live with Betelgeuse seen through the 10-inch. GKWJ was in the Dome at the controls. The tour moved to Castor, where the 5 arcsecond double was easily and beautifully split. We attempted to split Procyon, but failed, Procyon A being just too bright to allow a view of Procyon B. We moved to Alnitak and could split this double, with a separation of just 2 arcseconds. Next, the Trapezium in the Orion Nebula (M42), with a long exposure teasing out a beautiful view of the surrounding umbrella of pinkish HII nebulosity. From star birth on to star death with supernova remnant, the Crab Nebula (M1) and planetary nebula, the Eskimo Nebula (NGC 2392). Finally, we found the Intergalactic Wanderer (NGC 2419), a globular cluster so named as it has moved far from the main concentration of the Milky Way's globular clusters and is some 270,000 light years away. Asked by a Friend what the most distant object visible would be, the best response tonight was the galaxy PGC 3129208 that lies in the same field of view as NGC 2419, but is located about 1.1 billion light years from Earth!

Great Conjunction: JAG and GKWJ returned to the Dome to observe Jupiter and Saturn again, this time joined by CEB. Gaps in the clouds and the trees allowed the planets to be seen in the 10-inch. Their separation now down to 15 arcminutes, the two planets occupied only half the eyepiece field of view. Images were taken through the 10-inch

More news...