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Blackett Observatory Dome
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SpaceWeather | More weather... Coordinates: 51.25.25 N and 1.44.24 W
Marlborough College
Oxford Astrophysics
Green Templeton College

Monday 9th November - Winter Sky Observing
Online from 8.30pm (Weather Permitting)

Our next event is an open evening to observe the winter sky. This will be held online via Zoom. A link will be sent out to Friends on the day. The event is subject to clear weather - a decision to go ahead or cancel will be taken on the day, so please check back here for the latest information

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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 19th October

  • Astronomical twilight ends at 19:56 BST at the beginning of the week and at 18:44 GMT by the end of the week

  • British Summer Time ends on Sunday, when the clocks go back one hour at 02:00 BST to become 01:00 GMT

  • Mars continues to be the highlight of our evening sky, shining brightly at mag -2.5. It rises at 18:00 BST and reaches its highest elevation of 43° around midnight

  • Jupiter (-2.2) and Saturn (0.5) are still visible, but have set by about 22:30 BST

  • The Orionid meteor shower peaks on Wednesday. It can produce around 15 to 20 meteors an hour. The parent body that creates this meteor shower has been identified as comet 1P/Halley

  • The Moon will be First Quarter on Friday. On Thursday and Friday evenings it will make a close approach to Jupiter and Saturn

  • The Sun currently has one active region AR 2776, which contains around 15 sunspots

  • There are no visible ISS evening passes this week

More...


Random Blackett Image
A view of the very centre of our Galaxy, the Milky Way showing densely packed old highly evolved stars. The black hole Sagitarius A is in the central square surrounded by rapidly orbiting Red Giant stars.

News

18th October

Friends Observing: Unfortunately cloud prevented the scheduled observing of double stars, but that did not deter us from meeting. A group of around a dozen Friends gathered online for the first 'Cloudy Alternative' and considered the topic of 'Life Elsewhere', inspired by the recent discovery of phosphine in the atmosphere of Venus. A fascinating discussion ensued, though ultimately inconclusive, we all agreed that simple life forms are probably abundant while complex life forms require a complex set of conincidences and are therefore likely to be extremely rare

15th October

GCSE Observing: 8 Hundred astronomers had their first evening of the year at the Dome. It was cloudy to start with, but soon cleared to enable a revision session Sky Tour

9th October

GCSE Observing: 10 Remove GCSE astronomers came up to the Dome for their first evening of observing. Under a cold and clear autumn sky, they enjoyed a Sky Tour around the major asterisms, the Andromeda Galaxy, the Milky Way and the planets, Jupiter, Saturn and Mars. The invisible 'lines in the sky' were identified. They then used the clinometers they had made in class earlier to measure the altitude of Polaris, calculate the altitude of the Celestial Equator, measure the alitude of the star Deneb and calculate its Declination. They were also able to estimate Deneb's Right Ascension given its distance from the meridian and the local sidereal time. Finally Mars was viewed through the 10inch, where some surface detail was visible

8th October

House visit: 12 pupils from C2 Shell and a Tutor came up to the Dome. The sky was largely cloudy, though allowed sights of 2 major asterisms, the Saucepan and Polaris and the Summer Triangle. Jupiter and Saturn were also visible as the group departed

Next House visit: Thursday 15th October (IH)

1st October

House visit: 11 Shell pupils from BH came up to the Dome. The sky was cloudy and it was raining by the end of the evening

Next House visit: Thursday 8th October (C2)

29th September

Lecture: CEB delivered the talk 'Stories in the Stars - Cultural interpretations of the night sky' via Zoom to an audience of some 40 pupils and staff

25th September

Friends of the Marlborough Telescope 16th Anniversary: A select group of Friends gathered via a Zoom link to chat and hear CEB look back and then forwards at the Friends Diary. GKWJ ensured that we had a live stream from the Observatory. The Friends were able to stay on to view the waxing Gibbous Moon through the 10 inch, with clear views of craters near the terminator and some super mountain shadows

24th September

House visit: 10 pupils from B1 Shell were the first to come up to the Dome this year. Socially distanced and in masks, they saw the sky darken and the Summer Triangle appear, with Arcturus setting in the West. They then had an introduction to the workings of the Observatory and then we turned the 10inch on Saturn. We were able to get a clear view of the rings and Titan. Mars was rising as they left

Next House visit: Thursday 1st October (BH)

21st September

Friends Observing: History was made at the Blackett Observatory tonight as, for the first time ever, live views through the 10inch were streamed across the internet to over 30 Friends in 24 households, watching from the safety and comfort of their own homes. CEB anchored the online presentation, with JAG providing supporting information and GKWJ controlling the telescope and camera. Observing started with Jupiter and its four Galilean Moons; surface details including the Great Red Spot were visible. Next was dwarf planet, Pluto - only the second time that Pluto has been observed at the MCBO. We then moved on to Saturn and through the use of long exposure photography, the group was able to identify 6 moons: Dione, Tethys, Enceladus, Rhea, Hyperion and Titan. A brief interlude outside while the 10inch carried out a meridian flip offered a chance to enjoy wide views of the sky. Observing continued back at the 10inch with blue tinged Neptune and another first for the Dome, its moon, Triton was clearly identified in the live images. The tour continued to Mars, which made a spectacular sight, resplendent in its orange-red hues, with very clear surface detail across the disk and the South polar ice cap easily visible, looking smaller than usual, a sign that it is currently Summer in the Southern Hemisphere of Mars. The session ended with Uranus and again, a first for the 10inch, four moons were identified: Oberon, Titania, Umbriel and Ariel. A wonderful night of observing with excellent participation from all attendees. This surely bodes well for Friends observing through the coming winter

Radcliffe Society: The first meeting of the new academic year took place and eight members joined GKWJ, JAG and CEB on Zoom. We started with What's Up using Sky Safari, including a look at the sky view from Bangkok, Thailand - noticing that Mars is directly overhead from that latitude. Future plans and projects for the year ahead were discussed and then the members enjoyed a live observing session using a camera attached to the 10inch. We found Jupiter, with its four Galilean moons all visible. We then moved on to Saturn, where the Cassini Division could just be made out and four moons could be seen with a long exposure view; the moons were Dione, Tethys, Rhea and Titan. The session ended with a view of Neptune and its moon, Triton. Next meeting: 9th November

More news...