2008 News

28th December

Private visit: 2 visitors from Australia visited the Dome. Sadly though the early evening had given a superb sunset and beautiful Venus with a very slender crescent Moon, by 8pm the sky had clouded over


26th December

Observing evening: After a superb sunset and viewing Venus at around 60% phase in Binos, 3 Friends and a current GCSE pupil made the most of a very cold winter sky. Though 2 degrees in the Dome, with windchill, the outside temperature was -5 degrees or below. The Binos were used to view M45 (Pleiades) and the ETX to view (for the first time) M1, the Crab nebula (dim though clearly visible) and then M42 the Orion nebula. The 10 inch once calibrated was used at high magnification to view and split Castor. The main Binary elements some 2.9 arcsecs apart were easy and showed some hint of colour (blue and gold). The Eskimo planetary nebula was then viewed and finally M42. There was sadly growing moisture and hence more sky glow, nevertheless, the nebula showed superb detail and the Trapezium was split into several pairs of stars

4th December

House visit: 12 pupils from MO Shell came up to the Dome. The crescent Moon was out but soon clouded over. All were able to get a brief glance at M45 (Pleiades) in Binos

Next House visit: January 8th (NC)

1st December

Planet observing: Between breaks in the cloud the crescent Moon and Jupiter were imaged as the Sun set. Venus was already hidden behind the Moon. The Moon was viewed first in Binos and then in the 10 inch with the lit limb being observed for the re-appearence of Venus. At 17.14.45 UT Venus appeared, sadly the clouds closed in and prevented a picture being taken

External visit: 19 Cubs and 4 adults from 1st Ramsbury Cub pack attended the Dome. 2 Oxford Astrophysics Graduates assisted , but sadly the sky was overcast

28th November

Planet observing: Jupiter and Venus were imaged some 4 degees apart, bright and dominating the early evening night sky in SW, even through severe skygow and encroaching fog

27th November

House visit: 10 pupils from TU Shell came up to the Dome. The sky was too cloudy to observe

Next House visit: Thursday 4th December (MO)

25th November

4th Blackett Science lecture: 150 pupils and Friends attended the lecture ‘Discovering planets around other stars – will we find another Earth?’ by Don Pollacco of Queens Uni Belfast in the Ellis theatre

Observing sesssion: Prior to the lecture Dr Pollacco and CEb used the 10 inch to view a couple a beutiful mixed colour Doubles. Eta Andromedae, Gamma Cassiopeia and then Globular M15

22nd November

Public lecture: CEB gave an Archeoastronomy lecture at Avebury for the National Trust season ‘Avebury in starlight’ attended by some 40 visitors

20th November

House visit: 12 pupils from MM Shell came up to the Dome. Sadly the sky was clouded over, though it did allow a brief glimpse of Vega and Deneb

Next House visit: Thursday 27th November (TU)

15th November

Private visit: 10 visitors spanning a wide age range came up to the Dome for an evening bid for on behlaf of ‘Wiltshire Blind’. Sadly the sky was cloudy but a Tour and Lecture took the place of observing

13th November

External visit: 16 Scouts from the Hungerford pack and 5 adults attended the Dome. Sadly the sky was totally fogged out

11th November

GCSE Observing evening: After a totally clear, cold promising start, cloud closed in from South. The near Full Moon washed out all but the brightest stars and as the sky clouded we were treated to a lovley Lunar Aureole. One bright meteor was seen and several pieces of coursework attempted. the 10 inch looked at the bright ray cratrs and their ejecta. The illumination was perfect for seeing detail around the Schroeter valley and both Aristarchus and Heroditus were super. The ETX viewed Mizar A and B and the Binos were used to draw M45 the Pleiades

7th November

Friends Q and A session: 10 Friends attended the question and answer session on the ‘dark side’ of the Universe. Venus was superb after sunset and the 10 inch viewed the First Quarter Moon in the early evening but the sky then clouded up. By 9.30pm however the sky cleared and the ETX was used to view M31. Unfortunately M31 was too near the Zenith for the 10 inch to locate accurately. M1 (Crab supernova remnant) was then attempted but the moonlight and slight haze prevented observation. Orion was viewed for the first time in the evening sky

6th November

House visit: 11 Shell pupils from PR came up to the Dome. Sadly the sky was totally overcast and orange

Next House visit: November 20th (MM)

22nd October

Shell class visit: 19 pupils from Shell set 3 came up to the Dome and were able to view the Sun through solar goggles and then in the 10 inch. The disc was completely blank, though granulation was visible

21st October

Solar Observing: The white light filter was used to view the Solar Disc in the afternoon, to calibrate the telescope and to check for portes. Granulation was evident but the disc was blank

GCSE Observing: 4 Remove and 2 Hundred pupils came up to the Dome on the best night this winter. With near perfect seeing, the Milky Way was well structured. Jupiter was watched until it set with Europa in transit, though sadly not visible. The ETX was used to view M31 Andromeda galaxy and then M13 in Hercules for the first time, though invdivdual stars could not be resolved. The Bino looked at M45, the Pleiades. The 10 inch was then turned on M13 and subsequently on M57 the Ring Nebula in Lyra with a barely discernable central star. Some 15 pieces of coursework were completed. One late Orionid was seen, very quick, crossing the Square of Pegasus

17th October

Private visit: 7 members of Marlborough Brandt Group came up to the Dome for an extended evening. Sadly the cloudy sky prevented all but the Summer Triangle being seen

16th October

House visit: 11 pupils from C1 Shell came up to the Dome. Sadly high cloud prevented good viewing but the Summer Traingle was seen by eye then Jupiter and 4 moons in the 10 inch showing some surface detail and lastly the waning Gibbous Moon in the Binos. A nice Lunar aureole was present

Next House visit: November 6th (PR)

14th October

Lower Sixth visit: 3 New Lower Sixth pupils from SU came up to the Dome for a tour. Sadly the sky was cloud

Next Lower Sixth visit: Tuesday 2nd December

10th October

RAS Lecture: CEB lectured (Kielder – A new platform for dark sky outreach) to some 80 Fellows of the Royal Astronomical Society

9th October

House visit: 11 Shell pupils from SU came up to the Dome. The increasing high cloud made for poor viewing, and a small Lunar aureole. Jupiter and 4 moons was however seen in the ETX and 10 inch with Io closing in and then passing behind the main planet. The waxing Gibbous moon was viewed in Binos

Next House visit: 16th Ocotber (C1)

7th October

Scouts visit: 14 Scouts from Hungerford and 4 adults came up to the Dome as the clouds cleared after a foul afternoon. The Moon and Jupiter were observed in Binos and then Jupiter and 4 moons in the ETX. The First Quarter Moon was viewed in the 10 inch concentrating on the Alpine Valley area. A tour of the sky was also possible

GCSE Observing: Some 3 Remove and 6 Hundred astronomers came up on the first really good night this term. 12 or so coursework drawings were completed. The ETX looked at Mizar A and B, the Binos viewed the newly risen Pleiades and the 10 inch the Moon’s terminator. Good detail was possible around the Lunar Alps, despite the Moon’s low altitude

3rd October

Friends Q and A evening: 13 Friends gathered for a Q and A evening on Near Earth Objects. As well as considering the threat posed to the Earth, the skies were clear and the temperature falling so the best observing of the Autumn so far resulted. Jupiter and its moons were viewed in the Binos and ETX and in the 10 inch. Though at low altitude, good detail was seen on the planets surface. The Milky Way was clear and M31 was viewed by eye. A good ISS pass was a bonus. Following the evening theme the 10 inch was turned to asteroid Juno. Though low in the sky and at magnitude 10.34 a dim object, it was dicernable to keener eyes below a trapezium of magnitude 10 stars. This was a first for the 10 inch. M13 was then viewed well before cloud closd in. A good bright meteor was also seen heading NE through Cassiopeia

2nd October

House visit: The first House visit of the academic year saw 9 Shell pupils from LI come up to the Dome. Between gaps in the cloud we viewed Jupiter in Binos and in ETX with 3 moons visible. The 10 inch was then used to view Vega. One satellite was seen passing Vega

GCSE Observing: As the temperature dropped a brief clear spell allowed a tour of the sky and views of Jupiter in the Binos and ETX and then the 10inch was used to view M13 (Great Globular in Hercules)

Next House visit: 9th October SU

27th September

Friends 4th anniversary drinks: Some 60 Friends attended a drinks party in the Marlburian to celebrate 4 years of the Friends group

23rd September

Observatory visit: 15 ‘students’ from the local University of the 3rd Age (U3A) came up to the Dome and were lucky with a clear evening. Jupiter and its moons were viewed in Binos, ETX and then the 10 inch at low magnification. Io was noticeably orange and only the large telescope could resolve it from Europa in their orbits. Good cloud detail was seen on the Planet despite the low altitude

21st September

Observing evening: At last a clear evening gave an opportunity to view Jupiter. Though in the South in the evening it is not at high altitude, so viewed through thick atmosphere. Excellent surface features with 4 to 6 individual bands were seen briefly and the 4 moons all lined up to one side. Sadly cloud moving in from the West interupted observations

20th September

Oxford University Alumni week-end: CEB lectured at Green College on the 160 years of Astronomy at the Radcliffe Observatory

11th-12th September

JENAM 2008: Funded by the RAS and Marlborough College, CEB participated in the Joint European National Astronomy Meeting in Vienna as part of Symposium 2 – Communicating Astronomy and preparation for International Year of Astronomy 2009. Presenting a talk on ‘Outreach with large telescopes and a new era in UK school astronomy’

4th September

Observatory visit: A group of 17 from the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust including past Churchill Fellows and their partners attended the Dome for a Tour and talk on the restoration of the 10 inch. Sadly the weather did not allow any observing

12th August

Perseids meteor shower: Though the early evening cleared, later clouds prevented meteor viewing. A small group were able to observe the waxing Moon in the 10 inch and Jupiter with its moons (all on one side) in the ETX

2nd August

Society for the History of Astronmy annual picnic: Some 30 members of the SHA (including 3 council members) visited the College for a picnic lunch at the Ellis theatre and then a tour of the Dome and telescope. The clouds parted just in time for the Sun to be viewed (blank) in the white light filter. There followed a short lecture on the refurbishment of the Barclay telescope

1st August

Partial Solar eclipse: Some 45 from the Friends and Summer School came up to the Dome to witness the eclipse. The sky cleared for first contact at 8.31.42 UT and between clouds all phases of the eclipse were seen to maximum at 10.20am. The Moons edge was seen through Solar viewers, by projection in the ETX and in the 10 inch at x80 and x140. The surface features and mountain groups were easily seen in profile against the Sun’s disc. The last contact was seen at 10.01.51 UT

31st July

Summer School lecture: The Bradleian theatre was full for the lecture ‘Tunguska’s legacy 100 years on’

30th July

Summer School visit: Another 20 guests came up to the Dome and despite some high cloud which didnt help the skyglow we were able to do plenty of observing. Jupiter and main moons were viewed in Binos and ETX and the 10 inch again focussed on M13. Several more Delta Auarids were seen as well as a good number of bright sporadics. The ISS again made a good pass and it was good to glimpse Antares very low in the south-west. The Milky Way was prominent, especailly in Sagittarius

29th July

Summer School visit: 20 guests from Summer School came up to the Dome. The evening commenced with watching the stars appear as the Sun set and then viewing am excellent pass of the ISS. Jupiter and the Gallilean moons were viewed in the binos and the ETX (which also showed the two main equatorial bands and the Great Red Spot. The 10 inch was aimed at M13 (Great globular cluster) in Hercules, which was supoerb at low magnification. 2 Delta Aquarid meteors were seen and many satellites

28th July

Summer School visits: Some 16 Summer School attendees came up to the Dome for a guided tour. Sadly the weather prevented any viewing save of the thunder storm on the eastern horizon

10th July

Probus Lecture: Some 40 members of Marlborough Probus listened to a lecture ‘The great Marlborough Observatory’ in the Marlborough Golf Club

23rd June

Shell class visit: 20 pupils from Shell set 1y came up to the Dome and were able to view the Sun between cloud

17th June

Shell class visit: 16 pupils from Shell set 3x came up to the Dome to view the Sun and were lucky to see some H alpha prominences

7th June

Astronomy GCSE revision: A further 7 pupils attended the Dome for 3 hours of reviewing the Specification

6th June

Astronomy GCSE revsion: 12 pupils and RDK came up to the Dome for a concentrated 3.5 hours of revision prior to Monday’s exam

28th May

Dome closure: Due to the work being carried out on the next door field and the potential for dust and dirt, the Observatory is closed to visits until further notice

23rd May

Private visit: 2 Friends and a couple of visitors came up to the Dome for a quick tour

22nd May

External visit: A brief tour was given to a member of the Physics Staff from Wells Cathedral school

21st May

Tutee visit: 4 U6th tutees from MM visited the Dome as the first stars appeared

14th May

Public open afternoon: Several small groups including Friends came up to the Dome. The sky, though cloudy in patches, allowed some amazing views of the Sun, first by eye and in the ETX using white light filters where no activity (spots) were evident. However, through the 10 inch using ther H-alpha filter 2 enormous prominance groups were seen at the E limb. One eruptive and straight the other like a huge sickle or ‘plume of smoke’ trailing down some 15 degrees of the Eastern limb; this was viewed at x95 and x173

7th May

Astronomy talk: 10 members of Shalborne lunch club were given an astronomy talk on the origins of the Blackett observatory

Mercury observing: The Planet Mercury was easily visible in the NW twilight near to a youind crescent Moon from 9.45pm

6th May

Solar observing: 14 pupils from Shell set 3x came up to the Dome and viewed the blank Sun through Solar viewers and then the ETX. The 10 inch was then used with the H alpha filter to see two large loop prominences on the North East limb

23rd April

Friends Solar observing: A small group of 5 Friends came up to th Dome on an unexpectedly clear sunny afternoon. The Sun was viewed in the ETX and the small pair of spots 992 from the old cycle 23 were just visible. The leading spot being more prominent. The 10 inch was used with the H alpha filter and at magnifications of x72 to x172 showed some very fine prominences on the NW limb . One very last minute piece of GCSE coursework was also completed

16th April

Observatory visit: 4 visitors from Kent (including 2 children 5 and 9yrs) came to the Dome on an excellent clear evening. The Moon was bright at 88% but major stars were identified and the Moon viewed through Binos. Saturn though close to the Moon gave an excellent image in the 10 inch with 5 moons visible at x95 and x170. The Moon’s Terminator was also viewed in the 10 inch and an excellent resolution of detail in Gassendi’s central peak obtained

11th April

Observatory visit: 8 members of Basingstoke Astronomical Society visited the Dome. Sadly the evening clouded up. The waxing Moon was seen through Binos and briefly through the 10 inch. The ETX has now been fitted with a Telrad finder which should be a considerable improvement on the Meade ‘red dot’

8th April

Engineering visit: Norman Walker fitted the second long awaited zero-backlash gear box to the RA drive and the 10 inch refurbishment is now complete

30th March

Observation: The very bright ISS was viewed on an excellent pass, followed by 2 minutes later, the ATV Jules Verne ESA module which is due to dock in April

28th March

Special Interest Weekend: CEB gave the lecture ‘Archaeoastronomy – The Dawn of Science’ to some 80 guests at Christ Church, Oxford. Other lectures were by Roger Davies, Jocelyn Bell Burnell, Bob Lambourne, Chris Lintott, Katherine Blundell and Michael Rowan-Robinson. An observing session aided by 3 amateur astronomers from Abingdon Astronomical Society was held in the evening in Tom Quad, where Saturn, Mars and the Pleiades were viewed in small telescopes and guided tours of some of the brighter stars given by eye

20th March

Public Lecture: The 6th Sun-Earth day lecture ‘Space Weather around the World’ was attended by some 35 Friends and visitors in the Ellis Theatre

13th March

House visit: 9 Shell pupils from LI came up to the Dome completing the Shell House visits for the year with 4 out of 14 coinciding with clear skies. The cloud prevented any observing

10th March

Astronomical Society Lecture: Some 30 members of Abingdon Astronomical Society attended a talk ‘The World’s oldest GoTo telescope’

29th February

Sixth Form Girls visit: 10 Sixth Form girls from SU came up to the Dome accompanied by HM’s wife and daughter. The weather was filthy and so sadly none of the instruments could be used

28th February

House visit: 10 pupils from SU came up to the Dome. Just a few stars were seen though clouds and a couple saw the Pleiades (just) through the Binos

Next House visit: 13th March (LI)

26th February

GCSE Observing evening: 3 Hundred and 1 Remove Astronomers managed to complete 10 pieces of coursework in just over an hour before the sky clouded from the west. M45 in Binos, Mizar A and B in ETX and Saturn with 4 moons in the 10 inch

21st February

Lunar Eclipse: As predicted, the clouds closed in at 2.15am, having allowed tempting glimpses of the Moon 1/3 obscured by the penumbra. 1 very dedicatd Friend attended the dome but by 3.15am it was obvious that no Total Eclipse would be seen

14th February

House visit: 10 pupils from C1 Shell and 3 from PR attended the Dome. The sky was totally cloudy

Next House visit: 28th February (SU)

13th February

Observing evening: A light fog had settled in by 8.30pm which gave scattered light pollution over a large percentage of the sky. The 10 inch was however able to view Saturn clearly, though only 4 of the moons were visble and faint


12th February

GCSE Observing evening: 2 Remove and 1 Hundred astronomers came up to the Dome, completing 8 pieces of coursework. More moisture in the air meant for higher light levels added to by the 5 day old Moon. The ETX was used to view Mizar A and B and the Binos to view the Moon and then M45 (Pleiades). The 10 inch viewed Saturn and gave excellent views of 6 of the moons, including Rhea, though Dione was very hard being very close to the Planet itself

11th February

GCSE Observing evening: The clear weather continued though with poor seeing faint haze adding to the light scattering. 10 GCSE pupils came up to complete coursework and over 25 individual drawings were made. The Binos were used for the crescent Moon, M45 (Pleiades), M44 (Beehive). The ETX for Mizar A and B, M42 Orion nebula. The 10 inch looked first at M42 and then at Saturn, again 5 moons were clearly visible. A bright fireball ? was seen at 20.59 in East breaking up into 3 fragments

9th February

Observing evening: The best evening so far this year, with no Moon, still air and no sports lights allowed 2 Friends to get superb views through a variety of instruments. M44 (Beehive cluster) in Cancer was viewed in Binos. The ETX viewed Mizar and B and M42 the Orion nebula. The Trapezium and Mizar A and B were even better viewed in a TAL 6 inch Matsukov reflector brought up to be put through its paces. The 10 inch first viewed M42 and gave superb detail of the Trapezium, spliting 2 of the 4 main stars and nebulocity, especially through a new OIII filter. The the 10 inch turned to Saturn giving unparalled clear and still views through a new Meade wide-angle 40mm (x95) eyepiece. the Planet showed clear bands and 5 moons were easily visible, Titan, Iapetus, Dione, Tethys and Enceladus

7th February

House visit: 7 Shell PR pupils attended the Dome. The sky was totally cloudy

Next House visit: 14th February (C1)

6th February

Extra GCSE Observing evening: The sky cleared unexpectedly and 2 GCSE astronomers were able to get a couple of drawings done before the expected cloud closed in. Mizar A and B were viewed through the ETX and then Saturn and Titan through the 10 inch

5th February

French Exchange visit: 14 students from Lysee Jaques Monod and 2 teachers visited the Dome. Sadly the weather prevented any instruments being used

1st February

Secondary School visit: 8 year 13 Physics pupils from Wooten Basset School and 4 teachers were lucky enough to catch a clear and cold evening. M31 was located by eye and a faint Milky Way in Cassiopeia. M45 was viewed in Binos and Mizar A and B seperated nicely and showing colour in ETX. The 10 inch was used to view Mars at x173 and then better (in terms of surface detail) at x90. From Mars at 60 degrees altitude we slewed to Saturn at 15 degrees in the East. This was the first sighting of Saturn in 2008 and the difference to 2007 was marked. The Rings are now much more edge on and appear more as a thick band across the planet’s disc. The Cassini division was just discernable at one location around the Disc. Titan was very bright and 2 further orange Moons were seen on the other side of the Planet

31st January

House visit: 12 Shell pupils from MO came up to the Dome, sadly though stars were visible at beginning and the end (enough to identify Mars and Saturn by eye) a violent storm in the middle meant no instruments could be used

Next House visit: 7th February (PR)

30th January

Prep School lecture: The lecture ‘The Sun our Star’ was given to some 70 members of Godstowe School years 5 and 6 followed by’ Living in the atmosphere of the Sun’ to 70 members of years 7 and 8

24th January

Prep School lecture: Some 60 pupils from the Sixth Form Society at The Hall School and several members of staff attended the lecture ‘Living in the atmosphere of the Sun’

Observing evening: RDK opened the observatory on the first clear Thursday for weeks to some 16 GCSE Astronomers. Coursework drawings of M45 (Pleiades) and the waning Gibbous Moon were completed

18th January

External visit: 13 children from 2nd Marlborough Scouts and 2 adults attended the Dome for a tour and talk. The weather was mild, wet and windy, so no instruments could be used


17th January

House visit: 13 pupils from MM came up to the Dome in high winds and fast moving cloud. Sadly only a couple were able to glimpse the Moon through the Binos. Breaks in the cloud did give naked-eye glimpses of Mars, Sirius, Orion and Polaris

Next House visit: 31st January (MO)

16th January

Prep School visit: 19 pupils aged 11 and 12 and 2 teachers from Abingdon School attended the Dome on a rare clear break in the otherwise wet and windy weather. The First Quarter Moon was observed in the ETX and the Pleiades in the Binos. The best known asterisms were shown and then the 10inch was used to view Mars at 80x but also at 240x where clear dark green marbelling was seen against the butterscotch disc

10th January

House observatory visit: 13 members of NC Shell came up to the Dome. Sadly the sky was cloudy

Next House visit: 17th January (MM)