April 2024 – News

23rd April

Outreach Lecture: GKWJ and JAG gave a talk entitled ‘Cosmic Recycling’ to 42 members of the Devizes and District U3a group. The audience were intrigued by the lecture and are keen to organise a visit to the Blackett Observatory later in the year.

20th April

Open Day Observing: GKWJ set up the Celestron 8-inch with a white light filter and the Lunt 50mm hydrogen alpha solar telescope in Court to show the Sun, safely, to parents and children attending the Open Day. Eclipse specs were also used for a naked eye view of the Sun. The observing station proved very popular with a constant stream of interested observers, a total of around 70 to 80 people must have looked through the telescopes in total – it was hard to keep count!

OM Visit: 3 Old Marlburians who left in 2020 visited the College, hosted by JAG and MC. The group enjoyed a trip up to the Observatory. GKWJ set up the 10-inch with the hydrogen alpha filter, giving a glorious view of the full disk of the Sun at 90x magnification. This was increased to 140x to take a closer look at various prominences and a large active region, AR 3637.

16th April

Solar System Imaging: GKWJ capitalised on a period of clear skies by imaging the Sun in the afternoon, followed by the Moon in the evening. The refurbished hydrogen alpha filter continues to impress and the 10-inch performed with great clarity on both objects. Here are two example images:

 

15th April

Outreach Observing: 19 Brownies and 2 leaders from the 1st Aldbourne Brownies visited the Dome with GKWJ. It was a bright sunny afternoon with broken cloud. The session started outside with a naked eye view of the First Quarter Moon, the Brownies discovered that they could easily cover the Moon with just their little finger at the end of their outstretched arm. They were reminded of the dangers of observing the Sun and introduced to Eclipse Specs. They then safely observed the Sun through the specs and discovered that they could easily blot out the Sun with their little finger, just like the Moon! The mechanics of eclipses was discussed. The group then moved inside to the 10-inch, where they first observed the Moon with excellent detail visible against a light blue background. The White Light filter was safely installed and the group saw the full disk of the Sun’s busy photosphere, with 10 sunspot groups clearly visible. The new hydrogen alpha filter was then fitted and the session ended with a spectacular view of the chromosphere and a gigantic prominence that looked like a forest of trees!

14th April

Friends Observing: 12 Friends came to the new ‘Spring Galaxies’ observing session with GKWJ and JAG. A clear twilight sky showed great promise and the session started with a look at Jupiter and its four Galilean moons through the 10-inch. Next up was the 35% Waxing Crescent Moon, with excellent detail showing in craters Theophilus, Cyrillus and Catherina on the edge of the Sea of Nectar. Darkness descended quite rapidly and the hunt for ‘faint fuzzies’ started in Ursa Major with M101, but first a calibration visit to Mizar and Alcor, where Mizar A & B were easily split. M101 was faint and underwhelming, but two Friends had set up live stacking rigs on the observing platform and showed a more detailed view of M101. Next to M81, Bode’s Galaxy, and M82, the Cigar Galaxy, two excellent galaxies in the eyepiece, with even more structure in the live stack images. Another calibration, this time on Denebola in Leo, then on to M87, Virgo A, in Virgo, an elliptical fuzz ball! Finally to M104, the Sombrero Galaxy in Virgo, which was low down and quite hazy, but definite elongated structure with a dark line visible in the eyepiece. The live stack images were beautiful. Patchy passing cloud hindered progress on occasion through the evening, but some fine galactic sights were enjoyed. As we departed, full cloud covered the sky.