December 2022 – News

1st December

Shell Visit: For the first time this term, the Shell visit was blighted by poor weather with thick fog. Six boys from Cotton House joined GKWJ at the Dome, accompanied by an ex-GCSE Astronomer now in the U6. They were shown around the facility and looked at a selection of astronomical images.

November 2022 – News

29th November

Blackett Science Lecture: The 18th Blackett Science Lecture was delivered by Dr. Rebecca Smethurst, RAS Research Fellow at Oxford University, to a large audience in the Ellis Theatre. Her lecture was entitled ‘It’s not easy growing a supermassive black hole’. Dr. Becky explained the basics of black hole science (they are sofas, not hoovers!) and then spoke about her research into how black holes increase in size. There is a large disconnect between merger and non merger growth, which is her area of continuing observational based research. Many excellent questions were asked at the end of the lecture, demonstrating how well Dr. Becky had engaged with the audience.

28th November

Outreach Visit: Five members of Marlborough Town Council and the North Wessex Downs AONB came to the Dome with GKWJ and JAG to celebrate the past success of the Marlborough Dark Skies Festival and to look forwards to future collaborations. Patchy cloud allowed opportunistic observation through large gaps. The session started outside to see the waxing crescent Moon, the line up of planets, the Pleiades and a suggestion of the Andromeda Galaxy. The group moved to the 10-inch to view the Moon in great detail, followed by Saturn with its moon, Titan, and then Jupiter with its 4 Galilean moons. Attention turned to the double star Almach and a fuzzy view of the Andromeda Galaxy’s core. The final target was Mars, with a polar ice cap and surface details just visible through variable cloud.

25th November

Outreach Event: GKWJ and JAG were invited to the North Wessex Downs AONB Annual Forum to run a stargazing event in the early evening at the Marlborough Golf Club to highlight the importance of dark skies across the region. A clearing and mostly dark sky provided perfect conditions for over 50 Forum delegates to enjoy a sky tour and views of the Pleiades (M45) through binoculars and Jupiter, Saturn and Mars through an ETX.

24th November

Shell Visit: In an unprecedented run of good fortune for the Shell Visits, predominantly clear skies welcomed the 12 boys from C3 with their tutor, DGR, up to the Dome. GKWJ started the visit outside by pointing out Saturn, Jupiter, Mars and the Pleiades. The group moved inside to the 10-inch to observe Saturn, with Titan visible, and Jupiter with all four Galilean moons visible. The group returned outside to enjoy a closer look at the Pleiades through binoculars and rising Betelgeuse through an ETX. The session ended with a quick look at the Campo meteorite.

Staff Visit: A member of staff with their two young children visited the Dome where GKWJ showed them Saturn and Jupiter through the 10-inch. All 4 of Jupiter’s Galilean moons were visible and at least one moon of Saturn was seen.

22nd November

Shell Visit: Ten Shell boys from C2 came to the Dome with their tutor to meet GKWJ. The session started with a view of M45 – The Pleiades by naked eye, with around 7 stars counted, followed by a view of the open cluster in binoculars, with many more stars visible. The group then observed Jupiter and its four Galilean moons through the 10-inch. Unfortunately, the broken clouds thickened and observing had to cease. The boys enjoyed a short slide show of astro-images and asked plenty of excellent questions.

19th November

Public Open Evening: Two observing sessions open to the public were held by GKWJ and JAG. Conditions were cloudy with some breaks in the cloud. Session One had 12 attendees (20 tickets were issued, but not all turned up) and sufficient gaps in the cloud allowed Jupiter to be observed in the 10-inch, with 3 Galilean moons clearly visible and the 4th moon, Io, in transit, with the moon’s shadow visible as a black dot on the planet’s disc. During the session, Io emerged from the side of the disc and the GRS rotated into view. Next was Mars, with some surface markings visible – the polar ice cap and Syrtis Major. The newly acquired Wetton Meteorite collection made its first public appearance, with a 1kg piece of the iron meteorite Campo del Cielo and a small slice through the meteorite to show its internal structure were studied by all. The second session consisted of 13 members of the public (out of 16 tickets issued) and 13 Friends, making for a full observatory! Unfortunately, the cloud was thickening, but Mars was glimpsed through occasional gaps. A slideshow of images taken at the Blackett Observatory was shown and again the Wetton meteorite collection, this time including a larger but lighter piece of a North West African (NWA) chondrite meteorite, generated much interest.

17th November

Friends Observing: A very uncertain forecast might have led to cancellation of the Leonid meteor shower observing session, but the decision was taken to open the Observatory to the Friends regardless. Six Friends joined GKWJ and JAG, despite deteriorating conditions, with just the brightest objects in the sky showing through the thickening hazy cloud. The group congregated in the warm room and followed the radio meteor detector live stream projected on the screen, in the hour from 22:00 to 23:00 UT, 20 meteors were seen – exactly the predicted rate. To accompany the meteor observing, the MCBO Wetton Meteorite Collection was unveiled as the four pieces of space rock were delivered to the Observatory by a Friend at this session. More details on the collection to follow.

Shell Visit: Predominantly clear skies welcomed the 11 Shell boys from C1 for their visit to the Blackett Observatory. GKWJ started the session outside, pointing out our own galaxy, the Milky Way, running through Cygnus and then using the 4″ refractor to spot a faint fuzzy blob almost overhead – M31, the Andromeda Galaxy, our nearest neighbouring galaxy. The group moved inside to observe first Saturn and three moons through the 10-inch, followed by Jupiter with its four Galilean moons visible and clear storm bands across the planet’s disc. Finally, the double star Albireo was admired with its contrasting gold and blue stars.

9th November

Outreach Visit: 21 Year 5 pupils from Woodborough Primary School, accompanied by their teacher, teaching assistant and two parents, visited the Observatory. The were some passing clouds, but the sky was essentially clear, which enabled GKWJ to slew the 10-inch first to Saturn, with four moons visible (Titan, Rhea, Dione and Tethys), then to Jupiter with its four Galilean Moons visible and finally to the 98% Waning Gibbous Moon. The group moved outside for a brief sky tour where The Plough was identified and the pointer stars were shown to point to Polaris. The session ended with a view of Mars as it emerged above a band of cloud on the eastern horizon.

Friends Trip: Sixteen Friends of the Marlborough Telescope, including GKWJ & JAG, visited The Herschel Museum at 17 New King Street in Bath where they were given a private tour of the exhibits. William Herschel’s observing notebooks were on display (thanks to the kind loan from the Royal Astronomical Society), including the entry from 13th March 1781, which reads: “… in the quartile near zeta Tauri the lowest of two is a curious rather nebulous star or perhaps a comet.”. This turned out to be the planet Uranus, perhaps Herschel’s most famous discovery. The visit ended in the back garden where the Herschels made their observations, with the group observing the Sun through a small Coronado PST hydrogen alpha telescope – surface granulation, multiple active regions and two prominences were clearly visible.

8th November

Shell Visit: The 12 Shell boys from Barton Hill were accompanied to the Dome by a member of the L6. The weather was partly cloudy. GKWJ introduced them to Astronomy at the Blackett Observatory and then a large gap in the cloud allowed the group to observe the Full Moon through the 10-inch, followed by Jupiter with its four Galilean Moons all lined up to one side of the planet.

7th November

Radcliffe Society: The second meeting of the Michaelmas term was held on a wet and cloudy night; consequently, the members enjoyed three pupil presentations: ‘Festivals and Celebrations to do with the Night Sky and other Astronomical Objects’, ‘Liquid Rocket Engines’ and ‘The James Webb Space Telescope’.

4th November

GCSE Observing: Six GCSE Hundred pupils joined GKWJ at the Dome. Conditions were not perfect, with some wispy cloud in the sky. Jupiter was observed in the 10-inch with all 4 Galilean moons visible and clear banding across the planet’s disc. Cloud started to encroach and the 10-inch was slewed to clear skies in the east, where Mars was observed as a bright orange disc, but with very little surface detail evident. Unfortunately, too much high cloud gathered and the session was cut short.

Outreach Visit: A relative of Sir Basil Blackett, the Observatory’s benefactor and namesake, visited with a family member, meeting GKWJ, who recounted details of the Observatory’s history. The sky was clear and the Sun was viewed in white light through the 10-inch; four active regions in the northern hemisphere were seen in beautiful detail. The purpose of the visit was to donate a collection of letters that Sir Basil’s first cousin, Frances Blackett, had written to family members recounting her 1927 visit to India to stay with Sir Basil. The letters will find a permanent home in the College archives.

2nd November

Outreach Talk: GKWJ and JAG delivered their talk ‘Cosmic Recycling’ to around 35 members of the WI Marlborough and guests in the Marlborough Town Hall.

1st November

Shell Visit: The first Shell visit of the academic year saw the 12 Shell boys from B1 and their tutor join GKWJ at the Dome. On arrival, there was broken cloud so immediately the First Quarter Moon was observed in an ETX. The cloud soon thickened and the tour moved inside. For the last part of the session the sky cleared, allowing a sky tour outside and Jupiter with 4 Galilean moons to be observed in the 10-inch. An excitable bunch asked many good questions and an excellent start was made to the Shell visit season.


October 2022 – News

30th October

Friends Observing: The forecast was very mixed for this evening and a Cloudy Alternative was ready to be delivered should the need arise. As the small group of 8 Friends were arriving at the Dome to join GKWJ and JAG for the Double Stars observing session, there were sufficient breaks in the cloud to allow a view of Jupiter through the 10-inch, with 4 Galilean moons visible. The cloud breaks persisted, so the exploration of Doubles started with Almach (Gamma Andromedae) and Albireo (Beta Cygni), two similar doubles. Magnification started at x90, but thankfully the sky was clearing and seeing was relatively steady, so magnification was upped to x140 with great success. Next was Epsilon Lyrae, the Double Double and an increase to x220; both component systems, with separations of 2.2″ and 2.4″, were quite easily split at that magnification. We moved to the lovely Gamma Delphini and on to a new target, 8 Lacertae, which is a clear double in amongst a rich star field. The final double, Mu Cygni, was a challenge at only 1.4″ separation, but at x220 it was successfully split, just. We then returned to Jupiter, noticing the change in position of the 4 moons and the emergence of the Great Red Spot (GRS). Experiments were carried out with various Parks filters and all present concurred that a No. 56, green filter, gave the best enhancement to the GRS and cloud bands. The final target was Mars, rising in the East, a fine orange-red spectacle, with a hint of polar and low latitude surface details. It was an excellent evening of observing, enjoyed by all.

25th October

Partial Eclipse Observing: GKWJ made the Dome available for Friends to view the 13% partial solar eclipse. Just six visitors (four humans and two canines) came to observe the eclipse during the two hours from first to last contact. GKWJ took the opportunity to experiment with a projected live view from the 10-inch in the warm room, with success – see pictures below:


Partial Solar Eclipse at maximum

Projected live view from 10-inch

11th October

Planetary Imaging: GKWJ attempted to image the transit of Io across the disk of Jupiter through the 10-inch. Conditions were sub-optimal, with much haze and moisture in the atmosphere, so results were acceptable, but not spectacular!

10th October

GCSE Observing: 13 Remove Astronomers and 1 Remove pupil (working on a Higher Project Qualification) joined GKWJ at the Dome for an observing session. They were given a sky tour and then made sketches of the northern portion of sky to include Polaris, the Plough and Cassiopeia with a focus on estimating the altitude and azimuth of various stars. In the 10-inch, they observed Saturn with four moons identified (Titan, Rhea, Dione & Tethys), Jupiter with three Galilean moons visible (Io, Ganymede and Callisto) and ended with a detailed view of the bright 98% Full Moon


September 2022 – News

30th September

Outreach Visit: As part of The Great Big Green Week, a nation wide sustainable future event, a total of 31 visitors in two groups came to the Dome. All had paid for a ticket, with all proceeds going to the Sustainable Marlborough fund. Unfortunately the weather was wet and windy, so GKWJ and JAG gave the attendees ‘the cloudy show’, consisting of a history of the observatory, a look at the radio telescope live feed and a journey across the solar system illustrated with photographs taken at the observatory and through the Cooke 10-inch

23rd September

Friends Drinks Party: Around 50 Friends assembled at the Dome to celebrate the 18th anniversary of the Friends of the Marlborough Telescope. A beautiful evening allowed the party to be held outside on the new observing patio and the gathering enjoyed flowing drinks, served by barman JAG, and endless sandwiches! There was a great mix of familiar faces and many new Friends, who were welcomed to the group by all. Guest of honour, ex Director of the Observatory, Charles Barclay, addressed the gathering and made the official public handover to the incoming Director, Gavin James. GKWJ then spoke, thanking Charles for all his tireless work for the Friends since its inception and presented him with a framed print of the famous ‘observing blackboard’ from the classroom wall. GKWJ continued on to outline future events and various initiatives that he aims to introduce in the coming year. A very timely overhead ISS pass at 19:36 made an impressive first observation for the Friends in this new year. As the partygoers dispersed, Jupiter shone brightly (mag -2.9) in the southeast and wispy cloud accented a beautiful clearing sky

16th September

GCSE Observing: A clear sky allowed GCSE observing to start earlier than usual this new academic year. Members of the Remove and Hundred joined GKWJ and DGR at the Dome in two separate groups. The Remove were first and following an introduction to observing at the Dome, they enjoyed great views of Saturn in the 10-inch, with moon Titan visible, followed by Jupiter and all four Galilean moons. The planets were also viewed in the two ETXs and Celestron 8-inch outside. Then it was the Hundred’s turn; first they sketched Jupiter, with particular attention to the position of its four brightest moons. They then observed Saturn, with two moons visible (Titan and Rhea). To finish, they returned to Jupiter to sketch the new position of its four Galilean moons, noting with care their movement over the relatively short timescale

10th September

Planetary Imaging: GKWJ and JAG dusted down the 10-inch after the summer holidays and attempted to capture images of Saturn and Jupiter. Some success was had, but poor seeing resulted in sub-optimal image quality


August 2022 – News

12th August

Friends Observing: Over the course of the evening, 15 Friends joined JAG at the Dome to observe the peak of the Perseid meteor shower. The rising Full Moon was not an issue at the start of the session, but became increasingly intrusive as the evening progressed and it rose in altitude. Despite the moonlight, a total of 20 Perseids were spotted as well as 3 sporadic meteors during the two hours of observing. Some meteors were very bright, estimated to be magnitude -4, drawing ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ from the group of meteor spotters

Outreach Visit: A local relative visited the Dome with JAG. The Sun was viewed with eclipse specs and solar scopes

11th August

BAAO Team Training: CEB led the observational training at the Dome for the 5 UK 2022 BAAO team members who fly out to Georgia to compete in the International Olympiad on Astronomy and Astrophysics next week. The residential visit has become an annual event in Marlborough as part of an Oxford based training week. The 4 boys and one girl, all 18 and post A-level were supervised by one of the Team Leaders and a past medalist (China 2018). The afternoon was used for solar work and the 4 sunspot groups were viewed in solar scopes and the ETX with white light filter. The 10 inch was used with the H-alpha filter to view a large prominence and good chromosphere detail. Once relatively dark, a series of observational tasks were carried out, naked eye, binocular and telescopic, using the ETX and small Newtonian scopes. The 10 inch was used to view the Full Moon (excellent views of Copernicus and Tycho ray craters) and then Saturn (too close to the Moon to see its moons), Jupiter, Vesta, Uranus and Mars. 3 very bright Perseids were seen during the evening and the radio detector was registering 20 meteors an hour

10th August

Outreach Visit: 6 guests visited the Dome with JAG. The Sun was viewed with eclipse specs and solar scopes

9th August

Outreach Visit: A member of staff with 6 family members visited the Dome with JAG. The Sun was viewed through eclipse spectacles along with diffraction gratings. It was then observed with a solar scope allowing three sunspot groups to be clearly identified

3rd August

Summer School Observatory Tour: The final Observatory Tour of Summer School 2022 started with 26 guests under a clear sky in Court, spotting Vega and Arcturus as they emerged in the fading twilight. The group walked up to the Dome, but by the time they arrived, the sky had clouded over! GKWJ, JAG and DGR entertained the visitors both inside the Dome and outside. DGR set up the Celestron 8-inch outside on the observing platform and announced that Saturn was visible through growing gaps in the cloud. Its moon, Titan could also be seen. The breaks in the cloud grew, allowing a partial sky tour with the Milky Way clearly visible. A rising Jupiter was the next target in the 8-inch, with three Galilean moons visible. The 10-inch was slewed to Saturn, but unfortunately the sky rapidly deteriorated, clouding over and brought an enjoyable visit to an end


July 2022 – News

27th July

Summer School Observatory Tour: 23 guests from Week Three of the Summer School visited the Dome with GKWJ, JAG and DGR. It was cloudy, so as in Week Two, they enjoyed ‘The Cloudy Show’

20th July

Summer School Observatory Tour: 11 students from Week Two at the Summer School visited the Dome with GKWJ, JAG and DGR. It was cloudy, so they were given an overview of activities at the observatory, a history of the Cooke 10-inch and a slide show of images taken through the 10-inch and at the Dome

13th July

Summer School Observatory Tour: 33 Week One Summer School guests joined JAG and DGR at the Dome for the Observatory Tour. Conditions were partly cloudy, but the enthusiastic star gazers were able to spot, through gaps in the cloud, many major stars and prominent asterisms, as well as the ISS (and other satellites), a meteor (much to DGR’s annoyance, who had his back to it) and the rising supermoon. Inside, the visitors were briefed on the need for a warm room and dark adaption and the history of the 10-inch was outlined. The clouds may have put a slight damper on the occasion, but visitors still left with big smiles on their faces

7th July

Staff Visit: A member of College staff visited the Dome with JAG in the evening twilight. The First Quarter Moon was viewed through the Celestron 4-inch and the Sun was viewed through eclipse glasses, along with the solar spectrum when paired with diffraction glasses

June 2022 – News

30th June

Scholars Visit: 9 Remove Scholars with their current tutor and next year’s tutor visited the Dome with GKWJ. The question ‘Are we alone?’ was considered, with an in-depth look at the search for extraterrestrial life across our galaxy, including the Drake Equation, which gave a result of 3.75 intelligent civilisations currently resident in the Milky Way – the search for them continues…

20th June

Radcliffe Society: The final meeting of the year was enjoyed by ten members of the society who joined GKWJ, JAG and CJW at the Dome for an attempt to launch two small model rockets. Three sizes of motor were available: A, B and C, increasing in power. The first task was to establish safe practice for launch and landing. Wind speed, direction and maximum altitude were accounted for to identify a safe landing zone. Two A motor launches were completed successfully, with measurements taken of altitude and distance, max altitude being 63m. The first B motor launch was then attempted. Lift off was a success, but the parachute descent was far slower than predicted and the rocket found its landing spot in a tree. The parachute of rocket number two was modified to decrease its descent duration and it was launched. Unfortunately, whilst it did indeed descend more rapidly, it too found a tree, albeit a different tree, as its landing spot. Max altitude of the B motor rocket was 124m. No C motor launch was attempted. Much fun was had by all and some interesting science was carried out. Next meeting: 19th September

14th June

Outreach visit: 18 members of Owl Class (Years 5 & 6) from Oare Primary School, together with a teacher and two parent helpers, enjoyed a guided tour of the Observatory with JAG, ably assisted by a L6 pupil. There was much excitement as they looked at the Sun through eclipse glasses and realised that it appears to be the same size as the Moon, being 400 times larger but also 400 times further away from us. Inside the Dome, they appreciated the importance of red light in maintaining night vision, watched their pupils shrink as the white light dazzled them, opened and rotated the roof, admired ’the oldest computerised telescope in the world’ and asked lots of excellent questions, the last of which was ‘Can we come back for another visit when it’s dark, please?’

8th June

Observing: The twilight waxing Gibbous Moon was observed by GKWJ and JAG, who were carrying out tests of two new eyepieces. Purchased with help from the Friends and funds raised by the sale of two redundant eyepieces, the new Tele Vue eyepieces offer optimum quality for increased magnification observing with the 10-inch. Copernicus, Tycho and Clavius craters were viewed at 140x magnification with a 27mm Panoptic and 224x with a 17mm Nagler. The contrast and detail were superb, despite the poor seeing, and the eyepieces will definitely enhance future observing


May 2022 – News

26th May

Friends Observing: Unfortunately, cloudy skies prevented the Dome from being opened for solar observing. Instead a small group of Friends joined CEB and GKWJ on Zoom to consider the progress of Solar Cycle 25

23rd May

Outreach Visit: The Eton Group Heads of Physics annual meeting was held at Marlborough College this year and following a morning of discussion, including a presentation on the British Astronomy and Astrophysics Olympiad (BAAO) by CEB, the 12 attendees enjoyed a visit to the Blackett Observatory with GKWJ in the afternoon

19th May

External Talk: CEB delivered the lecture ‘Illuminating the dark ages – the era of James Webb’ at Green Templeton College, Oxford to a large audience, as part of this year’s Astronomy for All lectures series. This was the 46th lecture in the series originally convened by CEB in 2006

10th May

Radcliffe Society: A small group of society members met for the May meeting with GKWJ and JAG. Our 2022 RAS GCSE Poster Competition prize winning pupil gave a presentation on his winning entry, GKWJ gave a Latest News round-up and then the group started its investigation of rocket science with a selection of videos. We started to plan our own small rocket launch attempt for the June meeting, looking at kit required and the potential risks associated with a launch. Next Meeting: 20th June

March 2022 – News

26th March

Friends Observing: Finally, a clear sky allowed a Friends observing event to go ahead! A group of 9 Friends joined GKWJ and JAG at the Dome for the Spring Sky Tour. Observing started outside to discover the main asterisms and constellations. An overhead ISS pass was seen. M42 – The Orion Nebula, was then explored by naked-eye, binoculars, ETX and the 10-inch. Next up was M45 – The Pleiades in binoculars and ETX. We then moved to the 10-inch, with targets: M1 – The Crab Nebula, the double star, Iota Cancri, the Leo Triplet, with M65 and M66 observed, but only a tentative sighting of NGC 3628. We then attempted to identify quasar 3C-273, but failed. The session ended with the globular cluster M3 – a wonderful object in the 10-inch

24th March

Sun-Earth Day Lecture: An audience of some 30 plus Friends and pupils gathered in the Garnett Room to hear the 2022 NASA/ESA Sun-Earth Day Lecture. It was given by CEB with the title: ‘Illuminating the Dark Ages – the Era of James Webb’, an in-depth look at the latest space telescope and the science that it is expected to investigate

22nd March

GCSE Observing: Half the Remove Astronomy set joined GKWJ at the Dome for the final evening observing session of the academic year. They completed a worksheet that took them on a celestial treasure hunt to solve an astronomical anagram – the answer being Vernal Equinox. The majority was naked eye, but Messier 44 – the Beehive Cluster, was observed in binoculars and the 10-inch

2nd March

Outreach talk: GKWJ gave a talk on ‘Observing through 2022’ to pupils and parents at Hardenhuish School, Chippenham


February 2022 – News

28th February

Radcliffe Society: A select group of society members joined GKWJ and JAG to enjoy two excellent pupil presentations. The first was entitled ‘What happens if you try to fly in to Jupiter?’ and the second ‘How have the stars shaped civilisations?’. GKWJ spoke about ‘What’s Up?’ through March and April. Next meeting: 9th May

26th February

Messier Marathon: The 2022 Messier Marathon attempt was able to go ahead under beautiful clear and dark skies. 27 pupils and seven members of staff (GKWJ, JAG, JEL, DGR, ER, ECN & JW) took part. A total of 91 Messier objects were observed over the night, with just 7 objects attempted unsuccessfully and the remaining 12 objects impossible to view as they lay too near or below the horizon. All instruments were involved: the 10-inch, 8-inch, 2 ETXs, 4 binoculars and JW’s electronic telescope. Comet 19P/Borrelly in Aries was also observed on two separate occasions, the ISS was seen passing over twice, multiple meteors were spotted and the night ended with Venus (-4.6) and the waning Crescent Moon low to the horizon as the sun rose. Highlight Messier objects were M82 (Cigar Galaxy), M51 (Whirlpool Galaxy), M3 & M53 (Globular Clusters), M104 (Sombrero Galaxy), M13 (Great Hercules Cluster) and M57 (Ring Nebula)

24th February

GCSE Observing: A number of Hundred astronomers joined GKWJ for their final session to complete their aided observing tasks. Sketches were made of M42 – The Orion Nebula and M31 – The Andromeda Galaxy through the 10-inch and binoculars. Star counts in and out of the plane of the Milky Way were made with binoculars and an ETX and photographs for a star trails image were captured to measure the sidereal rotation period of Earth

22nd February

GCSE Observing: The Remove astronomers came up to the dome with CEB and GKWJ on a beautiful clear evening. They completed a worksheet that looked into circumpolar stars, constellations of the Zodiac and made sketches of Orion as viewed by naked eye, in binoculars or through a telescope

12th February

Friends Observing: Cloud and rain prevented this year’s Lunar Observing session from taking place at the Dome. instead a small group of Friends gathered online via Zoom with CEB, GKWJ and JAG for a presentation and discussion about the Moon, how and when to observe it and the wealth of features to find and observe. The discussion ended with a look at NASA’s Artemis programme to return humans to the Moon and a consideration of the importance of the Moon to the very existence of complex life on Earth

10th February

House visit: 8 Shell pupils and a Tutor from TU joined CEB at the Dome for the last House visit of the academic year. The sky was clear, though very bright with the 73% Waxing Gibbous Moon. The Pleaides were viewed in the Binos and then the Moon’s Terminator in the 10” which showed sunrise over the crater Copernicus

GCSE Observing: Almost all the Hundred Astronomy set were able to join CEB and GKWJ at the Dome for perhaps the last clear night in which List B projects could be attempted. Drawings were made of Copernicus and the Moon’s Terminator in the 10”, Pleiades (M45) in Binos and M42 and M31 in ETX. Star counts were also done in ETX. Cameras were set up and star trail images taken for the Sidereal Day project. M82 was also seen in the ETX but too dim to draw

3rd February

House visit: 10 pupils from SU Shell joined CEB at the Dome. The evening was cloudy
Next visit: Thursday 10th February (TU)

2nd February

Outreach talk: GKWJ gave a talk on ‘Observing through 2022’ to pupils, parents and grandparents at Hardenhuish School, Chippenham

1st February

House visit: 9 pupils from PR Shell came up to join CEB at the Dome. The evening was cloudy
Next visit: Thursday 3rd February (SU)

January 2022 – News

27th January

GCSE Observing: The Hundred astronomers joined CEB and GKWJ at the Dome, where intermittent cloud cleared to allow further work on their List B observing projects. M42 and M1 were seen through the 10-inch. Sketches were made as well as an impressive photo of M42 taken at the eyepiece with a latest model smartphone. Views of M45, M42 and M44 were sketched through binoculars and the two ETXs. Star counts were made through binoculars for areas of sky in and out of the plane of the Milky Way. Photographs were taken to create a star trails image


25th January

Outreach Visit: 15 Cubs with 4 Cub Leaders and 1 Young Leader in Training visited the Dome with GKWJ. It was cloudy

22nd January

Friends Observing: Cloudy skies prevented the ‘Bring Your Own’ observing session from taking place at the Dome, so instead, a group of 15 Friends joined CEB, GKWJ and JAG online via Zoom for a presentation on ‘Observing through 2022’ with questions and answers

19th January

House visit: 11 pupils from NC Shell, their HM and 2 young children came up to join CEB at the Dome. The sky was largely clear and the temperature dropping. The Waning Gibbous Moon was rising in the NE as they arrived and against the trees gave a good feeling for the speed of the Earth’s rotation. The Pleiades were viewed in Binos and then The Great Nebula in Orion (M42) with the Trapezium and nebulosity nicely showing in the 10-inch
Next House visit: Thursday 27th (PR)


GCSE Observing: 10 Hundred astronomers came up to the Dome to join CEB and GKWJ. All were able to view M42 in the 10-inch and then some started their List B projects, either drawing M42 or the Moon and its features at this phase. The others were given a Demo of how to do the “Finding the length of the Sidereal Day using star trails” project and also were talked through the 6 marker question that might come up for this in the exam

18th January

Outreach visit: 14 Cubs and 3 Cub Leaders visited the Dome with GKWJ. It was cloudy
House visit: Due to multiple Covid absences the visit was run over Zoom with CEB cold at the Dome and all the C1 Shell pupils warm in their own rooms or at home. The evening was cloudy
Next House visit: Thursday 20th (NC)

17th January

Radcliffe Society: 16 members joined GKWJ, JAG & CEB at the Dome. A cold and clear evening allowed the meeting to take place at the Dome for the second month running. The full Wolf Moon drowned out all but the brightest targets. The Full Moon was observed through the 10-inch, including with the diagonal and eyepiece removed, allowing the Moon to be ‘held’ in the palm of the hand and its warmth felt. GKWJ set up the 8-inch outside to demonstrate how to capture stellar spectra; five bright stars (Capella, Menkalinan, Rigel, Alnitak and Betelguese) were targeted. The data were then processed on a laptop attached to a projector in the classroom, allowing members to follow along with the procedure. The spectra were calibrated and plotted together, allowing the differences between spectral classes to be clearly seen
Next meeting: 28th February

13th January

House visit: 13 Shell pupils from MO and a Tutor came up to join CEB at the Dome for the first clear Shell night in some time. The waxing Gibbous Moon made for a very light sky and prominent lunar shadows. Polaris and the Saucepan and Orion with Sirius and Betelgeuse were identified along with M32 Andromeda Galaxy just discernible with averted vision. The 10-inch tracked M42, the Orion Nebula where the Trapezium was clearly seen, though the nearby Moon made the nebulosity very faint
Next House visit: Tuesday 18th January (C1)

GCSE observing: All bar two Remove GCSE astronomers came up to the Dome to join CEB and GKWJ. Small instruments were used outside to do drawings of the 83% Moon and then high magnification (x235) drawings of the crater system Gassendi were done through the 10-inch

12th January

Outreach visit: 12 Scouts with 2 Scout Leaders and a Parent Helper visited the Dome with GKWJ. A clearing sky and cold conditions allowed the 77% Waxing Gibbous Moon to be viewed in the 10-inch. Outside, the group enjoyed a sky tour, identifying the Plough, Polaris, the W of Cassiopeia, Alcor and Mizar, Orion and the Orion Nebula (M42)

11th January

GCSE observing: All bar one of the Remove astronomy set came up to the Dome to join CEB and GKWJ. Sadly the sky clouded over and remained cloudy until they all left

6th January

House visit: The first Shell visit of the year took place as 13 pupils form MM joined CEB at the Dome. Small gaps in the clouds allowed brief viewing by eye of Betelgeuse and Orion, Castor and Pollux, the Pleiades, the Saucepan and Polaris.
Next House visit: 13th January (MO)

December 2021 – News

15th December

Outreach visit: 14 Scouts with 2 Scout Leaders visited the Dome with GKWJ. It was cloudy

11th December

Friends observing: Unfortunately, cloudy skies prevented the Friends from observing the Winter Wreath, but around 20 Friends joined CEB, GKWJ & JAG on Zoom to enjoy a presentation and Q&A session on the topic of ‘Comets’ instead

9th December

House visit: 8 Shell from LI were lucky to be chauffeured up and down by their HM in the pouring rain. This was the last House visit of 2021
Next House visit: 6th January (MM)

8th December

Outreach visit: 8 Scouts with 2 Scout Leaders visited the Dome with GKWJ. The evening was cloudy
External lecture: CEB gave the lecture “The ‘computer’ who unlocked the Universe” to Hertford Astronomical Group. The talk was delivered over Zoom to celebrate the Centenary of the death on 12th December 1921 of Henrietta Swan Leavitt, perhaps once of the most pivotal forgotten astronomers

7th December

House visit: 10 pupils from IH Shell came up with a tutor to join CEB at the Dome. Despite poor weather forecasts, the sky cleared for the hour slot they were there. Polaris was located, followed by the Summer Triangle, Northern Cross and Milky Way. The Andromeda galaxy was then seen with averted vision, almost at the Zenith. The Pleiades were viewed in Binos and then Jupiter and 3 moons in the 10 inch; the planet was low and the seeing poor. The rain set in as the group left
Next House visit: 9th November (LI)

6th December

Radcliffe Society: 14 members of the society met at the Dome with GKWJ, CEB & JAG. The sky was clear, which enabled a varied evening of observing. Multiple instruments were used with the 10-inch slewing to: Jupiter with 4 moons, Neptune and Uranus. While outside, M45, the Pleiades, was seen through binoculars, an ETX was used to find M45, M31 (Andromeda Galaxy) and globular cluster M15; the 8-inch was set up to observe M45, M42 (Orion Nebula), double star Almach, M31 and C14, the Double Cluster. Next meeting: 17th January 2022

2nd December

House visit: 14 pupils from EL Shell and a Tutor came up to join CEB at the Dome. Bar a brief sighting of Jupiter by eye, the evening was cloudy