2010 News

10th December

GCSE Observing: 13 Remove and 1 Hundreds pupil joined NMA and RDM at the Dome is ‘warmer’ temperatures. Coursework drawings were done and the ETX used to view M31 and M42. Several Geminids were seen

9th December

Remove GCSE Astronomy lesson: For the first time, the whole yeargroup of 38 pupils came up to the Dome with NMA and RDM in fiercely low temperatures. The Dome showed -4 degrees and with windchill, drawings were hard to complete. Tripods of the Binos stuck to the ground and the Dome was frozen. Neverthelass many pieces of Constellation drawing were completed by eye. A bright fireball (early Geminid) made for a fine sight. The sky was not perfect Seeing but the lack of Moon or astropitch light pollution made for the best Milky Way viewing of the term

8th December

GCSE evening: In preparation for GCSE observing the 10 inch was tetsed and the moisture problem in the lenses has been resolved. At -1 in the Dome, Castor was spilt in two, but further splitting was not possible due to high cloud. The Eskimo nebula was barely visible. The Binos viewed a very clear M45 early in the evening and the ETX Jupiter with unusually Callisto nearest to the planet and Io and Europa in conjunction and visibly separating over 20 minutes. By 8.30pm the sky had largely clouded over. Luckily a gap occurred around 9pm which allowed 6 Hundreds pupils to come up and complete some coursework between clouds and severe skyglow. M45 was drawn in Binos and M42 in 10 inch. A stellar density field was also drawn centered on zeta Tau

5th December

Solar Observing: The large spot 1131 (type Hhx) was seen clearly with its penumbra

2nd December


House visit: the last House visit of the term took place will 14 Shell pupils from MO coming up to the Dome. No minibus access was possible due to ice and snow and the temperatures were well below freezing. Despite a light fog and high sky glow, it was possible to view M45 Pleiades in Binos and Jupiter and 4 moons (Io just on the planets limb) with the ETX


Next house visit in January

30th November

2010 Blackett Science Lecture: A large audience fo some 140 gathered to hear Professor Mike Lockwood FRS give the talk ‘The lowest solar minimum for a century: what does it mean for future space weather and for Earth’s climate?’

25th November

External visit: 17 cubs from 4th newbury pack, accompanied by leaders and also 2 leaders from 3rd newbury pack came to the Dome. The sky was cloudy

House visit: 11 Shell pupils from TU came up to the Dome. The sky was cloudy but clearing in patches. The sky cleared but too late for GCSE observing

Next House visit: Thursday 2nd December (MO)

23rd November

External visit: 18 cubs from yrs 1 to 5 from the 2nd Marlborough pack came up to the Dome accompanied by leaders and parents. The evening was clear at first though very damp and the cloud soon covered the sky. Te waning 95% Moon was viewed in the new Helios 10×50 Binos. Pleiades M42 were viewed well in the Zeiss Binos ands Jupiter and 4 moons in the ETX.

  • GCSE observing: 6 Remove and 3 Hundreds pupils came up to the dome but there were few gaps in the clouds. Some constellation drawing of UMa and Cassiopeia nevertheless took place. The ETX was used to attempt a stellar density measurment but only 2 stars were visible 

    18th November

    Leonid watch and GCSE observing: A patch in cloud allowed 4 Friends and 18 pupils to join CEB and RDM at the Dome for some decent 2 hours of viewing. 4 Hundreds completed pieces of List B coursework, drawing M45 in Binos and doing star density counts in fields centered on Deneb and Dubhe in ETX. Jupiter and 4 moons and then Uranus were viewed in Binos and ETX. The waxing Moon was viewed in Binos. 14 Remove pupils did List A drawings of constellations including Cassiopeia, Ursa Major, Cygnus, Perseus and Lyra. 2 Leonids were seen


    15th November

    Open evening: A small group of visitors gathered to observe Jupiter and the First Quarter Moon in the ETX and Binos and then Mizar A and B. 6 meteors were seen, including 2 early Leonids. The moisture level was very high and encroaching fog made for poor viewing

    11th November

    House visit: 15 Shell pupils fom MM came up to the Dome. The sky was cloudy

    Next House visit: 25th November (TU)

    8th November

    Friends Q&A: 9 Friends attended the Dome for a discussion of the setting up of a Distance Scale. Before the session the sky was clear and Jupiter was viewd in ETX and new 17×50 Binos. The 10 inch moved to Eta Cassiopeia and showed the binary pair superbly (The brighter is a yellow dwarf (G class) similar to the Sun and the two are seperated by 71 AU). The bright orange of the dimmer orange (K class) dwarf companion was clear

    4th November

    House visit: 11 Shell pupils from PR came up to the Dome and luckily clouds parted to give good views of Jupiter in Binos and ETX and then an excellent view in good seeing of the planet and 4 moons in the 10 inch

    Next House visit: 11th November (MM)


    24th October

    Private visit: A group of 4 including 2 young chidren visited th Dome. 3 pieces of GCSE coursework (constellation drawings) were also completed) The sky was largely cloudy by mid evening though the waning Full Moon was visible in Binos and ETX and Jupiter and 4 moons in the 10 inch

    23rd October

    Public open evening: 20 visitors aged 5 yrs up visited the Dome, many for the first time. The sky was largely cloudy but the bright Hunter’s Moon shone through the gaps as did Jupiter. The Moon and its bright ray craters was viewed in Binos and Jupiter and 4 moons in the ETX and 10 inch. The seeing was very good and at x140 several storm bands were seen on the planet’s disc

    20th October

    External visit: 23 cubs aged 7 to 10 yrs from 1st Aldbourne Scout pack accompanied by 5 pack leaders and 3 parents came to the Dome as the temperatures fell and skies cleared after heavy rain. The binos were used to view the waxing Gibbous Moon and the ETX Jupiter and 3 moons. The 10 inch tracked Jupiter and, though the seeing was poor and the image too bubbly to see the storm bands, Io was visibly orange as it emerged from behind the planet

    GCSE Observing night: Sadly only a small number of pupils came up to the Dome (perhaps put off by the rain earlier) 5 Remove pupils continued Constellation coursework drawing and one Hundred pupil drew a Stellar Density field centerd on an M-type giant perpendicular to the Milky Way. With NMA and an IB student we were able to view 3 Messier Objects in the opposite sky to the Moon; first M13 (the Great Globular in Hercules) which was well resolved and then M57 the Ring Nebula, which again showed good detail for such a bright night and then M27 the Dumbell Nebula, which was barely discernable. Attempts to locate 103P Hartely 2, which should have been lined up with ‘the kids’ of Capella failed

    14th October

    House visit: 11 Shell pupils form C1 came up to the Dome. The sky was cloudy

    Next House visit 4th November (PR)

    12th October

    GCSE Observing: The first clear GCSE night saw a maelstrom of coursework activity at the Dome, supervised by CEB and NMA. 29 members of the new Remove came up to draw Constellations and 4 members of the Hundred to attempt List B observations in the instruments. The Moon had set and only the Astros and high cloud to the south spoilt a night of good (II) seeing. The 10 inch tracked Jupiter and 4 moons. The ETX was used for M31 the Andromeda galaxy and earlier 103P Comet Hartley 2. The Binos viewed M45 Pleiades. The 4 inch Cooke split Mizar A and B. Even at 11 degrees, some of the pupils were too cold to stay long, others settled in chairs and drew up to 3 Constellations. 6 meteors were seen, two brighter than Jupiter

    11th October

    Friends Q&A: 8 Friends met for a non-weather dependent Q&A session on ‘Astrology friend or foe’, of course this meant the sky was clear. Advantage was taken of the fine evening and first Jupiter with 3 moons visible and with its single main storm band, then Uranus (whose colour was rather pale in the skyglow to the south) were viewed. With coordinates off the internet Comet Hartley 2 was located and centred in the 10 inch. The nucleus was clearly brighter but the Coma was very pale grey and only obvious to keen sight with averted vision. Apparantly at magnitude 4.9, this is integrated brightness so you would be pushd to see it unaided, but the brightening bods well for closest approach. The comet was then found about 1 degree to the south-west of eta Persei and was perhaps clearer in the wider field

    7th October

    House visit: 11 Shell pupils from SU walked up to the Dome. The sky was cloudy

    Next House visit: 14th October (C1)

    1st October

    Friends 6th Anniversary: 50 Friends and partners gathered at the Marlburian for the annual drinks but on this occsassion to also celebrate the 150th anniversary of the building in 1860 of the Barclay Equatorial. It was particualrly good to welcome both the great-grandson and great-great grandson of Joseph Barclay, the original owner. Peter Hingley the Royal Astronomical Society Librarian also attended

    30th September

    House visit: The first Shell House visit of the year saw 10 pupils from LI at the Dome. The sky was cloudy

    Next House visit: 7th October (SU)

    28th September

    Prep School lecture: CEB gave the lecture ‘Stars, planets and wormholes’ to some 50 yr 8 pupils, parents and staff at the Hall School

    25th September

    Lecture: CEB gave the lecture ‘Astronomy at the Radcliffe Observatory’ in Green-Templeton College Oxford to some 50 Alumni as part of the University’s Alumni week-end

    20th September

    External visit: 12 members of Abingdon Astronomical Society came to the Dome. High cloud made for poor detail, but the Moon and Jupiter and its moons were viewed in the Binos and ETX. Jupiter was then viewed in the 10 inch and bright orange Io was seen at first contact as it then proceeded to transit across the disc. The single main cloud band of Jupiter was clear but cloud closed in before the shadow was visible. Uranus was then seen as a clear disc and showed its light blue-green colour in clearer patches of sky. Neptune was viewed last but its dark blue was only visible very briefly

    12th August

    Perseid observing: 21 visitors aged 10 and up (including a couple from the Netherlands) joined CEB, JAG and RDM at the Dome. At first with 80% cloud cover, which prevented Venus or any of the bright stars from being seen, there seemed little hope. But just after 10pm the sky cleared to give a superb, in fact ideal observing panarama. Rates rose from one every few minutes to 3 or 4 a minute around 11pm. In total 155 Persieds were seen in 2 hours and 11 sporadics. Certainly with no Moon or interference from the Astro pitch lights, this proved the most prolific shower observed for many years

    11th August

    Meteor observing: CEB joined JAG and 3 friends for 2 hours of observing. 15 meteors were seen (13 Perseids, several of -1). The 10 inch observed Eta Cassiopeia and the ETX Jupiter

    10th August

    Meteor observing: JAG and NMA saw 5 early Perseids (one of -5). Also 5 satellites and observed Jupiter in the ETX

    3rd August

    Summer School week 3: 13 residents joined JAG and CEB at the Dome. Apart from glimpses of Arcturus and Vega the sky remained cloudy

    2nd August

    Summer School week 3: 15 residents joined JAG and CEB at the Dome on a clear summer night. Low cloud in the West prevented all but Venus among the planets on show. Stars were identified as they appeared and then the ETX was used to split Mizar A and B. The 10 inch viewed Eta Cassiopeia a lovely close binary system just oiver 19 light years away. The brighter star is a yellow dwarf similar to the Sun and its companion a much cooler orang dwarf. Several satellites and 3 early Perseids were seen, the brightest perhaps mag. -1

    27th July

    Summer School week 2: 2 Tutors and 10 residents camde up to the Dome. Sadly the cloud prevented all but a few stars (Arcturus and the Summer Triangle) from being seen

    26th July

    Summer School week 2: 18 residents joinded CEB and JAG at the Dome on a sultry evening. The Thunder Moon rose Full and yellow among the clouds and showed a nice straw coloured Aureole. Otherwise clouds prevented viewing, though Arcturus and the 3 main stars of the Summer Triangle did find gaps

    21st July

    Summer School week 1: 20 residents joined CEB and JAG at the Dome on a perfect still summer evening. Some cloud affected observing but many objects were seen. Bright stars were identified as they appeared including red Antares in Scorpio (though rather lost in the Moon’s glare) Arcturus and Spica, Vega and the Summer Triangle and later Capella in the North. The ETX viewed the waxing Gibbous Moon and the Binos the non-spherical Venus. Sadly Saturn and Mars had set before the twilight allowed them to appear. The 10 inch was used as it got dark to view a very close Double (HIP81319) in Hercules. A polar satellite and a lovely orange sporadic meteor, perhaps mag. -4 in Cassiopeia, made the evening

    19th July

    Summer School week 1: 18 residents of Summer School came up to the Dome for a talk and tour. Sadly the sky was overcast

    19th June

    Summer Sky: 20 Friends of all ages gathered on a perfect midsummer night. As the Sun set Venus’ phase was viewed in the ETX and the Moon in the 10 inch. The Alpine Valley and Mont Blanc were particularly clear with the mountain cast a 100km long clear shadow. As the sky darkened stars and Constellations were identified and with Saturn, Mars and Venus the arc of the ecliptic (plane of the Solar System) was obvious. The curved handle of the ‘saucepan’ led down to orange Arturus and then blue Spica in Virgo. Antares and Scorpio was bright red and twinkling in the South. Several satellites were seen as they disappeared in to the Earth’s shadow. The 10 inch then viewed Saturn and Titan with clear rings and a shadow and one band on the surface. Titan was visible clearly from the start and Dione and Rhea appeared later. Mars showed no detail in the 10 inch. Lastly we viewed yellow Vesta as a obvious disk. Attempts to view comet McNaught were thwarted by cloud and twilight to North. No Notilucent Clouds appeared and we packed up after midnight as temperatures fell

    16th June

    GCSE revision: A mamouth 4.5 hour revision session took place all afternoon with 18 of the 20 pupils and JAG, prior to the exam on 18th

    22nd May

    External visit: A family from Oxfordshire came down on a sunny Summer evening. As the Sun went down the Moon was viewed in Binos and ETX and then the 10 inch showing superb detail on the Terminator and detail in the steep wall of Copernicus. Before it was visible by eye, Saturn was viewed in the 10 inch and the ring shadow and surface bands were clear. Titan and then another moon appeared as the sky darkened. Venus was first out by eye then was viewed in its gibbous phase. The 10 inch then viewed Mars, which showed a slighly brighter edge where the ice cap should be

    15th May

    Solar Observing: 19 pupils from Shell set 6 and their teacher came up to the Dome. Sadly, bar fleeting glimpses, the Sun stayed behind cloud

    12th May

    Public Solar viewing: After a cloudy midday the sky slowly cleared and eventually gave excellent views of the Sun. The Photosphere was viewed in solar goggles, solarscope via projection and via a white light filter on the ETX. The 10 inch and h-alpha filter showed a series of prominences on the NW limb with quite good detail and unusual shapesM

    6th May

    Solar Observing: 18 pupils and their teacher from Shell set 3 came up to the Dome. Sadly it was overcast. A demonstration of the solar instruments was given and a talk on ‘The Sun -our star’

    28th April

    Friends Solar viewing: Despite some high cloud, 12 Friends came to the Dome to view the blank photosphere in goggles and then the ETX. The H alpha filter was used on the 10 inch and showed superb detail in a large quiescent prominence on the Eastern limb. The magnetic field line patterns changed over the hour of observation

    22nd April

    Solar Observing: 20 pupils and their teacher from Shell set 1 came up to the Dome and as yesterday, viewed the Sun through all the available filters. In the 10 inch, the prominence seen yesterday had lifted off the surface as a ‘hedge’ prominence

    Shell observatory visit: 10 pupils form PR Shell came up to the Dome (the last visit of the year, postponed from March) as the Sun set. The Moon was viewed in the ETX and Venus in Binos. Mars and Saturn were identified by eye and then Saturn seen in the 10 inch. The rings still basically edge on allowed easy identification of 4 moons

    21st April

    Solar Observing: 12 pupils and their teacher from Shell (yr 9) set 9 came up to the Dome. In a clear blue sky the Sun was viewed through goggles, then projected and then in the white light filtered ETX. No spots were visible, though limb darkening was very evident in the telescope. The 10 inch with H alpha filter showed one clear large prominence on the NE limb, which changed perceptably in shape over 2 hours

    27th March

    Diamond Light Source (DLS) visit: A group of 18 Friends, including 4 pupils (yrs 9 to 11), visited the UK’s new synchrotron facility at Rutherford laboratory and were given an excellent talk, tour and lunch

    20th March

    Sun-Earth lecture: The 8th annual NASA sponsored lecture ‘Impact Earth – The threat of asteroid collision’ was given to an audience of Friends and visitors in the Ellis Theatre

    16th March

    External School visit: 9 pupils from Year 8 and their teacher from Wootton Bassett School came up to the Dome. The high cloud and skyglow prevented extensive observing but Mars was viewed in the ETX and then (showing some shading and hint of the ice-cap) in the 10 inch

    11th March

    House visit: The last Shell visit of the term took place in a lucky short clear spell as the temperature fell. 10 pupils from LI cme up to the Dome and assisted by JAG we had naked-eye tours of the Spring Sky, Arcturus and Saturn rising in the East. the Pleiades were viewed in Binos and Mizar A and B in the ETX. The 10 inch tracked Mars and though the disc was rather even in colour, the ice cap showed up as a brighter dot

    Next House visit: Thursday April 22nd (PR)

    4th March

    External visit: 21 cubs aged 8 to 10yrs from Marlborough 2nd Scouts and 5 adults came up to the Dome on the clearest evening since the New Year. After a tour of the sky by eye, identifying Mars, Sirius, Polaris, Aldeberan, Pleiades etc, we looked at Pleiades in the Binos and the Orion nebula, showing super nebula shapes in the ETX. The 10inch looked at Mars at x172 and though very bright, some surface detail could be seen and the ice cap was seen by many

    GCSE observing: The last coursework drawings were done of Pleiades in binos and Mizar A and B in ETX and Mars in 10inch. Once these were complete we were joined by 2 of the security staff and the 10inch turned to the asteroid Vesta; at magnitude nearly +6, not visible by eye, but easily located in the centre of the sickle of Leo. In the 40mm eyepiece is was clearly not twinkling and showed a hint of yellow/orange. Saturn was also viewed with its rings now slightly tilted for the first time this year with Titan to the West. Artcturus, the Spring marker, was also seen rising in the East for the first time

    25th February

    House visit: 11 pupils from SU Shell walked up to the Dome. It was cloudy, wet and thoroughly unpleasant

    Next House visit: Thursday 11th March (LI)

    22nd February

    External visit: 18 cubs (yrs 3 to 5) from 1st Ramsbury pack visited the dome with 6 adults. Sadly the sky was cloudy

    4th February

    House visit: 11 Shell pupils from C1 came up to the Dome. Sadly it was cloudy

    Next House visit: Thursday 26th February (SU)

    1st February

    French Exchange visit: 15 students from Lysee Jaques Monod and 3 teachers visited the Dome in the afternoon. The Sun was visible in solar goggles and behind cloud in the 10 inch. In the clear gaps the new Cycle 24 sunspot group 1043 was seen

    Public lecture: CEB gave the lecture ‘Impact Earth – The threat of asteroid collisions’ at Green Templeton College in Oxford to a full house of visitors and academics as part of the annual lecture series ‘Astronomy for All’

    21st January

    House visit: For the first time this year minibus access was possible and allowed 10 pupils (depleted by illness) from MM Shell to attend the Dome. The sky was clouded over, but the Dome was free from ice

    Next House visit: Thursday 4th February (C1)

    14th January

    House visit: 10 Shell pupils from TU again came up on foot through the snow. The temperature was above freezing and the Dome had un-iced but not only was no sky visible but the Dome itself was hard enough to locate in thick fog

    Next House visit: Thursday 21st (MM)

    12th January

    House visit: The first House visit of 2010 saw 13 pupils from MO Shell (and JAG) come up to the Dome on foot through compacted snow. Low cloud gave a bright orange glow to the sky and the Dome itself was firmly iced up with several inches around the rim

    Next House visit: Thursday 14th January (TU)

    3rd January

    Quadrantid viewing: The Dome was opened at sunset having been chipped free of ice. A group of 16 Friends of all ages gathered in falling temperatures to spot meteors. As feet froze and temepratures dropped below -4, even without windchill, 29 Quadrantids were seen, mainly to the SW as the radiant was very low in N. Only 4 were seen before 18.00UT and only 4 after 19.00UT giving a well defined vieiwing time. Most were of magnitude +2 to -1 at brightest. Viweing ended after 3 hours as the Moon rose following Mars in the NE