2014 News

13th December

Geminid meteor watching: With temperatures falling to -4 and before the waning Gibbous Moon rose, groups of Staff, Friends, external visitors and families gathered from 8pm till 11.15pm under largely clear skies. Over 50 people took part and rates of Geminids climbed from 20 an hour to 30 then over 50. At the end there was a minute in which 8 were seen. In total over 159 were recorded and well over 160 seen. The meteors were fairly uniform with most at magnitude +1 but a few bright and unusual meteors were seen. The Binos allowed a good view of M42 (Pleiades) and the 10 inch tracked first M45 (Orion Nebula) and then Jupiter seen for the first time in the evening this autumn. Intially only 3 moons were visible but soon all four, unusually Io was the furthest out apparently. M31 was found by eye and Constellations identified


5th December

GCSE Observing: Period 6 was cancelled at the last minute as the sky cleared for the first time in months. 9 Remove and 3 Hundreds astronomers came up to the Dome with NMA and CEB. The Remove started their first mock List A Controlled Assessment drawings of Constellations and the 3 Hundreds started their List B observations doing star counts in (Sadr – gamma Cyg) and out (Megrez – delta UMa and Phad – gamma UMa)of the Galactic plane, using ETX, Zeiss binos and 10×50 Celestrons


4th December

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


Next House visit: Thursday 8th January

27th November

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


Next house visit: Thursday 4th December (CO)

25th November

House visit: 11 pupils from C2 Shell came up to the Dome on a miserable wet night


Next House visit: Thursday 27th November (PR)

20th November

House visit: 11 Shell pupils and a House Tutor from C3 came up to the Dome. The sky was cloudy


Next House visit: Tuesday 25th November (C2)

11th November

House visit: 13 Shell pupils from MO came up to the Dome in heavy rain. Luckily the walk back was drier. The Dome could not be opened


Next House visit: Thursday 20th (C3)

6th November

House visit: 15 MM Shell and their U6 Head of Shell came up to the Dome in light drizzle. The sky was totally cloudy and orange with skyglow


Next House visit: Tuesday 11th November (MO)

21st October

Orionids: A very small group of Friends and 2 of the Security team braved falling temperatures and were rewarded by superb clearing skies. Probabaly the best this year. The Milky Way was prominent and M31 visible at its true extent of 3 degrees on the sky. M45 Pleiades were viewed in the Binos. The 10 inch viewed Mizar A and B with discernable different colours. Around 10 Orionids were seen altogether during the evening and a couple of bright sporadics


7th October

Shell House visit: 12 pupils from NC came up to the Dome in falling temperatures and good clear, but very bright skies. The 99% Full Moon made all but the brightest objects invisible. The Moon and its Mare were viewed in Binos and ETX, with Tycho being particualrly prominent. The 10 inch was used to beutiofully resolve Mizar A and B the Binary system of 14 inch separation (some 400 AU). Most were able to see the different colours of Blue and Gold. A good meteor in UMa was also seen


GCSE Onbserving: Due to the timing and Full Moon only one Remove pupil came up to the Dome to join NMA and CEB. He was rewarded by the occurence (on time) of a very bright iridium flare. The Moon was again viewed and Mizar A and B in the 10 inch

Next House visit: Thursday 6th November (MM)

6th October

Friends Qand A: A select group of Friends gathered for a themed evening on the Rosetta mission. The aim was to be fully briefed in advance of the planned landing of Philae on 12th November


2nd October

Shell House visit: The first visit of the academic year saw 12 pupils from SU Shell came up to the Dome. The Moon was viewed in Binos and the 10 inch, which also followed M13, but very little more than a blur was seen


GCSE Observing: 3 Remove astronomers came up despite slight mist and scattered cloud. The First Quarter Moon was viewed in Binos and the ETX and M13 (Globular in Hercules) in the 10 inch though no detail could be made out. The 10 inch then slewed to Neptune and then Uranus. Both planets showed a steady light but little colour could be seen

30th September

GCSE observing: NMA took charge of the Dome and 5 Remove astronomers were able to see ‘first light’ through the new 8 inch Smith, which as expected showed M31 (Andromeda) very well


26th September

Friends drinks: A very enjoyable 10th anniversary drinks was held at the Dome (for the first time in many years) The warm evening allowed a good group of both new and founding Friends to chat outside and then head in as the evening cooled. Two particular items were celebrated: a) The successful production of a crop of space-tomatoes, which have been dispersed among the Friends groups and interested College staff. We look forward to some of the seeds producing the next generation and b) This summer we passed the 250th GCSE astronomy pupil in the 17 years it has run at the College. With stats of over 50% A* grades, over 90% A*/A and 100% pass rate. For those that lingered Neptune was viewed, though the evening was not dark enough to allow real colour to be claimed


22nd September

Friends Outer planets: As the Equinox approached a group of both new and retuning Friends gathered at the dome in the twilight. Autumn asterisms were identified and M31 viewed in Binos. Several satellites (including an Iridium flare at -3 magnitude) were seen and a couple of bright meteors. The ETX then viewed M31 and then M13 in Hercules. As the sky darkened, the 10 inch located Neptune and its steady light was readily identified. Colour estimates varied from grey-blue to lilac. Uranus was the final target and its disc showed colours estimated from turquoise to green-blue to grey-yellow. A successful start to the Friends events diary


18th September

External Lecture: CEB gave the lecture ‘Archaeoastronomy -The dawn of Science’ to Andover Astronomical Society


16th September

External visit: The observatory received an unexpected and very welcome donation from Mrs Vera Smith, who travelled from Kent with her husband to donate a fine brand new 8 inch Newtonian telescope. This motorised wide aperture instrument will be a super addition to the ‘arsenal’


GCSE Observing: The first observing night of the year was held, with clearish skies (though high cloud) and poor seeing and a high level of skyglow in the South. Asterisms were identified by eye. Binos were used to view Mizar and Alcor and then Andromeda galaxy M31. The ETX viewed and split Mizar A and B. The 10 inch tracked the Great globular in Hercules, though the twilight meant the object was not very clear. 6 Remove astronomers attended

6th September

Shell Form visit: 12 pupils from CAC’s Shell Form came up to the Dome. The sky was cloudy


11th August

Perseids meteor shower: A small group of Friends came up on a chillier night and clouds cleared to attempt to spot some Persieds. The Full super-Moon made all but the brightest and northern sky meteors visible. In an hour and a half 7 Perseids, a couple at magnitude -2 were seen and two bright sporadics. The 10 inch viewed the edge of the 98 percent Moon showing good detail in limb craters


29th July

Summer School week 3: Some 30 guests joined CEB and JAG at the Dome. The sky was sadly cloudy, though annoyingly t cleared once all had left at 11.30pm


24th July

Summer School week 2: Some 35 guests joined CEB and JAG at the Dome on perhaps the warmest night in memory, even at 11.30pm. Scattered cloud interupted viewing but Mars was seen in the 10 inch with the ice-cap making one hemisphere brighter and the Saturn was viewed with Titan and one other moon fairly easily seen. The viewing was not ideal given the twilight and the warmth and hence poor Seeing. Several satellites were seen and the Milky Way was faintly visible


21st June

Solstice observing: A small group of Friends and College staff gathered late on a superbly clear and warm evening. Though some whispy cloud closed in, the string of targets in the South afforded some firsts for those assembled. Mars was very bright and clearly showed it gibbous phase with 15 percent or so missing and clearly not spherical. A hint of dark features could also be believed in the top hemisphere. Saturn was very clear and showed some banding. The Cassini Division was clear and with Titan bright on one, side as the sky darkened, 4 more moons became visible. Rhea and Dione near the planet and harder to see Tethys and much further away from the planet Iapetus onthe opposire side to Titan. Vesta was viewed and, though only 1 second of arc, could be resolved as a disc. Ceres, though larger in actual diameter as the closest Dwarf Planets, is further and nearly 3 times dimmer and was barely resolved, though its image was steady and not starlike


15th May

Solar open day: A small group including an OM and family and some staff and family and Friends of the telescope attended the Dome and in, sunny pathces, were able to view the Sun through solar goggles, the solar scope (which showed 8 sunspot groups) and then in H-alpha using the 10 inch which showed a number of large quiescent prominences. The disc itself showed fine detail and large disturbed regions (light coloured plages) around spot 2060


6th May

Prep School evening: CEB held a Q and A evening ‘To infinity and Beyond’ for 60 scholarship form pupils at Windlesham House School in West Sussex


3rd April

Sun-Earth Day lecture: CEB gave the 12th S-E day lecture ‘Close Encounters-Misunderstanding Comets’ to a small audience of Friends and visitors


20th March

TomatoSphere at Marlborough College: Following the launch (planting) of our 30 space tomato seeds, the first germination (two leaves) were recorded today. At the end of term a number of pairs of seeds (0ne control) will be placed with ‘guardians’ for the holidays. Read the story at http://www.marlboroughcollege.org/news/view-all/article/date/2014/03/canadian-space-agency-tomatosphere-project/


External visit: 17 L6 pupils and 2 teachers from Ecole Jules Verne (just south of Paris) came up to the Dome as part of their French Exchange visit. Sadly the evening was cloudy and wet

8th March

National Astronomy Week event: The evening was clear and mild. The NAW event was advertised widely on internet and radio and combined with the planned Friends ‘Spring Sky’ event brought visitors from a wide geographical area. Some 70 came up to the dome of all ages, some very little. Bright stars were identified. With RDMs help 2 ETX 105s were in operation, looking at Jupiter, the First Quarter Moon and Orion nebula. Binos looked at the Pleiades. The 10 inch initially viewed the Moon with a filter and showed super detail, especially near Cassini and Mt Piton being illuminated on the dark side of the Terminator. After Culmination, Jupiter was followed in the western sky and showed increasinglty more bands during the evening. Orange Io closed with the planet as we observed and went into Occultation at 10pm. Mars was seen to rise at 9.30pm and was viewed for the first time this year in the ETX


6th March

House visit: The last House visit of the academic year took place with 12 Shell pupils from SU coming up to the Dome. The sky was cloudy and lit by the skyglow of the sports pitches and Rugby Club training lights


Next House visit will be in September

5th March

Natioanl Astronomy Week event: CEB gave the last 2014 Astronomy for All lecture ‘Close encounters- misunderstanding comets’ to some 40 academics and visitors at Green Templeton College, Oxford


4th March

GCSE Observing: RDM ran a final observation session for a group of Hundreds prior to the start of the Controlled Assessment Analysis


1st March

External visit: 32 pupils accompanied by 3 teachers from St Francis School (years 5 to 7) came up to the Dome in two groups. The first, as the Sun set, watched first Jupiter then the stars come out in order of brightness. Despite the twilight, Jupiter was viewed well in the 10 inch and 4 moons and 4 cloud bands easily seen. The second group had a darker sky and saw a couple of satellites. Jupiter now showed 6 bands and orange Io was seen to close with Jupiter ready to pass behind the planet. The Pleiades were viewed in the Binos. By 8pm the sky had clouded over


Solar observing: The 10 inch viewed the Sun for the first time in a while and the plethora of sunspots was seen, including the active groups which have given rise to the recent flares

27th February

House visit: 12 pupils from MM came up to the Dome. The sky was patchy and seeing poor but gaps in the clouds allowed viewing of Pleiades through Binos and the Jupiter was well seen with several cloud bands in the 10 inch. A satellite and bright meteor were also seen. Sadly the sky had clouded by 9pm and no Aurorae were visible


Next house visit: Thursday 6th March (SU)

13th February

House visit: 11 pupils from C3 Shell accompanied by a House Tutor came up to the Dome. The temperature was falling and during the visit the sky briefly cleared. Though very bright, due to the Full Moon, they were able to observe Jupiter and its 4 moons in the ETX and M45 Pleiades in Binos. The 10 inch tracked M82 and SN2014J and though both galaxy and SN were very dim they could be made out reasonably well


Emergency GCSE Observing: 2 Hundreds pupils successfully finished List B observations before the cloud closed in again. One drawing SN2014J and the other doing stellar density counts

Next House visit: Thursday 27th (MM)

10th February

Emergency GCSE observing: 17 Hundreds pupils came up to attempt to complete List B observations. The 10 inch tracked M82 and the supernova (which had visibly dimmed since last Sunday). Other targets were M45, M42. The Moon made condidtions rather bright and there was more moisture in the air. The sky was clear from 6.30pm but had clouded by 8.15pm


9th February

Emergency GCSE observing: 16 Hundreds pupils seized the opportunity of a 90 minute break in the clouds with good clarity to finish coursework drawings. The Binos were used for M42 and the ETX for M45 and starcounts. Several pupils brought up their own cameras for Constellation photography. The waxing Gibbous Moon made the sky rather light and encroaching clouds increased the sense of urgency. A couple of bright meteors were seen including one in the 10 inch. The 10 inch tracked M82 and SN2014J, which was noticealby dimmer than 7 days ago. It still made a good target for the Messier drawers. By 7.45pm the sky was completely overcast


7th February

External visit: 6 pupils and their accompanying teacher from 2 schools in the Peoples’ Republic of China (Beijing No. 8 High School and WLSA: The High School attached to Fudan University) came up to the Dome on an unusually clear afternoon. The Sun was first viewed in solar goggles and then in the 10 inch with the white light filter. The huge sunspot group 1967 was easily seen


6th February

House visit: 10 pupils from PR Shell came up to the Dome in the rain


Next House visit: Thursday 13th February (C3)

4th February

House visit: 10 Shell pupils (IH) came up to the Dome in high winds and rain


Next House visit: Thursday 6th February (PR)

3rd February

Open evening: The weather forecast was right and by 7.30pm the clouds had closed in. Sadly the supernova and M82 were visible as the Dome was opened, but by the time a couple of College staff and children and a small group of new Friends had gathered it was totally cloudy and spitting with rain


2nd February

SN 2014J viewing: First NJB then a group of Friends came up to the Dome, given the very clear evening. M45 was viewed in Binos and Jupiter in ETX. The main focus however was to view the new supernova SN2014J in the 10 inch. M82 was clear and the supernova easy to identify. Its magnitude was estimated to be just brighter than +11


23rd January

House visit: 7 pupils form LI Shell came up to the Dome. Sadly it was cloudy. An attempt was also made earlier in the evening to view the 2 day old supernova in M82 but the clouds closed in just too soon


Next house visit Tuesday February 4th (IH)

15th January

House visit: 8 pupils from CO Shell came up to the Dome. The sky was cloudy, though frustratingly cleared in patches as they left


Next House visit: Thursday 23rd January (LI)

14th January

House visit: The second visit by new L6th pupils, this time from CO, LI and PR took place and 21 pupils came up to the Dome. Sadly the sky was cloudy and indeed the night was miserable and damp but a profitable hour was spent learning about the Observatory


3rd January

Quadrantids: For once the weather prediction was accurate and a 2.5 hour window in the awful weather gave clear skies, though with poor Seeing and at times 30% cloud with lightning lighting up the northern and southern horizons. 35 Quadrantids were seen by a group of 12 visitors; Friends and College families, including 5 children, from 6 yrs up. The setting crescent Moon was first viewed in Binos then Pleiades (M45). The ETX was used to view M42 Orion Nebula and then Jupiter and its 4 moons, with Io very orange and close to the main planet. The Milky Way and the northern cross (Cygnus) was unusually clear and Andromeda M31 easily seen by eye