2011 News

14th December

Geminid meteor shower: A small group of Friends and 3 visitors came up to the Dome. Prior to moonrise at 20.50 UT, the sky was largely clear and from 19.30 UT to 21.00 UT some 50 Geminid meteors were seen. Many slow and bright (to -3) and some with a blueish tinge. Jupiter and 4 moons was also viewed in the ETX, M45 in Binos and the 10 inch gave the best clear view of M42 in Orion this winter

8th December

House visit: 11 pupils from TU came up to the Dome. Jupiter and the waxing Gibbous Moon were visible though the rest of the sky was obscured by high cloud. The Moon was viewed in Binos and the ETX, showing Tycho’s rays well. Later in the evening the first 30 degree diameter lunar halo of the winter was seen

Next House visit: Thursday 12th Januray (MO)

1st December

House visit: 11 pupils from New Court Shell accompanied by RDM came up to the Dome on a cloudy and wet evening

Next House visit: Thursday 8th December (TU)

29th November

7th Blackett science lecture: On a predicatbly clear night, Professor Mike Edmunds gave a wonderfully cross-curricula lecture ‘The Antikythera Mechanism’ to an audience of some 120 pupils and Friends of the Telescope

24th November

House visit: 14 members of EL Shell came up to the Dome. Bar a brief glimpse of Jupiter, the sky was cloudy

Next House visit: Thursday 1st December (NC)

22nd November

GCSE Observing: Despite high moisture levels and fog to South (illuminated by Astro lights) 24 pupils from both Hundred and Remove joined CEB and JAG at the Dome. Many Controlled Assessmemt obsevations were completed. Constellations were drawn from the darker area behind the Observatory with Cygnus well positioned in West and Cassiopeia directly overhead. The ETX was used for Stellar Density measurements. Binos were used for Algol magnitude and drawing Pleiades. The 10 inch intially watched as Io appeared from occultation by Jupiter springing from 23rd magnitude to 5th magnitude at 21.29UT and then brightening slowly as it exited the planet’s shadow. For those remaining at the Dome the Great Nebula in Orion M42 waa then viewed in detail for the first time this year

17th November

House visit: C2 Shell visit was postponed given the late return from rugby matches

Next House visit Thursday 24th November (EL)

Leonids meteor shower and GCSE Observing: Large numbers of Remove and Hundred astronomers came up to the Dome, seizing the opportunity iof a rare clear night. Dozens of observations were made. Clouds started to clear and by 22.00 UT the sky was clear. Binos were used for M45 Pleiades and star density counts and Algol magnitude assement. The ETX viewed M31 Andromeda and was used for stellar density counts. The 10 inch tracked Jupiter which showed super storm band detail and its 4 nicely aligned moons. The central 0.5 degrees of M31 was also viewed but its high altitude and due south position made this unfavourable. 7 Friends joined in a growing number of meteor watchers and in total 21 were seen in 1.5 hours. None very bright but enough to keep watchers happy. A large group of NC Shell also came up earlier in the evening


4th November

Friends Q and A: A small group of Friends gathered under cloudy skies for an evening discussing ‘Exoplanets’


3rd November

House visit: 9 pupils from CO Shell came up to the Dome accompanied by the Second Master. Sadly the sky was cloudy

18th October

GCSE Observing: After an inauspicious start with poor seeing, high cloud cover and orange skyglow, as the temperature fell to 8 degrees and below, the sky cleared and gave a good evening for Controlled Assessment observations. The ETX was used for stellar densities and Jupiter and 4 moons. Binos focussed on Algol in a continuing series of light curve estimations. Others viewed M31 and M45. The 10 inch was first moved to M92 (for the first time I can remember) a prety Globular Cluster in Hercules often overlooked due to its proximity to M13. We then viewed M57 the Ring Planetary Nebula and then M13 the Great Globular itself

17th October

External visit: 11 cubs from Great Bedwyn pack (years 4 to 6) came up to the Dome with 3 leaders. Though the evening had been clear in patches, the clouds rolled in and prevented any observing

6th October

House visit: 11 pupils from BH Shell came up to the Dome. The sky was initially clear and the Moon was viewed in Binos and Jupiter and 3 moons just rising in the ETX

GCSE Observing: 3 Hundreds and 6 Remove pupils came up the Dome, but the sky was already mainly cloudy and little could be done

Next House visit: Thursday 3rd November (CO)

3rd October

External visit: 11 cubs from Great Bedwyn pack (years 4 to 6) came up to the Dome with 3 leaders. Though the evening had been clear, the clouds rolled in and prevented any observing

29th September

House visit: The best night perhaps this year. A cloudless, moonless evening at a balmy 20 degrees saw the first Shell House visit of the year. 11 pupils from C3 came up to the Dome for a tour of the sky. They were able to view the brightest stars appear and then saw M13 the Great Globular in the 10 inch. Several meteors and satellites were also seen and bright yellow Jupiter rose quickly in the East as they left

Next House visit: 6th October (BH)

GCSE Observing: 40 pupils from Remove and Hundred siezed the opportunity to complete Controlled Assessment observations. Unlike Tuesday, the moisture levels were low and thus the ‘seeing’ much better. The Milky Way was clear and the lack of fogging on the outside instruments made an ideal night for stellar density measurments. All binos and telescopes were in use. M31 was drawn in binos and Jupiter and 3 moons viewed. The 10 inch allowed superb views of M13 and then switched to M57, the Ring Nebula in Lyra. Some colour could be seen in the ring and the white dwarf was visible in the centre. When all Messier drawings were complete, the 10 inch turned to Jupiter to view the Io transit. 6 bands were visible on the planets and Io though without shadow, due to the approaching opposition was clearly seen against the Southern main band

27th September

GCSE Observing: A cloudless, moonless, 17 degree warm night saw a milestone at the Dome as 42 pupils came up join CEB and NMA to Observe with 23 doing Controlled Assessment observations. The busiest night ever! Floodlight and high humidity made for poor skies to South but there was plenty of scope for drawings. The ETX was used for Stellar Density fields both in and perpendicular to the Milky Way plane. The Carl Zeiss Binos focussed on M31. Other Binos were used for Stellar Density. The 4 inch Meade viewed Jupiter, though the ETX gave a much better view at the end of the night. The 10 inch tracked M13 which became clearer as the night wore on. Several meteors were seen and an Iridium flare

23rd September

Friends 7th Anniversary: 45 Friends, including many founding Friends attended the annual drinks party in the Marlburian

22nd September

Remove GCSE observing: The first night iof the year was clear! with 32 pupils coming up to the Dome at the start of the Astronomy GCSE Course. With JAG and RDM, CEB gave them tours of major asterisms. Jupiter and 3 moons was viewed in the ETX and also Mizar A and B. The Binos were used on various targets. Andromeda M31 and the Milky Way were clear. Several satellites and meteors were seen. The 10 inch was calibrated and used first to view M101 (barely visible) and the supernova and then much more spectacularly M13 the Great Globular in Hercules

13th September

Form Lecture: CEB delivered the lecture ‘Archaeoastronomy our 7000 year heritage’ to the Shell year group and Form teachers

12th September

Maintenance session: The electricity was restored to the Dome and the telescope and electronics checked and found to be in working order

10th September

Observing evening: A small group of visitors gathered on a clear, warm and bright moonlit night, as the Dome was a opened after the summer light evenings to find there was no electricity. The 10 inch could not therefore be used. Binos and the ETX were used to attempt to see M101 and supernova 2011fe without success. However, Jupiter and 3 moons, M31 and the nearly full moon were well viewed in the ETX

27th July

,p> Summer School week 3: 25 visitors came up to the dome on the best evening this year. The temperature was falling but still warm. The seeing was excellent and cloud absent until midnight. Bright stars were watched as they appeared, Arcturus, Vega, Deneb and Altair then Antares in the South. Several meteors including a fireball (with exploding head) were seen mainly heading E to W in Ursa Major. Some possibly early Perseids. Several satellites were seen. The ten inch was calibrated and viewed M13 (the Great Globular in Hercules) which became more and more beutiful as the twilight ended. Many of the stars both in the main cluster and outer regions could be resolved


21st July

Summer School week 2: Cloud and earlier rain put off many who had signed down for the visit. 12 who braved the cool evening were however rewarded with clearing skies. The Summer Triangle appeared as the Sun set and Arcturus was viewed in Binos and the ETX and the 10 inch. Sadly Saturn was too low for the bank of cloud. Antares and Scorpio were viewed above the tree tops. For those still at the Dome after 23.30 BST the rising Waning Gibbous Moon was a beutiful orange and its Eastern Mare well viewed with the Appennines near the Terminator seen well in the ETX

13th July

Summer School week 1: 25 visitors came up to the Dome in the twilight. Bar a couple of sightings of bright stars Vega and Arcturus, the clouds prevented further viewing

27th June

School visit: For the first time a group of 8 pupils (who had commenced the GCSE) from John Bentley School in Calne, came to the Dome with 3 staff for a talk and tour. Solar observing was planned, but clouds meant that only a very brief glimpse of the Sun through solar goggles was possible right at the end of the visit.

24th May

School lecture: CEB gave the talk ‘Stars, planets and wormholes’ to 100 pupils in year 10 at St Helen’s and St Katherine’s girls’ school in Abingdon

11th May

Public Solar viewing: Though the afternoon event was cancelled due to cloud, 4 visitors turned up and were rewarded by a 45 minute break in clouds. The Sun was viewed in solar goggles, the solarscope and ETX where 3 spots were clearly visible. Tje 10 inch was used with the H alpha filter, but the cloud cover was too great to allow any more than a fuzzy view of the limb

10th May

Shell Physics solar observing: 18 pupils from Shell set 6 came up to the Dome and were able to opbserve the photosphere through solar goggles, in the Solarscope and the ETX. The chromosphere was viewed in the 10 inch in H-alpha and a large erruptive prominence was visible

5th May

GCSE Astronomy Solar Observing: 20 Remove astronomers and NMA came up to the Dome to observe the Sun through solar goggles, in the solarscope, through the ETX in white light and in H-alpha through the 10 inch. Two sunspot groups were clearly visible and in H-alpha a large prominence was seen, though high cloud meant the details were somewhat obscured

4th May

Friends Solar afternoon: Some 25 Friends of the Telescope from age 8yrs up visited the Dome under a perfectly clear sky (between light cloud. The 2 sunspot groups were easily seen in the ETX. The 10 inch was set up with the H-alpha filter and was able to see excellent detail of a huge Hedge Prominence lifting off the limb. Over the period of observation, the magnetic loops’ shape changed noticeably

28th March

Secondary School visit: For the first time since the Dome has been refubished, a small group of 6 pupils (years 7 to 9) from St John’s Community College came up to the Dome with the group organiser, a teacher and a technician. Earlier in the afternoon, despite high cloud, the Sun had been viewed in the ETX in white light and the sunspots groups in the Solar viewre. The 10 inch was used with the H alpha filter to observe 2 eruptive prominences on the eastern limb. The cloud unfortunatley thickened and by the time of the visit no Solar observaing was possible

20th March

Sun-Earth day lecture: The talk ‘Ancient Astronomies – The importance of the prehistoric sky’ was delivered by CEB, appropriately on the Vernal Equinox itself, to an audience of 40 Friends and visitors in the Ellis Theatre at Marlborough College

17th March

House visit: The last Shell House visit of the academic year took place as 12 pupils from C3 came up to the Dome. Though the sky had clear patches before they came, it clouded over

Next House visit: September

News – 15th March

Tour of Spring Sky: The clouds had closed in by 7pm, 2 Friends however came to visit the Dome for the first time and a CR member also called in

10th March

House visit: C3 Shell House visit was postponed till Thursday 17th

GCSE Observing: 2 Remove pupils and 2 Hundreds pupils came up to the Dome and observed M45 Pleiades and M44 Beehive in Binoculars and for the first evening sighting this year Saturn, Titan and one inner moon in the 10 inch. The rings are more favourable as expected and a shadow could be seen on the main planet

3rd March

House visit: 12 pupils form BH Shell came up to the Dome. The sky was cloudy

Next House visit (last of the academic year): Thursday 16th February (C3)

2nd March

Emergency GCSE observing: 6 Hundreds pupils joined RDM at the Dome in an effort to rescue their GCSE Coursework

GCSE Observing: 7 Hundreds came up to finish coursework. The Full Moon and high moisture levels made for a very bright sky. The Binos were used for M45 and the 15×70 for M42 and the Sword. Star fields were done in the ETX and also details of M42. For the first time in a long time, the 10 inch tracked M81 (Bode’s Nebula) a fine face-on spiral just NE of the Pointers in the Plough. Given the high light levels, once fully dark adapted, the central nucleus and outer spiral region were apparent, at least in peripheral vision

14th February

Emergency GCSE observing: 15 Hundred astronomers joined RDM and CEB at the Dome for an hour’s break in the weather fronts to catch clear patches hoping to complete List B coursework. All 5 binos were in action and the ETX, looking at M45 and M42 and star fields in Orion, Cassiopeia and Ursa Major. The 10 inch tracked M44 Praesaepe or the Beehive open cluster. The cloud closed in before completion leaving more drawings to be done

10th February

House visit: 12 Shell pupils from EL came up to the Dome. The sky was cloudy

Next House visit: Thursday 3rd March (BH)

6th February

MC Family event: With RDM, CEB hosted 80 visitors of whom 42 were children aged 2 to 14 yrs at the Dome in 3 groups from 5.30pm till 9.15pm. The Dome lecture room capacity was pushed to 31, with children on laps. Though the day had been cloudy, some breaks allowed each group to see something. All 5 sets of Binos were in use to view the 11% Moon and then Jupiter and Pleiades. The ETX was also used on Jupiter. Some of the middle group did manage to see M42 the Great Nebula in Orion through the 10 inch.

3rd February

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

Next House visit: Thursday 10th February (EL)

1st February

GCSE observing: Despite thick fog in Town, the Dome had a clear sky above 15 degrees altitude. 12 Hundred pupils and 1 Remove came up to do some frantic coursework drawings. Binoculars were used for M45 and Orion’s sword with M42. The ETX was used for star density fields. M31 was attempted in Binos but the scattered light was really too much. The 10 inch observed M42 and the Trapezium in good detail until Orion was passed the Meridien. Though not a coursework target, the 10 inch then moved to the Eskimo Planetary Nebula in Gemini

27th January

House visit: 11 pupils from B1 Shell came upto the Dome. The sky was cloudy

Next House visit: 3rd February (CO)

20th January


House visit: 11 pupils from C2 Shell came up to the Dome under clear skies. By the time we observed, the sky was largely cloudy and only Jupiter and 3 moons were visible in the ETX


Next House visit: 27th January (B1)

18th January

Academy visit: The first astronomy visit by pupils from Swindon Academy took place on a clear moonlit night. As temperatues fell, 15 pupils and 3 staff from the Academy came up to the Dome to join CEB and then also NMA. The 99% Moon dominated the sky, but cloudless skies allowed M45 Pleiades to be viewed in Binos and the Moon in low power Binos. The ETX was used for Jupiter which had 2 moons easily visible. The 10 inch tracked M42 (Orion Nebula) and the Trapezium in the midst of grey-green nebulosity was a easy target

GCSE observing: 6 Remove and 1 Hundred pupil came up to complete unaided coureswork, with drawings of Orion, Uma and Cassiopeia. A stellar density comparison was also made in the ETX beteen a 1 degree field in Cassiopeia and similar in Uma. 2 adults from the College art department came up at the end of the evening

13th January

House visit: The first visit of the Term saw 11 Shell pupils from NC come up to the Dome. It was cloudy and wet

Next House visit: 20th January (C2)

4th January 2011

Partial Solar eclipse: Having chipped the Dome free of ice, 5 Friends joined CEB as the Sun rose into a cloudy sky. Using Solar goggles and the ETX and 10 inch with solar filters, a minute or so of observation was possible at 0830 UT. The top part of the crescent rose above the cloud and in the 10 inch, the rough edge of the Moon was apparent

13th December


Geminid watch: 11 Remove and 1 Hundreds pupils joined CEB at the Dome. 34 Geminids were seen in 1 hour before the fog closed in. The First Quarter Moon and the Astro light pollution restricted viewing