2017 News

16th December

Winter Sky tour: A small group of more experienced observer Friends risked poor condidtioons but were rewarded by clear skies and the best observing this winter. The evening turned into a tour of Open Clusters and many Messier objects were viewed for the first time with distance and magnitudes, shapes and colours being easilycompared. The 10 inch was calibrated on M42, which showed good detail. M45 was viewed in Binos. The 10 inch then moved to M78 in Orion and Alnitak was just resolved with averted vision. The Rosette nebula NGC2244 was seen for the first time by eye with the very orange star 12 Mon. Next M35 in Gemini was identified with NGC2158. Next M37 in Auriga then M36 (Pinwheel, though more of a spider-crab) and M38 Starfish (clearly identifiable with a central star and multiple arm structure). Castor was easily split (both CasA and B white, though one slightly warmer white) We ended with M1 (Crab). The sky clouded at 10pm.


7th December

External visit: DGR and NMA hosted another group of pupils from Swindon Academy at the Dome. The sky was patchy but strting to clear


House visit: 14 Shell pupils from EL came up to the Dome. The Pleiades were viewed in Binos and M57 Ring Nebula in 10 inch. M31 was seen by eye and the Milky Way identified

Next House visit: Thursday 11th January (IH)

GCSE Obesrving: 3 Hundred pupils and 3 Remove came up to the Dome under the first properly clear skies for months. The Seeing was poor however and the sky bright, despite the Moon being absent till just before 9pm. Star counts were done in ETXs and M45 drawn on Binos and M57 in 10 inch. Photographs were taken of M45, M31 and M42. Remove drawings were made of Cygnus, Umi and Orion. One early Geminid was seen

5th December

External visit: NMA hosted another group from Swindon Academy. The sky was cloudy


30th November

House visit: 11 Shell pupils and a tutor from DA came up to the Dome. It was cold and cloudy but frustratingly the sky cleared in patches as the group left


Next House visit: Thursday 7th December (EL)

28th November

Blackett Science Lecture: The 13th annual lecture was given by Professor Katherine Blundell FRAS, OBE of Oxford University Astrophysics Department. A large audience of astronomy, physics and interested pupils from all year groups, Friends of the Telescope and pupils from local Academies gathered to hear an excellent talk on ‘Black Holes and spin-offs’. Her amazing international ‘Global Jet Watch’ project in 5 girls’ schools on different continents, was also illustrated. It was fitting that the talk was on the 50th anniversary of the discovery of Pulsars by Jocelyn Bell (now Professor Dame Jocelyn Bell-Burnell) who gave the inaugural Blackett Lecture in 2005


23rd November

External visit: A group of 27 yr5 pupils from Swindon Academy, accompanied by four members of staff, visited. The weather prevented them from the viewing the night sky


External visit: 16 members of Marlborough Scout pack visted with their leader and treasurer. The evening was wet and cloudy

House visit: 12 pupils from C3 Shell came up to the Dome. The evening was mild and wet

Next House visit: Thursday 30th November (DA)

25th November

External visit:25 year 5 pupils from the Swindon Academy, accompanied by two of their teaching assistants came up to the Dome. NMA and DGR were in charge. The weather, unfortunately, was cloudy


17th November

Leonids watch: 10 Friends including, 4 from Oxford came up to the Dome, optimistic about the weather. From clear skies and no Moon at 8.15pm the clouds closed in till nothing was visible by 9pm. 6 meteors were seen and M57 viewed by some in 10 inch. The evening was then abandonned


16th November

House visit: 11 pupils from C2 Shell and a Tutor coame up to the Dome in clearing skies. Major asterisms were pointed out and 2 early Leonids seen. M45 (Pleiades) was viewed in Binos and M57 (Ring Nebula) in 10 inch


Next House visit : Thursday 23rd November (C3)

GCSE Observing: The first full observing evening with a clear sky took pace with all 4 Hundred and 8 of the Remove attending. Despite the lack of Moon, the sky was very bright due to the scattered light of the sports pitches combined with the 64% humidity. Drawing projects of Umi and Cygnus were undertaken and Messier drawings of M45 and M57. Star counts in the MW were also attempted and some photography of M45 and M31 (Andromeda galaxy)

12th Novemeberr

GCSE Remove observing: DGR gathered Remove set 1 at the Dome under hazy clear skies (sadly a good deal of skyglow). Drawings of Cygnus were made and magnitude estimates practiced


7th NovemberHouse visit: 10 pupils from CO came up to the Dome. It was wet and mild


Next House visit: Thursday 16th November (C2)

4th November

Prep School lecture: CEB gave the talk ‘Stars, planets and wormholes’ to a packed theatre of yr 5 to 8 at Pinewood School


OM day: CEB hosted 2 groups of OMs for 45 minutes each at the Dome as part of the OM day. 32 leavers ranging from 1947 to 2010 attended. Sadly it was cloudy

2nd November

External visit: 10 members of the 1st Broughton Gifford Explorer Scouts aged from 14 to 18 yrs and 2 Leaders came up to the Dome. Sadly it was cloudy


House visit: 11 pupils from C1 Shell came up to the Dome for their visit

Next House visit: Tuesday 7th November (CO)

31st October

House visit: An unexpected Shell House visit took place as 11 pupils from SU (scheduled for March 2018) came up to the Dome. Sadly the light of the waxing Gibbous Moon combined with high levels of moisture made the sky very bright. Polaris and Cassiopeia could be identified and the Summer Triangle. The Moon was viewed in Binos


Next House visit: Thursday 2nd November (C1)

6th to 13th October

World Space Week: CEB represented the Royal Astronomical Society, lecturing alongside an ISS astronaut, NASA historian and the Commercial Director of Virgin Galactic. Planetarium shows and night-sky observing also attracted large audiences


3rd October

House visit: 12 Shell pupils from BH came up to the Dome. Sadly it was cloudy


Next House visit: Thursday 2nd November (C1)

28th September

House Shell visit: The first House visit of the academic year took place with 10 pupils from B1 coming up to the Dome. Some bright stars and the Summer Triangle were visible between extensive high cloud and the First Quarter Moon was viewed in the Binos and ETX


Next House visit: Tuesday 3rd October (BH)

22nd September

Friends 13th annual drinks: On the Autumnal Equinox, 30 or so of the outreach group Friends of the Marlborough Telescope gathered at the dome for the annual drinks party. It was good to see both new members and stalwarts there


13th September

External visit: The chairman of the Friends outreach group and his wife and 3 distiguished Radio astronomers for the Oxford Astrophysics sub-Department visited the Dome. Gaps in the cloud allowed views of mature sunspot 2680 throug h the 10 inch


28th to 29th August

UK Astronomy Olympiad Team training camp: The 6 finalists (aged 16-18) of the British Astronomy and Astrophysics Olympiad (BAAO) competition, who will provide the 5 members of the UK team for the 11th International Olympiad on Astronomy and Astrophysics (IOAA) to be held in Phuket, Thailand in November came with one of the Team Leaders to the Observatory for 2 days and nights of training with CEB (2015 and 2016 Team Leader). In the afternoon the sky was sunny and clear and we were able to view the Sun in solar goggles and then the ETX and the 10 inch with white light filters. The mature spot 2672 and a group of small spots were clearly seen. After afternoon training, at 9pm, the Observatory opened for 6 hours of solid observing and testing/training with naked-eye, binocular and telescope tasks. Many individual targets were viewed and M13 and M45 drawn. The 10 inch was in action for magnitude comparison questions and field of view/object size comparison. Targets included M29 (Cooling Tower) Open Cluster and M57 Ring Nebula. Uranus and Neptune were also viewed. The evening remained warm and clear though humidity was very high and the scattered light prevented a really dark sky. By 2am the Pleiades were high in the sky and the Milky Way very clear. Several bright meteors were seen including a few in the 10 inch. The second night was cloudy but hours were instead spent tackling problems and studying star maps and sky projections.


21st August USA Eclipse: CEB (accompanied by NJB) co-led an Alumni Tour from Oxford and Cambridge to view the Great 2017 US Eclipse. Having travelled 1700 miles from Arizona through Utah to Wyoming, the group of 40 watched from a private venue in Jackson Hole WY below the Teton mountains. We had 2 minutes and 19 seconds of Totality in a clear sky. The Moon’s shadow was filmed travelling at 2000 mph and also the shadow band ‘snake’ phenomenon. The Corona was Y shaped but not extensive and no Coronal shadow was seen. Animal disquiet and confusion was observed in both cows and geese and the temperature fell by some 12 degrees. Venus dominated the dark sky and Mars and Jupiter, Regulus and Sirius were seen


12th August

Perseid meteor shower: A perfect night until the waning gibbous Moon caused too much light pollution. A group of Friends gather at the Dome and recoreded exactly 100 Perseids in just over 2 hours. 6 Fireballs were seen and also the Iridium flare forecast at 23.33


Youngest Friend visit: The youngest member of the Friends of the Telescope (4 yrs old) and his father visited the Dome in the afternoon. In breaks in the cloud we were able to observe the Sun with solar goggles and then in the ETX with a white light filter. The fading large sunspot 2670 was clearly visible 1

2nd August

Summer School week 4: Despite rain and cloud a group of 20 guests aged 9 yrs and up came up to the Dome with CEB. Even with the poor conditions the evening lasted 1.5 hours


26th July

Summer School week 3: A group of seven Summer School students attended the Observatory Tour, hosted by GKWJ and JB. Unfortunately conditions were poor, with total cloud cover and an increasing wind. The visitors were shown the Cooke 10 inch. The gathering then enjoyed an illustrated cosmic journey from the Sun to M109, using photographs taken by GKWJ from his back garden observatory, Marlborough. Baby Campo also made an appearance


25th July

Summer School course: GKWJ and JAG accompanied a group of five to the Dome; three more students from the Back Garden Astronomy course along with two of their family members. The evening started with a look at Jupiter through the 10 inch, two small refractors and a 5 inch Celestron NexStar. Unsurprisingly the 10 inch offered the finest views. All four Galilean moons were on display. The ISS made a pass at 22:13 to 22:19 rising to 36º at mag -2.7. The next target in all telescopes was Saturn. Seeing was obviously poorer than the previous night with bands of cloud passing by, though the rings of Saturn were perfectly defined and a suggestion of the Cassini Division was noted. A tour of the constellations was enjoyed, finishing with especial interest in the Mizar / Alcor double star system. M13 in Hercules was then observed with the 5 inch, where it presented as an obvious concentrated swarm of stars in the eyepiece. The evening finished with an overhead pass of the ISS, at 23:49 to 23:56 at 89º and mag -3.1, having completed its full orbit in around an hour and a half, travelling at about 5 miles per second. The clearest skies were as the party departed


24th July

Summer School course: A group of five students from the Back Garden Astronomy course visited the Dome accompanied by GKWJ and JAG. Various small telescopes and binoculars were set up outside through which Jupiter and Saturn were observed. The two planets were also viewed in the 10 inch, where all four Galilean moons of Jupiter were seen and two moons of Saturn, Rhea and Titan, were unconfidently identified. The Cassini Division was quite clear to the trained eye. The sky was significantly clearer than it has been for the past few weeks and the New Moon gave great darkness. An ISS pass was enjoyed at 23:05 to 23:12, reaching mag -3.2 at 52º in the South. The students were given a tour around the main asterisms while the Milky Way became clearer as the night darkened. To finish, M31, The Andromeda Galaxy, was located with the binoculars, though it took some skill to discern the fuzzy patch as it was still low in the East


15th June

External visit: 13 year 7 pupils (all boys) and 2 members of staff came up to the Dome for some Solar viewing. The clear sky allowed the Sun to be seen first with Solar goggles then in the Solarscope and the in the ETX with a white-light filter and then in the 10″ with a white-light filter. Not only could the mature spot 2662 be seen with umbra and penumbra but a new active group 2663 was evident near the centre of the disc


13th June

External visit: 16 year 7 pupils (all girls) and their teacher from Swindon Academy grammar stream came up to the Dome for Solar observing. The Sun was viewed in solar goggles then the Solarscope and then ETX with white light filter. Finally in the 10 inch with the white light filter which showed the new Sunspot 2662 on the Eastern limb. The Master and his wife also made a suprise visit


26th May

Jupiter photography: JAG and Gavin James spent several hours attempting images of Jupiter


23rd May

International visit: 6 pupils and their teacher from Bishop Coton School in Shimla, Northern India came up to the Dome in the afternoon. The Sun was viewed in goggles and then in the SolarScope and ETX


12th May

External talk: JAG and Gavin James gave a talk in Alderney, at the Alderney Museum, on ‘Back Garden Astronomy. There was a good audince of 34 locals attending. The talk was given to encourage the Island’s Campaign for Dark Sky srtatus, recently gained by neighbouring Sark


Royal Astronomical Society AGM: At the meeting in the Geological Society lecture theatre CEB was elected Vice President(A) for a two year term. Professor Ian Crawford was elected Vice President(G)

27th April

Royal Society Presentations and Awards: CEB joined Sandor Kruk and other members of the BAAO committee for the Reception and Presentations at the Royal Society to the medal winning team from the 10th International Olympiad in India last December. The newly selected team of 5 and a reserve were also present as they start preparing for the 2017 IOAA in Phuket, Thailand in November. Professor Chris Lintott was there to give the prizes of certificates, books and binoculars and then delivered a talk to a large audience on the possibility of Alien life


7th April

RAS Open meeting: CEB delivered the last of 4 talks at the April open meeting of the Royal Astronomical Society in the Geologicl Society’s lecture room on Piccadilly. The talk, presented to a diverse audience of distiguished professonal astronomers, was titled The British Astronomy and Astrophysics Olympiad – from inception to International success


6th April

BAAO Selection Camp: CEB joined the other UK Team Leader Sandor Kruk and other Tutors in Oxford on the 3rd day of the British Astronomy and Astrophysics Olympiad selection Camp. 11 year 12 pupils had performed suficiently well in the BAAO papers to attend 4 days of lectures, tests and observing held in the Astrophysics Department in Oxford. CEB delivered a talk on Telescopes and Optics which followed an inspirational address by Professor Bob Williams who was visiting from STSci (ex-President of IAU and the inspiration behind the Hubble Deep Field image) After supper in Jesus, the group gathered on the 6th floor to observe by eye and then with binoculars and telescopes. Bright stars were identified and the Moon and Jupiter viewed in detail. A good ISS pass was also seen. The team of 5 and a reserve will be decided before the end of the week and they will then recieve further training before representing the UK at the 11th International Olympiad on Astronomy and Astrrophysics in Phuket, Thailand in November


3rd to 5th April

Friends trip to EGO: 17 Friends of the Telescope joined CEB for a 3 day trip to Pisa. The focus of the visit was a morning and lunch at the European Gravitational Observatory (EGO) and the Virgo Interferometer facility. We were given a superb talk and tour and are now well briefed and excited about the next Gravitational Wave discovery. We felt very lucky to have seen the Observatory at this early phase of Advanced Virgo


1st April

External visit: JAG and Gavin James hosted members of JAG’s family. In gaps between the clouds Mars and Jupiter were seen by eye and the brighter stars as they appeared. The Moon was viewed in Binos and ETXand the M42 in the 10 inch followed by Eskimo Nebula


21st March

15th Sun-Earth lecture: The annual Vernal Equinox lecture was given by CEB. Titled ‘Dreamtime in Neolithic Britain’, the talk was given in Science Lecture Room 3 and attended by some 40 pupils and Friends of The telescope


20th March

External visit: A small group of businessmen from Sarsen Technology and Roke Manor came up to the Dome in a clear 2 hour slot. M45 was viwed in Binos and then, for the first time this year, Jupiter in ETX, though at very low altitude. The 10 inch tracked the Orion nebula


9th March

House visit: 10 pupils form PR Shell came up to the Dome for the last House visit of the academic year. The sky was cloudy though a faint lunar halo was seen on arival. A couple of breaks in the cloud gave glimpses of Orion and Sirius


Next House visit: September 2017

4th March

Charity Evening: The Observatory was the venue for a winning auction bid from the Sheriffs’ Ball in London last autumn, which raised money for Type 1 Diabetes. 14 visitors came to the Dome in apparently poor weather and only the Moon could be glimpsed at the start. As the evening went on the sky cleared so that the Moon and Pleiades could be viewed in Binos and the Orion nebula seen first in the ETX and then in the 10 inch. The 10 inch was also used to view the waxing Moon at low and then high magnification


2nd March

House visit: 10 Shell pupils from C2 and a House Tutor came up to the Dome. The clouds conveniently parted and allowed M45 (Pleiades) to be viewed in Binos and the crescent Venus in ETX. The 10 inch tracked the Eskimo Nebula


Next House visit: Thursday 9th March (PR)

GCSE Observing: One Hunded pupil came up to use the 8 inch Smith to take images of Lunar features at this early phase

23rd February

House visit: 10 Shell pupils from EL came up to the Dome. The temperature had fallen and the skies cleared. M45 was viewed in Binos and then Venus as a Crescent in the ETX. The 10 inch tracked the Eskimo Planetary Nebula


Next House visit: Thursday 2nd March (C2)

GCSE Observing: In a last ditch attempt to complete Controlled Assessment obsevations including star counts, Messier drawing and photography. Cygnus had set, so Cassiopeia had to suffice for the in-plane counts and M45 and Eskimo PN were drawn

15th February

Oxford Lecture: CEB gave the 34th Astronomy for All lecture in the annual series of public lectures at Green Templeton College, Oxford. 40 visitors from the University, local Astronomical Societies and students attended the talk titled ‘Dreamtime in Neolithic Britain’ – The importance of hengescapes in safeguarding knowledge


9th FebruaryHouse visit: 12 pupils from C3 Shell and a tutor came up to the Dome. The sky was cloudy

Next House visit: Thursday 23rd February (EL)

2nd February

External visit: 21 Scouts from 2nd Marlborough pack and 5 adults came up to the Dome. The group included years 3 to 6 and even an 18 month old baby, perhaps the youngest visitor to the Dome for a very long time. Sadly the sky was cloudy


House visit: 13 pupils from MO Shell and their HM came up to the Dome. Sadly the sky was cloudy

Next House visit: Thursday 9th February (C3)

1st February

China exchange visit: 6 pupils from China (Hohhot No.2 School in Inner Mongolia and Fudan WLSA Academy in Shanghai) came up to the Dome. The sky was cloudy sadly


28th January

‘Stargazing Live’ open day Oxford: CEB again was on queue entertainment duty as around 1000 visitors attended the open day for the Astrophysics sub-Department in Oxford. Amazingly the skies were clear and both the PWT and Amateur Astronomical Society telescopes were in action


26th January

House visit: 8 pupils from CO coame up to the Dome. Though only 1 degree it felt much colder in the breeze. The sky was misty up to 40 degrees then clearish. Mars and Venus were located and then M45 in Binos and M42 in ETX. M31 was also located


Next House visit: Thursday 2nd February (MO)

GCSE Observing: 1 Hundred pupil and 3 Remove came up to continue Controlled Assessment. Star counts were done in ETX and Orion and Cassiopeia drawn. The ten inch tracked the Eskimo nebula, which showed a little detail in the nebuloscity

21st January

Open evening: Sadly, after a run of clear nights, the clouds closed in and the evening was cancelled. However, 14 visitors including Friends and College community and 3 young, came up to see the telescope


19th January

House visit: 9 Shell pupils from lI came up o the Dome. The night was very clear, though not great seeing. Mars and superbright Venus were identified and M31 seen with averted vision. M45 were viewed in Binos and M42 in ETX. The 10 inch tracked the Eskimo planetray nebula. Thus the pupils were introduced to both extremes of stellar evolution


Next House visit: Thursday 26th January (CO)

12th January

House visit: 14 Shell pupils from MM came up to the Dome. There was a light covering of snow on the ground but the sleet had stopped. Only the Full Moon and Venus could be seen through the cloud, though Orion was seen in the bright moonlight at the end. The sky was otherwise cloudy. A fine lunar halo was seen


Next House visit: Thursday 19th January (LI)