2019 News

5th December

House visit: 10 Shell boys from Cotton joined GKWJ at the Dome. It was cloudy.

Next House visit: Thursday 9th January 2020 (IH)

3rd December

House visit: 14 Shell girls from Dancy and a Tutor joined GKWJ at the Dome to enjoy a beautiful clear evening. The First Quarter Moon was viewed through the 10″, followed by a sky tour outside, finishing with a look at M31 through the 10″.

Next House visit: Thursday 5th December (CO)

GCSE Observing: Seven GCSE pupils took advantage of the clear sky to continue their Aided Observing Tasks. One pupil took star trail photos around Polaris, two pupils took photos of Orion to measure limiting magnitude, three pupils made drawings of Messier Objects – The Pleiades (M45) through binoculars and The Andromeda Galaxy (M31) through the 10″ – and one pupil took photos of M31 through the 10″.

29th November

GCSE & EPQ Observing: Five GCSE pupils came to the Dome with GKWJ. Drawings of the Pleiades through binoculars were made and star trail photos were taken. An EPQ pupil captured stellar spectra. Clear conditions rapidly gave way to fog and the session was abandoned.

26th November

Blackett Science Lecture: Dr Payel Das of Oxford University delivered the 15th Blackett Lecture. Her talk on ‘The Gaia Mission’ was attended by a large audience of pupils, staff and Friends of the Marlborough Telescope.

21st November

House visit: 12 Shell boys from C3 and a Tutor joined GKWJ at the Dome. It was raining.

Next House visit: Tuesday 3rd December (DA)

19th November

External visit: 16 scouts and two scout leaders from the Pewsey Scout Group joined DGR and GKWJ at the Dome. It was cloudy.

18th November

BBC filming: A small team from the ‘Sky at Night’ descended on the Observatory to film for the January episode. Covering naked-eye techniques, CEB filmed with them and an assembled group of 5 year 6 pupils from Preshute Primary School (each accompanied by a parent), all of whom were complete novice astronomers. The event had been postponed once due to poor weather, but in the end we were treated to a super sunset and then a couple of hours of clarity, before clouds interfered. Venus then Jupiter and Saturn were seen and observing techniques discussed and stars seen appearing in order of brightness, as well as ‘tours’ of some well known patterns. After 3 hours the pupils departed. Filming then continued till 00.45 UT. by which time significant de-icing of vehicles had to take place. The programme will hopefully air on January 12th at 10pm on BBC4

Winter observing: A small group of Friends joined GKWJ and JAG at the Dome despite intermittent cloud. The Pleiades were viewed in binos and brighter stars identified in the cloud gaps. Several late Leonid meteors were spotted. Later on with clearer skies, M33 (Triangulum Galaxy) was viewed in the 10 inch, but M74 (The Phantom Galaxy) remained elusive.

14th November

House visit: 8 Shell pupils from C2 and a Tutor come up to join GKWJ at the Dome. It was cloudy

Next House visit: Thursday 21st November (C3)

13th November

External visit: A group of 14 Spanish exchange students and their teacher joined GKWJ at the Dome. It was raining


12th November

GCSE observing: The Remove astronomers were invited to the Dome for an extra session of Lunar observing. 9 of the 12 came up to join GKWJ at the Dome. It was cloudy at first but then cleared. The Full Moon was viewed through the 10 inch, 8 inch SCT, the 2 ETXs and Binos. Drawings of the main features were made and some photos taken. High magnification viewing of Tycho and the Apennines ended the evening


11th November

Transit of Mercury: Despite poor forecasts, the sky cleared sufficiently and the clouds moved fast enough, for the whole transit to be visible, from First Contact till just after Inferior Conjunction. All Remove and Hundred astronomers gathered at the Dome to join CEB, JAG and GKWJ. Both ETXs were used and the 8 inch Celestron and the 10 inch, all with white light filters. GKWJ set up the 8 inch with a camera and computer screen, so many could see the solar disc at once. CEB timed First Contact (probably delayed due to poor seeing) and an average time of 12.36 UT was taken. Second contact was more precise. Pupils left just before 1pm as some 30 other visitors (Staff and Friends) came up during the afternoon, the last few just as the Sun disappeared behind the south-western tree-line. All together an unexpected success. All were wowed by the tiny perfect back dot. GKWJ obtained some photos and a video sequence, though poor Seeing, cloud and the wind led to less than perfect images. We will await the next in 2032


31st October

House visit: 14 Shell pupils from EL came up to the Dome. The evening was cloudy


Next House visit: Thursday 14th November (C2)

27th October

Double star evening: A small group of Friends joined JAG and GKWJ at the Dome. Back to UT, the evening was dark and clear with no Moon. The 10 inch was used to observe Epsilon Lyrae the famous double Double. The first two were easily split and then the two closer Doubles at only 2 arc seconds separation. The 16mm eyepiece at x238 showed a clear gap between the close component stars. Zeta Lyrae, Beta Cygni and Gamma Delphinus (which showed the fainter and closer OR Delphinus in the same field) were viewed. Then 61 Cygni and Enif, though the fainter companion at +12.8 couldnt be confidently split. The M15 Globular and Neptune were viewed, before continuing the Tour to Psi Pisces and finally Almach. Uranus and it unusual blue-green(-blue) clour was easily resolved. 40mm (x95), 22mm (x173) and 16mm (x238) were all used to split the Doubles


3rd October

House visit: 11 Shell boys from C1 and a Tutor came up to the Dome. It was raining


Next House visit Thursday 31st October (EL)

2nd October

GCSE observing: 1 Remove and 4 Hundred pupils came up to the Dome, supervised by GKWJ. Saturn, Titan and Rhea were viewed in the 10 inch. A good ISS pass was seen and several possible early Draconids. Drawings of M57 were made in the 10 inch


1st October

House visit: 12 pupils from BH Shell came up to the Dome with a Tutor. The sky was cloudy


Next House visit: Thursday 3rd October (C1)

External visit: 17 boys from the OSCAR Charity came up to the Dome to join GKWJ with JAG and JPC. The sky was cloudy

20th September

Friends annual drinks: A good group of Friends (including several very newly joined) gathered at the Dome on a perfect evening for the 15th annual Friends drinks. As darkness fell, a group stayed on with GKWJ to observe Jupiter and Saturn


19th September

GCSE observing: GKWJ hosted 6 pupils form the Hundred set at the Dome on another super evening. Saturn was viewed in the 10 inch and using the 22mm eyepiece (x173) good detail in the rings was seen and 4 moons (Titan, Rhea, Dione and Tethys. The pupils were given a sky quiz as well


17th September

External visit: JAG and GKWJ hosted an external visitor for an early afternoon solar viewing. The Sun was completely blank as expected, though a few small prominences were seen


House visit: A beautiful clear night for the first Shell House visit of the academic year took place saw GKWJ hosting 11 pupils from B1 a House Tutor and House Master and his son. The group arrived as Nautical Twilight began and watched the bright stars Vega and Arcturus appear. Jupiter and Saturn were then viewed through Binos, ETX and 10 inch

Next House visit: Tuesday 1st October (BH)

GCSE Astronomy: 11 pupils from the Remove Astronomy set came up to the Dome and as Astronomical Darkness fell they were introduced to the night sky and did constellation drawings, supervised by GKWJ and DGR. Saturn and the Cassini Division were viewed in the 10 inch, Mizar and Alcor in the ETX and M31 in Binos. Finally the waning Gibbous Moon rose thorugh wispy cloud. Altogether a great start to the year

2nd August to 10th August

13th International Olympiad on Astronomy and Astrophysics (IOAA): CEB led the 5 strong BAAO (UK) team to Lake Balaton in Hungary to compete in the International Olympiad. 254 students from 47 Countries took Data Analysis, Theory, Night Obsetation and Planetarium exams over the week. The UK team had its best result out of any of the annual competitions entered since 2015. 1 Gold, 3 Silver medals and 1 Bronze medal were won and this put the UK in 5th= place behind Russia, China, USA and Romania


7th August

Summer School week 4: Just over thirty guests of all ages from a variety of nations, joined JAG and GKWJ at the Dome in CEB’s absence and enjoyed a beautifully clear night. The 10 inch tracked the first quarter Moon (Tranquility Base area of topical interest and then Montes Caucasus being particularly impressive on the terminator), followed by Jupiter and all four Galilean moons, then on to Saturn to finish with three moons visible. Outside the ETX toured the Moon, Saturn, M31 and the Double Cluster. Several early Perseids were seen


31st July

Summer School week 3: A perceptively darker and colder evening saw another huge group of of some 50 guests and Tutors com up to join CEB and GKWJ at the Dome. Jupier and the 4 Gallilean moons were viewed in the 10 inch and then Saturn and 2 or 3 moons. An 8 inch reflector was used out side to also view M13 and M31. M31 (Andromeda) was clearly seen by eye at the end of the evening and the Milky Way was also very evident. Several bright meteors were seen including a very bright fireball


24th July

Summer School week 2: A huge group of some 50 tutors and guests came up to join CEB, JAG, GKWJ and DGR at the Dome on a hot evening. Despite the twilight and some high cloud, many objects were seen by eye and a couple of bright meteors (early Perseids?). 2 super ISS passes were seen (90 minutes apart). The ETX looked at M31 and M13 was viewed in Binos. The 10 inch tracked Jupiter which showed good storm bands and the Great Red Spot and the 4 clear Galilean moons. Saturn was veiwed next, rather low so the Cassini Divsion was not clear but the rings were very bright and 3 moons Titan, Iapetus and Enceladus were visible. For the hardy few at the end the 10 inch turned to the Globular cluster M15. Certainly one of the busiest evenings for some time


23rd July

BAAO training camp day 2: The students came up to the Dome late morning to have a session on solar observing. The Sun was viewed in solar gogles, then using the projection box. The ETX and its white light filter showed the totally blank and smooth photosphere, typical of solar minimum. The 10 inch was then used with the H alpha filter to show a couple of ‘small’ quiescent loop prominences on the Northern limb


22nd July

BAAO training camp day 1 : The 5 selected pupils form the UK Team came to Marlborough for a 2 day observational training camp in preparation for the International Olympiad in Hungary on 2nd August. After a couple of telescope handling excercises in the day, the team returned to the Dome after sunset. The sky cleared and a number of observational tests could be taken, using binoculars, naked-eye, the ETX elescpes, the Newtonian 8 inch and the 10 inch. Targets included Jupiter (with Io in shadow transit), Saturn and Titan the M29 (Cooling Tower), M71 (Angelfish), M57 (Ring), M27 (Dumbell) nubulae and Mizar and Alcor, Albireo and gamma Delphinus doubles. Several meteors were seen and 2 suerb ISS passes. The evening ended at 1.45am


17th July

Summer School week 1: A group of some 15 Summer School guests aged 10 yrs and up and some tutors joined CEB, JAG and GKWJ at the Dome. Though the sky was cloudy, there was lots to see and as all departed, Jupiter (in Ophiucus) and 3 moons appeared in a cloud gap and was viewed in the ETX


23rd June

Charity afternoon: A group of 14 adults from London, and a few more local, came to the Dome for a private afternoon tour, which they had won as a Charity auction prize. Sadly the sky was cloudy, but it was a fun and informative afternoon


21st June

Friends lecture: JAG delivered the talk ‘Going round in circles’ – An update from CERN


Solstice observing: A large group of Friends, College staff and visitors gather in the warm twilight. The sky was still, excellent Seeing and clear. The perfect condiditons, combined with the Solstice and deep Solar minimum meant that, for the first time at MCBO, Notilucent Clouds (NLCs) appeared high in the North East about an hour after sunset and lasted till after 11pm. Though some other ordinary cloud made for reduced impact, the NLCs has typical tendrill like structure and remained bright once the sky had darkened. In camera pictures a clear icy-blue colour was seen. The 10 inch viewed Jupiter, which though at low altitude, showed good detail of 4+ storm bands and first 3 then later 4 moons, as Io appeared from Occultation. The ETX also viewed Jupiter and later, as it rose, Saturn, which showed the rings but poor detail at less than 10 degrees above the horizon. As the sky darkened towards midnight the 10 inch was used to tour the skies (GKWJ at the helm); first Globular Clusters (M10, M13 and M56) then M57 the Ring Nebula and then M39 an Open Cluster which filled the eyepiece. Finally we sought out Albireo, beautifully coloured as usual and then Gamma Delphinus a very fine close double only seperated by 9 arcseconds. We endeed with the double Double in Lyra, but the second doubles were not really resolved. All in all one of the best evenings for a long time

16th May

Solar Open Day: A small group of Friends and staff joined GKWJ and JAG at the Dome. Sadly, after several cloudless days, the cloud closed in. Nevertheless, the Sun was viewed in the gaps using the ETX, Solar goggles, Solar Scope and the 10 inch, with a white light filter. Spot 2741 was well resolved with 3 distinct umbra


25th April

Royal Society awards day: CEB attended the annual day of awards at the Royal Society, where past and future national Olympiad teams for Physics and Astronomy received prizes


16th April

BAAO selection camp: CEB attended the British Astronomy and Astrophysics Olympiad selection camp and delivered a morning of observational training to the 12 pupils attending. Following the camp, a team of 5 and a reserve were selected to represent the UK at the 13th Intenational Olympiad on Astronomy and Astrophysics in Hungary in August


26-27th March

Messier Marathon: For the first time, by pupil demand, the College attempted the Messier Marathon. Attempting to see as many of possible of French astronomer Charles Messier’s Catalogue, of ‘Nebulae and Star Clusters’ from 18th Century, in one night by eye. Luckily the choice of night proved correct and after a lovely clear day, we were rewarded with a clear 7.5 hours of observing till cloud closed in at 2.30am. 15 pupils from Remove to Upper Sixth joined CEB, GKWJ, JAG, DGR, JEL and ER and observed till 11pm. One group then stayed on till 2am and the other ‘camped’ in the Marlburian, ready to observe again at 3am (this didnt happen due to cloud sadly). Some 30 objects were seen by 11pm and another 35 by 2am. From 2am till 2.30am the last 3 were seen, making a pleasing total of 68 out of the 110 possible. Some were certainly harder than others and many were ‘yet another’ grey smudge. A few however were really brilliant and inspired all there. The furthest object seen was 82 million light years away. The following Messier Objects were seen : M 1, 3, 5, 13, 29, 31, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 53, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 76, 78, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, 88, 89, 90, 91, 92, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 100, 101, 102, 103, 104, 105, 106, 108, 109, 110. The 10 inch Barclay refractor was in full use, hopping from one object to the next, even with ‘reversals’ into the opposite hemisphere. The 8 inch Smith reflector was, however, sthe star of the evening, for the brighter objects, and was able to see several objects within an equivalent number of minutes. Stand-out targets were M13 the great globular in Hercules, the Sombrero galaxy, the Cigar galaxy and the Owl nebula (especially with an OIII filter) to name a few. I suspect this will become an annual challenge


21st March

Eratosthenes’ experiment: A group of Hundred and Remove astronomers joned CEB and DGR in Court to hopefully reinact Eratosthenes’ 205BC experiment to measure the Earth’s circumference. Sadly a shadow of the noon Sun was needed. The sky was of course cloudy


Sun-Earth lecture: CEB delivered the 2019 talk ‘Reaching young stars’ to a select audience of Friends

12th March

House visit: 12 pupils from TU Shell came up to the Dome for the last House visit this academic year. Initially it was clear and the waining Moon was viewed in binos and M42 in the 10 inch. Despite the Moon, M31 could just be seen by eye


Next House visit: September 2019 GCSE Observing: 2 Hundred pupils and 3 Remove pupils camwe up to the Dome and a couple of drawings and star counts were done. Sadly the cloud quickly closed in/p

28th February

House visit: 12 Shell pupils from PR came up to the Dome. The sky was cloudy with light drizle


Next House visit: Tuesday 12th March (TU)

26th February

External visit: 12 year 7 boys and a member of staff from Cothill School ‘drew the golden ticket’; the best night for a very long time. Arriving at sunset, the totally clear sky allowed a view of the Earth’s shadow in the East and then a beautiful view of Mercury, pink in the twilight. Sirius appeared very early and once dark the sky was superb. Mars and Uranus were viewed in the Binos. M42 the Great Orion nebula was truly 3D in the 10 inch with a clear trapezium in the centre. M31 was viewed by eye and several meteors seen


GCSE Observing: 7 of the Remove Astronomers and a small number of Hundred came up to enjoy the evening and joined DGR, JAG and GKWJ at the Dome and completed drawings of M42 and also M44 the Beehive cluster in Cancer in the Binos. Uranus could just be seen by eye at +5.86 magnitude. Mizar A and B were also drawn and star counts done. A couple of fireballs were also seen. JAG and GKWJ stayed late to complete more astrophotography with an EPQ student

14th February

House visit: 11 Shell pupils and 2 Tutors from NC came up to the Dome on the best House evening this academic year. Though the Moon was bright, the sky was clear. Mars and Uranus were in Conjunction and only 2 degrees appart and were viewed together in the Binos. Uranus some 100 time dimmer than red Mars. Uranus was then viewed at 173x in the 10 inch and showed a clear light bluey disc


Next House visit: Thursday 28th February (PR)

GCSE Observing: All the Hundred year group, bar 2, came up to the Dome to complete one further piece of aided work. M42 was drawn in ETX and M45 in Binos. Star counts were also done in and out of the Galactic plane in the ETX. All also got to see Uranus in the 10 inch

12th February

Scholars visit: 13 Remove Scholars and Exhibitioners attended the Dome for an session of Q & A and briefing on the Space Tomato project (Tomatosphere). Watch https://vimeo.com/98923628 to watch the original 2014 timelapse, which was sent to the Canadaian Space Agency


Prep School visit: 8 year 7 pupils and a member of Staff from Cothill School came to the Dome. Only the Moon was visible in binos and ETX House visit: 10 Shell pupils from BH came up to the Dome. The Moon was viewwed in Binos

Next House visit: Thursday 14th February (NC)

22nd January

House visit: 8 Shell pupils from LI came up to the Dome on a very bright clear moonlit night. The 15 day old waning Gibbous Moon and M45 wer viewed in Binos and M45 in Orion through the ETX. Though rather washed out by the Moon close by, the Eskimo planetary nebula in Gemini was viewed in the 10 inch


Next House visit: Thursday 31st January (SU)

GCSE Observing: 5 Remove astronomers came up to the Dome and sitting in the shadow of the observatory managed to do good drawings of Orion. The also viewed the Eskimo nebula

17th January

House visit: 10 IH Shell and their Tutro came up to the Dome. Though the temperature had fallen and there was a bright waxing Moon, the sky was totally hazy and no stars could be seen. The was a nice, if faint, lunar halo


Next House visit: Tuesday 22nd January (LI)

10th January

House visit: 13 Shell pupils form MM came up to the Dome. The evening was cloudy, though a few stars appeared just as we finished


Next House visit: Thursday 17th January(IH)

7th February

External visit: 3 pupils from China (Beijing School No.8 and Hohhot in Inner Mongolia) came up to the Dome with a member of staff from Beijing. The sky was cloudy


House visit: 14 Shell pupis and a tutor from MO came up to the Dome. There were breaks in the cloud, which allowed Sirius and Orion to be seen. M45 Pleiades were seen through the Binos

Next House visit: Tuesday 12th February (BH)

5th February

Medawar Lecture: The 4th Medawar talk was delivered by Professor Phil Charles FRAS (Emeritus at Southampton University) on ‘African Astronomy on a World Stage’ to some 200 pupils, Friends and members of U3A


31st January

House visit: 10 Shell pupils from SU came up to the Dome. The snow just held off till the end


Next visit: Thursday 7th February (MO)

26th January

Stargazing Oxford: CEB assisted in the annual Open Day. Over 200 visitors an hour, of all ages came to see the displays and exhibits on show in the Astrophysics Department. Long queues were served with hot eats. Flash talks were delivered throughout the afternoon, including CEB’s on the British Astronomy and Astrophysics Olympiad


23rd January

Public lecture: CEB gave the 40th Astronomy for All lecture ‘Reaching young stars’ at Green Templeton College in Oxford. A small audience braved the cold night to learn about the new Astronomy Olympiad venture


2019 3rd January

Quadrantids meteor shower: The first event of 2019 saw some 20 Friends joining CEB, JAG and GKWJ braving icy temperatures and a complex, but accurate, forecast of cloud interspersed with superb dark clear patches of an hour. The Milky Way was superb and limiting magnitude better than +5. M31 was clear by eye and M45 and M42 super in Binos and the ETX. The 10 inch located 46P Wirtanen with ease and we were able to watch as it moved significantly compared to a +11.8 star during the evening. Estimates put the speed at 3 to 4 arc minutes per hour. The comet’s coma remained rather underwhelming as a fuzzy grey patch. Given the dark skies, it was disapointing that only 21 Quadrantids were seen, with none being very spectacular