2012 News

6th December

House visit: 13 members of MM Shell came up to the Dome for the last House visit of the term. Unfortunately it was cloudy


Next House visit: Thursday 10th January (PR)

4th December

GCSE Observing: The first moonless clear nightof the term with falling temperatures brought another hoard to the Dome to join CEB, RDM and DGR. Unfortunately the seeing was poor and some cloud and high moisture made for less than perfect conditions. However, 50 pupils came up to draw constellations and Messier objects, do star counts and just look through the 10 inch. The ETX viewed M42 and then did star counts. The Zeiss Binos were used for M45. The 10 inch first viewed Jupiter then the brightest asteroid Vesta and then, making a very interesting comparison, the larger but dimmer Ceres, ex-asteroid and now the closest minor planet; visibly yellowish and just disc-like. The Eskimo nebula NGC 2392 was then drawn but was poor given the poor seeing, though the nebula surrounding the white dwarf was visible with averted vision. 2 meteors were seen in Uma


29th November

House visit: 11 pupils from NC Shell came up to the Dome in Full moonlight and falling temperatures. The Summer triangle, Plough and Casseiopeia were identified and the Jupiter viewed through first the ETX then the 10 inch. The equatorial storm bands were very clear and the 4 moons with Io noticeably orange


House visit 2: 11 pupils form B1 Shell came up to the Dome as the temperature fell to 4 degrees and repeated the earlier observations

GCSE Observing evening: The largest GCSE observing evening in the years the GCSE has been running here. 55 pupils from Hundred (dong List B) and Remove doing a Constellation drawing practice List A. Projects ranged from drawing Cygnus and Orion and Casseiopeia to circumpolar star trails, stellar density counts in and out of the Galactic plane with the ETX and Messier object drawings. The Pleiades were drawn in Binos and M42 in the 10 inch, which earlier viewed Jupiter. RDM, CEB and DGR who ran the evening were joined also by two other staff members. Somehow all got one if not two or even three drawings done despite the very bright waning Gibbous Moon (only one day off Full) and temperatures reaching -1 by 10pm

22nd November

House visit: 8 Shell pupils from LI came up to the Dome in driving wind and rain


Next House visit: 29th November (NC Studies then B1 in prep)

17th November

Leonids meteor shower: An inauspicious evening with a copious clouds and a few clear patches and temperature of 8 degrees turned by 9pm into the best clear night this autumn, with temperatures falling to 1 degree. 4 optimistic Friends and a colleague from the College came up to the dome. The 10 inch tracked Jupiter and 4 moons. Orange Io was then seen to go into occultation behind the planet. M45 Pleiades, h and chi Persei and M31 Andromeda galaxy were identified by eye along with Fomalhaut. Phone aps also enabled the location of Neptune and Uranus to be found. Castor was split into 2 in the 10 inch after the asteroid Vesta had been seen as a yellowish disc in the 10 inch. In a period of 30 minutes 8 Leonid meteors were seen. 2 in Ursa Minor were bright at -2 magnitude


15th November

House visit: 11 Shell pupils from BH came up to the newly redecorated and re-roofed Dome. The sky was unfortunately cloudy


Next House visit: 22nd November (LI). NC had to be postponed due to the works be incomplete

26th October

Friends Double Stars: Despite a cold, clear forecast the clouds remained. Briefly showing a lunar aureole. 3 new Friends came up hopeful to the Dome and picked their way among stored instruments


22nd October on

Dome painting and internal repairs. External flat roof work: College work started on the Dome to repair damp and water damage and peeling paintwork


8th October

Friends Q&A: A small group of Friends gathered in the Dome for a Q&A session on Mars and its exploration, both past and future 4th October Shell House visit: 10 pupils from IH came up to the Dome. The sky was cloudy


Next House visit: 1st November (NC)

28th September

Sixth Form lecture: CEB gave the lecture ‘Archaeoastronomy – the Dawn of Science’ to 175 6th Form pupils at Berkhamsted School


27th September

Shell House visit: 10 pupils from CO Shell came up to the Dome. The sky was clear though still in twilight. Stars appeared as the sky darkened and Arcturus and Vega identified. Later the Summer Triangle and The Saucepan were seen and Polaris found and Mizar and Alcor viewed by eye. The 94% waxing gibbous Moon made for a very bright sky and was viewed in Binos and ETX. The 10 inch tracked M13 (the Great Globular in Hercules) but this was invisible given the bright sky. An Iridium flare satellite was also seen


Next House visit: 4th October (IH)

GCSE (Remove) Observing: The first GCSE evening of the season saw 35 Remove pupils at the Dome as the cloud cover roled in. All were inrtroduced to the observing details needed and many were able to make a drawing of the 2 degree diameter Lunar Aureole


21st September

Friends annual drinks: Some 35 Friends of the Telescope agathered as usual near the Autumn Equinox to celebrate the 8th anniversary of the group and the milestone of the 200th successful College GCSE Astronomy candidate


8th September

Shropshire Cambridge Society annual Lecture: CEB delivered the lecture ‘Archaeoastronomy – the dawn of Science’ to some 70 Oxbridge alumni and Darwin Society pupils at Shrewsbury School


12th August

Perseid viewing: The sky was basically cloudy. One Friend turned up hopefully. A super ISS pass was seen at magnitude -3.4, before the sky disappeared


25th July

Summer School week 1: 32 guests (!) met at the Porters Lodge and made their way at sunset to the Dome. This huge group consisted of all ages and a spread of nationalities. The near First Quarter Moon was viewed in Binos and the ETX and then stars identified as they appeared. The 10 inch viewed Saturn and all had a couple of chances to view the planet and Titan. Rhea was barely discernable. The Milky Way was clear by 11pm and M31 again located. Mizar A and B were seen by the last guest in the ETX


24th July

Summer School week 1: 9 Summer School guests came up to the Dome as the Sun set on a perfect warm, still, clear evening. The 4 day old Moon was excellent in the Binos and then ETX. Arturus then the Summer Triangle appeared and then Saturn. In the 10 inch Saturn showed its rings but no gaps or surface detail, the twilight was bright and indeed the Dome at 28 degrees caused its own seeing. However Titan and Rhea were visible. As the sky darken and attempt was made to see the Chinese Space Station Tiangong, but again the twilight and trees did not allow this. A polar satellite was however seen. The Milky Way was visible by 11pm and M31 (Andromeda) located as a very faint blur


25th June

Solar observing: A damp Dome was opened to air and the ETX used to view a rather blank Sun (just one sunspot group visible). The 10inch was used with the H-alpha filter to view some small prominences and some good detail of granulation and disturbance near the sunspot group


Past astronomer visit: It was good to welcome back one of the original GCSE class of 1998 to see the restored telescope and refurbished Dome. Sadly the sky had largely clouded over

French exchange visit: 19 pupils and 2 staff from the French Exchange came up to the Dome for a talk and tour. Sadly the sky remained totally cloudy

9th June

Teachers’ workshop: CEB gave the talk ‘Venus’ legacy’ and ran practical workshops for a group of some 15 teachers in conjunction with APPEAL-3 hosted by John Adams Institute, Oxford Physics and CERN


6th June

Venus transit: 14 absurdly optimistic Friends and visitors came up to the Dome for sunrise. Cloud covered the sky, but just before 5.30am the Sun popped out in a small gap in cloud, which coincided with a break in the tree-line and 5 of those present were able to see the ‘black dot’ nearing 3rd contact through the ETX. The NASA website was projected in the Dome for all to watch the transit live from Hawaii. After the transit the 10inch viewed the impressive array of sunspots will cloud closed the session at 6.30am


3rd June

Venus Tranit 2012 outreach activity: CEB ran an activity for families at Green Templeton College Oxford ‘GTC does longitude’ with participants 7yrs and up

28th May

Venus Transit 2012 outreach lecture: CEB gave to lecture ‘Just a black dot?’ in the Martin Wood lecture theatre at the Clarendon laboratory, Oxford University to an audience of some 160 visitors (aged 10 up)


11th April

External lecture: CEB gave the talk ‘Archaeoastronomy – the dawn of Science’ to some 35 members of Cranbrook and District Science and Astronomy Society


26th March

Friends outing: 17 Friends joined CEB for an excellent visit to LOFAR, the new Radio telescope at Chilbolton. The Tour and talk was arrnged through Oxford Astrophysics and we were looked after by 2 Post Grads from the Department


23rd March

Outreach lecture: CEB gave the talk ‘Archaeoastronomy – the dawn of science’ to some 60 members of Bristol Astronomical Society


22nd March

Sun-Earth day lecture: CEB gave the 10th Sun-Earth Day lecture ‘Finding other Earths – the success of exoplanets searches’ to some 35 Friends and visitors in the Ellis Theatre


20th March

Spring Sky observing: As the Sun set due west, Venus then Jupiter appeared in the only gap in cloud. The 10 inch viewed Venus for the first time in a while and showed its half-illuminated phase as it approaches Greatest Eastern Elongation (GEE). The clouds quickly closed in and the evening was abandonned


15th March

Lecture: CEB delivered the talk ‘The oldest GOTO telescope in the World’ to a group of some 30 members of Andover Astronomical Society


1st March

House visit: The last House visit of the academic year took place as 10 pupils form B1 Shell came up to the Dome. Though there was a good deal of moisture and the temprature was mild, the sky was clear and enabled Jupiter and 3 moons to be seen in the ETX and the First Quarter Moon in the binos, with good shadows on the Terminator. The 10 inch turned for the first time to Mars as it approaches Opposition. At 90x and 170x it showed the Northern ice-cap clearly and some darker markings were visible in the central disc


GCSE Observing: 4 Hundreds astronomers came up as the cloud closed in. Just a couple of gaps allowed 2 stellar density measurements and some poor drawings of M42 to take place

23rd February

House visit: 9 pupils from LI Shell came up to the Dome. The sky was cloudy

Next House visit: Thursday 1st March (B1)

17th February

Outreach lecture: CEB gave the talk ‘Archaeoastronomy – the dawn of Science’ to some 25 members of Swindon Stargazers astronomical society

13th February

Astronomy for All lecture: CEB gave the first of the 2012 series ‘Finding other Earths’ to a diverse audience at Green Templeton College Oxford

7th February

GCSE Observing: Despite the bright light of the Full Snow Moon and slight high haze (giving poor seeing) 3 Remove and 11 Hundred pupils came up to the Dome to do final Controlled Assessemnt observations. The extremely low temperature (-4 outside the Dome) meant that drawings were done quickly and efficiently. Binos were used for M45 and Stellar Density counts and the ETX for M42. The 10 inch, for a change, tracked Jupiter and 4 moons. Mars was bright and viewed in the ETX.

6th February

School visit: 11 year 11 pupils (all doing GCSE Astronomy) and 2 staff from Wootton Bassett and a Primary School teacher came up to the Dome. Unfortunately the evening was milder and completely foggy

2nd February

GCSE Observing evening: Despite the Waxing Gibbous Moon, there were no Astro pitch lights and the extreme dry cold made for an excellent observing night. In below-zero temperatures outside the Dome and zero within, 41 pupils engaged in franetic activity. Binos were used for stellar density counts and Lunar feature drawings. M44 Beehive and M45 Pleiades and H and Chi Persei represented the Open Clusters. M42 was viewed and drawn in the 10 inch, though having crosssed the Meridian, the telescope had to be reversed for the latter part of the evening. Remove set up chairs behind the Dome and completed Constellation drawings

House visit: 11 pupils from SU Shell ran up to the Dome to keep warm. They were able to have a tour of the bright objects in the sky, identifying Venus and Jupiter and then viewed M44 cluster in Binos and Jupiter with its 4 moons in order strung out in a line to the side. The 10 inch gave a super view of the Orion nebula

Next House visit: Thursday 23rd February (LI)

30th January

School visit: 7 yr13 Physics pupils and 2 staff from Wootton Bassett School came to the Dome. High cloud increased during the visit as the temperature fell to 1 degree in the Dome. Jupiter was viewed in the ETX and showed Ganymede only, though Callisto emerged from behind the disc during the evening. Io and Europe were in Occultation. M45 was viewded in the Binos. The 10 inch tracked M42 and then moved to first split Castor and then view the centre of M44 Praesepe cluster

26th January

House visit: 11 pupils from C1 Shell came up to the Dome. Arriving in rain the sky then cleared to reveal the setting crescent Moon and Venus. Jupiter and 4 moons was viewed in the ETX and M45 Pleiades in Binos. The 10 inch showed a good view of the Trapezium in M42

Next House visit: Thursday 2nd February (SU)

GCSE Observing: A couple of Remove pupils and a handful of Hundred came up to the Dome as the skies cleared to complete coursework. Binos were used for M45 drawing and Algol observations. The ETX viewed M31 though the moisture levels were a problem. The 10 inch allowed good drawing of M42, though as it had crossded the Meridian time was limited. M44 the Beehive cluster was then drawn. Binos were also used for star counts parallel to and perpendicular to the MW plane. Several meteors were seen including a lovely -3 fireball passing straight through the Square of Pegasus

23rd January

House visit: Unusually for a Monday, 10 pupils from C2 Shell came up to the Dome. The night was clear though the cloud to the North prevented any possible sightings of the Aurora seen elsewhere in England. The ETX looked at Jupiter and the Binos at M45. The 10 which tracked M42 Orion nebula

Next House visit: Thursday 26th January (C1)

19th January

House visit: 8 pupils from PR Shell came up to the Dome. Arriving in rain, the sky cleared enough during the hour to see Pleiades through Binos, Jupiter and 3 moons in the ETX. Cloud and rain then descended again before the 10 inch could be used

Next House visit: Monday 23rd January (C2)

17th January

House visit: 12 Shell from MM came up to the Dome. Some stars were visible though the humidity was high and skyglow rendered limiting magnitude only around 1.5 and seeing was IV+, nevertheless, M45 Pleiades were viewed in Binos. The 10 inch briefly viewed Castor and split it into 2 only

Next House visit: Thursday 19th January (PR)

16th January

Stargazing Live event: The planned ‘Bring your own Binos’ evening for once hit perfect weather. The temperature had dropped, but de-icer stopped the problems of Dome freezing found last Saturday. The sky was clear, if affected by the astro lights in the South. A group of some 25 Friends and visitors, including staff from the College and several who had not been into the Dome, including several young. A reporter from BBC Wiltshire joined in from the start and as well as recording Dome sounds was able to interview many present. The ETX, 4 inch, and 4 sets of Binos on tripods were in action. Targets included Jupiter and its moons, Pleiades, M31 Andromeda, M44 Beehive Cluster and M42 Orion nebula. The 10 inch gave superb views of M42 with great detail of the gas cloud bright green-grey and the Trapezium then turned to the Eskimo Nebula. Though the seeing was not perfect, the white dwarf and the shell of expanding gas could readily be seen in this planetray nebula. Lastly the 10 inch turned to Castor and split the star into 3, possibly 4 components of the multiple system. Though many visitors had gone the last few were treated to the first sighting this winter of Mars rising bright red in the East. A very successful evening for all

14th January

GCSE Observing: A special visit was made to the Dome for a piece of GCSE Conrolled Assessment. The sky was clear for just long enough to catch Europa in transit (very hard to discern) and Ganymede emrging from Occultation in both ETX and 10 inch. The temperature had fallen quickly in the afternoon and the Dome had to be chipped free using a hammer and de-icer

12th January

House visit: 14 Shell from MO came up to the Dome. Though high cloud increased skyglow, there was plenty to see. Pleiades in Binos, Jupiter and 4 moons in ETX and M42 in the 10 inch

Next House visit: Tuesday 17th January (MM)

GCSE Observing: With Hundred doing mock revision it was a good evening for Remove to continue Constellation drawing. 12 pupils came up and many drawings were made, particularly of Orion and Casseopeia. 2 bright meteors were seen and the waning Gibbous Moon has a fine aureole as it rose at 9pm

3rd January

Quadrantid meteor shower: A small group of Friends and College staff gathered at the Dome on a cold clear but moonlit evening. The waxing gibbous Moon was viewed in Binos and Jupiter and its 4 moons in the ETX. The 10 inch gave a super view of the Orion Nebula M42. In the 90 minutes before clouds came in from the NW 5 metors were seen, one a sporadic. Not a great shower, but were were some 8 hours before the predicted peak. One however was a -5 magnitude bright green fireball io the NW which broke up as it descended, this made the evening

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