July 2020 News

19th July

Comet observing: CEB, JAG and GKWJ met at the Dome to observe comet NEOWISE (C/2020 F3). As darkness fell the comet appeared, perfectly placed over the Dome for GKWJ to take photographs. It was observed through binoculars and the 10inch, which gave a spectacular view of the coma. CEB made sketches of the comet through the 10inch every twenty minutes showing its rapid movement across the field of view. JAG calculated its speed across our line of sight to be approximately 80 km/s. It was wonderful to observe at the Dome again, though social distancing measures made it a rather different experience

June 2020 News

22nd June

Radcliffe Society: Nine members of the society met online for the final meeting of the academic year. What’s Up for the summer was presented by GKWJ, followed by three excellent pupil presentations entitled, ‘Fractals and Chaos’, ‘Relatively Good Evidence’ and ‘SpaceX to Solar Supermarkets’. Next meeting: 21st September

21st June

Solstice observing: Stargazing live at MCBO! Thanks to Gavin and some excellent new camera technology, CEB and GKWJ were able to hold a live streamed (via Zoom) stargazing session. Starting in Civil Twilight just after the Sun set, we identified the northern Solsticial setting point. Stars were then observed as they came out in order of magnitude, once Nautical Twilight started. By luck we were then treated to the best Noctilucent Cloud display so far this season (always best near the Solstice) and were able to watch as the luminous, bluey and greeny wisps changed formation. Typically looking like ripples on the shore or sand wind-blown into peaks and troughs, the clouds are not part of the weather system and are much higher at 80km or so. They are now thought to be ice crystals seeded by meteor impact trails. The group of Friends disbanded around midnight, after we had toured some prominent Summer asterisms and finished with Jupiter in the South East

May 2020 News

21st May

Solar open day: The annual solar observing session could not take place at the Dome this year due to the social distancing measures in place. Not wanting to be thwarted by this, CEB and GKWJ attempted the first ever live streaming astronomy event for Friends and College staff. High hazy cloud rendered the 10inch ineffective, so live views from the River Park Observatory through a Lunt 2inch H alpha solar telescope were streamed via Zoom. Around 40 visitors dropped in to the event over the course of the afternoon. The seeing was poor at best. Two plage areas were observed on the surface, but otherwise it was featureless, to be expected given that we are still in the solar minimum. The main attraction was a large prominence on the northeast, oncoming limb. It extended to about four Earth diameters above the solar surface, with two loops extending out in opposite directions from the main area. This prominence complex was clearly seen to develop and change over the two and a half hour session. Numerous small explosions of plasma were seen to bubble up and collapse nearby on the limb. Unfortunately, gathering cloud spoiled the view towards the end of the session, but it was a great success and opened the way for new methods of astronomical observing at Marlborough College.

4th May

Radcliffe Society: The society met online via Zoom for the first time. GKWJ gave the monthly What’s Up, JAG presented on Current Comets and two pupils gave presentations on ‘The Baryon Asymmetry Problem’ and ‘Physics in Cinema’. Next meeting: 22nd June

March 2020 News

22nd March

Messier Marathon: it was a great shame that the College Messier Marathon attempt had to be cancelled this year due to the Coronavirus outbreak. Typically, conditions could not have been more perfect: New Moon and clear skies. GKWJ and JAG could not let the opportunity pass by, so decided to make the Messier Marathon 2020 attempt ‘behind closed doors’ on Sunday night. The session started at 19:20 with a stunning view through the 10inch of Venus in its dichotomy phase. The hunt for as many of the 110 Messier objects with the 10inch then started in earnest. Two online Zoom sessions were held during the evening, allowing a number of the GCSE pupils and DGR to join the hunt from home. As we were working in very dark conditions this was more of a radio link than video! Highlight objects through the night included: open clusters M34, M35, M38, M52 and M67, galaxies M51, M81 and M82, planetary nebulae M27 and M57, nebulae M17 and M42 and globular clusters M3, M13, M14 and M92. During the night, Comet ATLAS was viewed twice and its significant movement was noticed. Great empathy was felt with Messier, who was of course trying to find new comets, compiling his catalogue of objects that were not comets and to be avoided on future nights. It is amazing how much a globular cluster looks like a comet! Several breaks were taken and the night sky outside was admired; Betelgeuse was noted to be markedly brighter at around mag +1. Saturn and Jupiter, with all four Galilean moons visible, were viewed through the 10inch in the morning twilight. The Marathon finished with M2 being the final observation at 04:53. In total, 96 out of 110 Messier objects were seen. The fourteen missed were due either to the bright evening and morning twilight sky or because they were below the horizon for the 10inch. It was a very successful night, but hopefully the 2021 attempt will be enjoyed by a full team of pupils too.

11th March

Radcliffe Society: 10 pupils from Sixth Form, Hundred and Remove attended the March meeting of the Radcliffe Society with GKWJ and JAG. GKWJ gave the monthly What’s Up guide, a video interview with Subir Sarkar (University of Oxford) discussing ‘The Evidence for Dark Energy’ was watched and then two Upper Sixth pupils gave presentations on ‘The Standard Model and Neutrinos’ and ‘Entropy’. Next meeting: 4th May

February 2020 News

27th February

GCSE Observing: A good cold and clear winter’s night enabled 6 Hundred Pupils to join CEB and GKWJ at the Dome to finish their Aided Observing Tasks. The session started with views through the 10inch of a Gibbous Venus and the 4 day old waxing crescent Moon with obvious Earthshine. Arcturus, the Spring marker star was seen for the first time this year. 4 pupils used the 10inch to draw Messier Objects: M1, the Crab Nebula and M42 with M43, the Orion Nebula, all enhanced with a UHC Nebula Filter. 1 pupil took photographs through the Smith 8inch of: M45, M42, M1, M51, M81 and the Double Cluster. 1 pupil took a star trail photo sequence around the NCP. Finally, the Double Cluster was viewed through binoculars and 9th magnitude Comet C/2017 T2 (PANSTARRS) was observed through the 10inch

25th February

House Visit: The Shell visit season ended in fine style with a clear sky for the 12 Shell boys from Turner and their Tutor to enjoy with GKWJ. The session started with a sky tour of the winter constellations, then M42, the Great Orion Nebula, was viewed in the 10inch and finally M45, the Pleiades, was viewed through binoculars

13th February

House visit: 10 Shell boys from Summerfield and a Tutor came to the Dome with GKWJ. It was cloudy.

Next House visit: Tuesday 25th February (TU)

External visit: 17 Year 5 pupils and 2 staff from Swindon Academy Primary School visited the Dome with NMA under clear skies. This was the last of the four Swindon Academy visits this academic year. Venus was seen through binoculars as it set in the West and the first magnitude stars were observed as they appeared in the darkening twilight. Familiar asterisms including the Plough, Cassiopeia and Orion were identified by naked eye

11th February

GCSE Observing: 5 Hundred pupils joined GKWJ at the Dome. Unfortunately the clear forecast did not hold true and broken cloud hindered project work. One pupil managed to take photographs of star trails. The waning Gibbous Moon was enjoyed through binoculars as it rose

Radcliffe Society: 8 members of the Radcliffe Society visited the White Horse Bookshop Gallery to see the exhibition ‘In the Marlborough Night Garden 2’, GKWJ and JAG’s collection of astrophotographs and accompanying book

6th February

GCSE Observing: 12 Remove pupils joined CEB and GKWJ at the Dome on a clear but moonlit night. They made angular measurements of Orion to calculate its angular speed. They drew the Winter Wreath and estimated apparent magnitudes and celestial coordinates of its member stars given information about Rigel. The waxing Gibbous Moon was viewed in the 10inch

House visit: 12 Shell girls from New Court and a tutor enjoyed a clear sky at the Dome with GKWJ. A sky tour was followed by viewing the Pleiades (M45) in binoculars, to finish, the waxing Gibbous Moon was observed in the 10inch.

Next House visit: Thursday 13th February (SU)

4th February

House visit: 14 Shell girls from Morris, a Tutor and JAG visited the Dome with GKWJ. Early cloud parted to give a clear sky dominated by the waxing Gibbous Moon. The group enjoyed a sky tour, including Venus setting in the West and the dim Betelgeuse. The Moon was then viewed in the 10inch, with good detail visible along the terminator.

Next House visit: Thursday 6th February (NC)

3rd February

EPQ Observing: An EPQ pupil came to the Dome with GKWJ and used the Smith 8inch to gather spectra of a range of stars as part of their project investigating methods of determining astronomical distances

January 2020 News

28th January

GCSE Observing: 8 pupils came to the Dome on a rare clear evening. They started by making magnitude estimates of the dim Betelgeuse. They then continued work on their Aided Observing Tasks: drawings were made of M42 through the 10 inch, M45 through binoculars and photos of star trails around the North Celestial Pole were taken

27th January

External visit: 14 pupils and a teacher from Hardenhuish School, Chippenham, joined GKWJ at the Dome. Contrary to the forecast, the cloud parted to give hazy but satisfactory conditions for observing. Venus in gibbous phase was seen through the 10″ followed by the crescent Moon. The group then saw the ISS pass overhead and the seemingly endless stream of Starlink third launch satellites. Finally, the Andromeda Galaxy, Almach and the Orion Nebula were viewed through the 10″

25th January

Stargazing Oxford: CEB managed the queue and welcomed over 1200 visitors to the annual stargazing open day at Oxford’s astrophysics department

23rd January

House visit: 10 Shell boys and a Tutor from Preshute visited the Dome with GKWJ. It was cloudy.

Next House visit: Tuesday 4th February (MO)

22nd January

House visit: 14 Shell girls from Mill Mead visited the Dome with GKWJ. It was cloudy.

Next House visit: Thursday 23rd January (PR)

20th January

Radcliffe Society: The first meeting of the revived Radcliffe Society (the Marlborough College astronomy and astrophysics society) took place with GKWJ, JAG, CEB and eight pupils representing all year groups from Remove to Upper Sixth. The agenda was: Welcome (GKWJ), Society History (JAG and CEB), What’s Up (GKWJ), then two pupils gave talks on Differential Photometry and Astrophotography at Marlborough College. The next meeting is on 11th February.

20th January

Prep School visit: 23 year 7 pupils and 3 staff from Cothill School visited the Dome. Arriving at twilight, the evening was perfectly clear, though the atmosphere damp. Venus in its Gibbous phase was seen in the ETX and the Pleiades in Binos. A couple of meteors were seen and a dozen or so satellites. Shortly after 6pm two stationary bright lights appeared in the East below Gemini, looking like a bright double star they then disapeared, remaining an unidentified sighting. The 10inch was then used to view the Great Nebula in Orion and the Trapezium of young stars

19th January

External visit: Eight members of the Basingstoke Astronomical Society visited the Dome on a wonderfully clear night. GKWJ, JAG and CEB hosted. The first observation was the stream of third launch Starlink satellites. The group lost count in the twenties. Targets in the 10″ through the session were: M36, M37, M38, Almach, Uranus, M33, M31 and M42. Double star Alnitak (2″ separation) was seen as a distorted ‘snowman’, but not fully split. An attempt to split Sirius and observe Sirius B (‘The Pup’ at 11″ separation) proved difficult, but moments of two stars being visible were reported from a number of the observers. Finally, the Eskimo Nebula (NGC 2392) was observed, with definite improvement provided by use of the recently acquired UHC filter.

18th January

Freinds evening: CEB, JAG and GKWJ met at the Dome to observe and discuss the dimming of Betelgeuse

16th January

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

Next House visit: Tuesday 21st January (MM)

9th January

House visit: 10 Shell girls from Ivy House and a Tutor joined GKWJ at the Dome. It was raining.

Next House Visit: Thursday 16th January (LI)

3rd January 2020

Friends evening: A gathering of Friends joined CEB, JAG and GKWJ to spot Quadrantid meteors. 7 were seen in total during the one hour window in the hazy cloud. M42 was viewed through the 10 inch and Betelgeuse was noted as being significantly dimmer than usual.

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

2018 News

13th December

Leonid meteor shower: Some 30 Friends and College employees joined CEB, JAG and GKWJ at the Dome. With falling temperatures and clearing skies and a setting waxing crescent Moon, the evening was only marred by astrolights till 10pm and light cloud. The meteor rate built slowly from 20 to 30 per hour. 43 were recorded, only a few brighter than 0. The 10 inch tracked 46P. As the night cleared the central coma was well distinguished with obvious assymetry, but the full coma was bigger than the field of view of the main eyepiece. Due to some local easy star patterns, it was possible to watch the comet move, roughly 0.25 degrees in the time of observing (a speed later calcualted as roughly 10 km/s across our line of sight). The comet was an easy target in small binoculars and the ETX. Once the astro lights had gone, the comet could be seen by eye with averted vision. A dull grey smudge about as big as the Full Moon, heading up and east through Taurus to pass between the Hyades and Pleiades

 

9th December

Extended Project: GKWJ and JAG were at the Dome to facilitate L6 astrophotography project work using the 8 inch and 10 inch. M33 and then Mars were targets. CEB also came up to locate 46P, which was very easy in 8×50 binoculars about 5 degrees south of Menkar in Cetus. In the 10 inch the coma was too large and diffuse to show well (some possible assymetry was seen, but no clear tail). In the binoculars it was a fuzzy patch and underwhelming

 

6th December

Swindon Academy visit: NMA and DGR again hosted a group of pupils from Swindon Academy in the Marlburian and at the Dome. The sky was cloudy

 

House visit: 12 pupils from DA Shell came up to the Dome. The sky was cloudy Next House vist: Thursday 10th January 2019 (MM)

3rd December

Extended Project work: GKWJ and JAG supervised a sixth form pupil who was imaging M31. The 10 inch was used to locate 46P for the first time and the unintegrated naked-eye view was underwhelming, given its large coma diameter. The magnitude was estmated at +6 to 7. 12 meteors were seen, potentially early Geninids, including an exploding fireball

 

29th November

House visit: 10 CO Shell came up to the Dome. The sky was clearing but there was a light drizzle, so the main dome remained closed. M45 was viewed in Binos and M31 identified by eye

 

Next House visit: Thursday 6th December (DA

27th November

Blackett Science lecture: The 14th Blackett lecture as delivered by Professor Giovanna Tinetti from UCL. The talk ‘Brave New Worlds – planets in our galaxy’ was attended by a large audience of pupils and Friends of the Marlborough Telescope

 

29th November

House visit: 10 CO Shell came up to the Dome. The sky was clearing but there was a light drizzle, so the main dome remained closed. M45 was viewed in Binos and M31 identified by eye

 

Next House visit: Thursday 6th December (DA)

27th November

Blackett Science lecture: The 14th Blackett lecture as delivered by Professor Giovanna Tinetti from UCL. The talk ‘Brave New Worlds – planets in our galaxy’ was attended by a large audience of pupils and Friends of the Marlborough Telescope

 

22nd November

House visit: 12 pupils from C3 Shell came up to the Dome. The sky was cloudy and very bright due to the Full Moon

 

Next House visit: Thursday 29th November (CO)

21st November

GCSE observing and project work: JAG and GKWJ opened the Dome for 2 hours of Extended Project work. Images were taken of the Moon to make a mosaic and the of M42. The sky was very bright and there was some haze, with high humidity. DGR looked after 3 Remove pupils who came up to draw the Moon and Cygnus with rather dim limiting magnitude

 

20th November

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

 

Next House visit: Thursday 22nd November (C3)

17th November

Leonid watch: Some 2 dozen Friends and families came up to the Dome. Only 4 Leonids were seen over the evening but all were able to view the Terminator of the waxing Gibbous Moon through the 10 inch which showed clearly the double central mountains of Copernicus and the ejecta rays. The 8 inch Smith was used by GKWJ and an EPQ pupil, taking images of M31 and the Moon and the Perseus double cluster. The ETX viewed Mizar A abd B and M45 the Pleiades were viewed in the Binos

 

15th November

House visit: Shellpupils from C2 came upot the Dome. The sky was cloudy

 

Next House visit: Tuesday 20th November (EL)

2nd-12th November

International Olympiad: CEB acted as Team leader for the UK team of five 17 year old pupils from different schools (2 stae and 3 independent) around the UK in the 12th International Olympiad (IOAA) held this year in Beijing. After gruelling 5 hour exams in theory, data-analysis and and hour of observation, the UK team came away with 2 silver medals and 2 honourable mentions. 39 countries competed. The top countries were Iran, Russia and China. The top scoring student was from Russia. Next IOAA will take place in Hungary in August. The selection process (British Olympiad in Astronomy and Astrophysics (BOAA) for the 2019 team has already begun

 

30th October

GCSE Observing: As temperatures dropped to freezing the sky cleared and, though the seeing was only fair due to the humidity, all bar 4 of the Hundred and Remove astronomers were able to gather for the best night this year. The ETXs were used for star counts in Cygnus and Uma. the Binos were used for drawing Pleiades and Hyades Open Clusters. The 10 inch tracked M57, the Ring nebula for drawing. The Remove all drew Cygnus and the Milky Way. The lack of Moon was a real advantage. Several meteors were also seen

 

28th October

Optical Doubles: Sadly only a couple of Friends joined CEB, JAG and GKWJ at the Dome on the best night this year. The Moon was absent for the first hour and the sky completely clear (though poor Seeing) as we toured Optical Doubles and Binary systems. The Binos and ETX were intially used to view Mars and M45 and M13. The 8 inch was aligned and motorised for the first time and tracked well, enabling many of the Doubles to be seen and also M15, M31 and M110. The 10 inch resolved the following: Alpha Her (just resolved at 4 arc seconds – Orange and Green), Albireo, Epsilon Lyr, Alpha Cap, Gamma Del, Epsilon Peg, Zeta Aql, 94 Aql and finally 8 Lac. An amazing evening, some easy and some hard and plenty of argument over colour

 

10th October

GCSE observing: 4 Hundred astronomers joined DGR at the Dome under clouding skies to draw M45 (Pleiades)

 

9th October

External visit: DGR looked after a group of 20 scouts and 3 leaders at the Dome under clear skies. All the small instruments were in use

 

GCSE observing: 7 of the Remove astronmers came up to the Dome with CEB under warm and humid but clear skies and drew their first constellation drawings including Cassiopeia and the Saucepan. The ETX was used to view Mars and the 10 inch showed the centre of M31 and then the disc of Uranus and some (much debated) colour

4th October

House visit: The second House visit of the year took place with 10 pupils and a Tutor from C1 Shell coming to the Dome. The sky was cloudy

 

Next House visit: Thursday 15th November (C2)

1st October

Friends outer planets: A small group of Friends (including our youngest aged 4yrs) joined CEB, JAG and GKWJ at te Dome. The skies largely cleared and follwing an excellent ISS pass, we were able to observe between clouds Mizar and Alcor, Mars and M31 (described as ‘an eye’ by our young visitor) in the ETX. In 10 inch we first viewed Mars, which showed slight detail in the centre of the disc and a brighter (ice cap) edge. The 10 inch then viewed Uranus, described variously as a ‘huge green circle’, to grey, to turquoise to greeny. Neptune was then resolved but barely showed any colour, though more blue than anything else. The Central 0.5 degrees of M31 Andromeda galaxy was then viewed, followed by a very fiant outline of M110.

 

British Astronomy and Astrophysics Olympiad (BAAO) training camp: The observatory again was the venue for the 2 day observational training section of the weeks Camp, based in Oxford, for the UK 5 student team (This year all year 12). 4 boys and one girl and the second team leader joined CEB for 2 days in the College running through the high level knowledge and understanding needed to compete in the Observational rounds of the International Competition (IOAA). CEB will lead the team for the 12th Olympiad, which will tale place in Beijing in November. Despite cloudy skies, we managed some hands on experience at the Dome and a short burst of Solar observing

23rd August

Mid-Atlantic observing: As part of a his 2018 lecture series for Cunard, CEB gathered a group of some 150 guests on Deck 13 of the Queen Mary 2 in balmy 23 degree temperature, 3 days out from New York. Tours of the sky were given using the laser pointer, including very bright Mars and major asterisms. Though M31 was viisble, the Milky Way was drowned out by the Waxing Gibbous Moon. Binoculars were used to observe Mars and M31

 

21st August

Astrophotography evening: JAG joined GKWJ in calm and 15 degrees C.A camera was set up to make a star trails image, running for two hours (roughly 30 degree arcs) Second, Mars was imaged, clearly showing dark detail and an icecap. Third, the 10 inch observed two globular clusters M2 and M15 and then NGC 7009, the Saturn Nebula, a small and relatively faint planetary nebula in Aquarius. In 50mm eyepiece, it appeared as a small mark on the lens but the 28mm eyepiece showed definite elongation and it became clear as to why it was so named. Finally, binoculars were used to find Brocchi’s Cluster, the Coathanger, in Vulpecula

 

10th August

Early Persieds: JAG and 2 College staff observed (and CEB seperately) under a very clear sky with no Moon and incredibly bright Milky Way. Disapointingly only 12 Persieds were seen (they seemed to be fainter) The number of satellites equalled the number of meteors

 

9th August

Early Perseids: JAG and 2 visitors observed for 90 minutes seeing 17 Persieds (including a -5 fireball) and 5 sporadics

 

5th August

1st August

Summer School week 4: For the first time since starting 15 years ago, all 4 Wednesday evenings of Summer School have been clear. Now noticeably darker, some 40 Summer School guests and staff, including 10 from the School of English and Culture, came up to the Dome joining CEB, JAG and GKWJ. Outside targets included Jupiter, Saturn and Mars, M13 and M31, Mizar A and B and Albireo. An excellent ISS pass was viewed by all at the start of the evening and an Iridium flare and a couple of meteors were also seen. The 10 inch tracked Jupiter and 4 moons (Io just emerging from behind the planet at the start of the evening) then Saturn with Titan and 2 other inner moons and finally Mars. Mars to the naked eye was as bright as ever and the best since 2003 (though at low altitude). Shining at magnitude -2.8, it outshone Jupiter by nearly a magnitude and dominated the SE sky. Through the 10 inch it was incredibly bright and showed a brigher ice-cap and some darker markings. Many nationalities were represented in the group including, Ukraine, Spain, Syria, Poland, Syria, Italy, France, Germany and Eritrea

 

22nd September

External talk: CEB was invited to give a talk on raising awareness of the British Astronomy and Astrophysics Olympiad (BAAO) and the need to widen our search for star students (under 19) across the UK, at the Federation of UK Astronomical Societies (FAS) in York

 

21st September

Friends’ Drinks: The 14th anniversary Friends’ drinks part was held at the Dome. The cold wind (and of course clear skies!) meant we were inside, but a good group of old and new supporters gathered to reflect on the year past and look forward to the year ahead

 

6th September

Comet 21P: GKWJ and JAG set off at 2.30am to attempt observing Comet 21P/Giocobini-Zinner in Auriga. At 10 degres centigrade and a waning Moon, conditions were excellent. The 10 inch slewed accurately to the Comet. Sketches were made and the first photographic run with a Canon EOS 1Dx started at 03.11. 45 frames of 16 seconds with a 20 second interval between frames. The run finished at 04.14. A time lapse of the 90 frames was then produced, see Vimeo at https://vimeo.com/288544707. The Comet moved 739 pixels in an hour at a resolution of 0.375 arcseconds per pixel. Later calculations gave a speed across the line of sight of 22km/s, in close agreement with other estimates. A great effort in the early hours

 

27th – 29th August

27th July

Total Lunar eclipse: A group of some 25 Friends, locals and Summer School guests gathered at the Dome in the hope of seeing the eclipsed Moon or Mars at Opposition. Sadly the cloud prevented even a single star being seen

 

25th July

Foreign and Commonwealth Office visit: 13 retired members of the FCO came down to Avebury with the FCO Association. After a very hot tour of the Henge, the group led by CEB drove to the Observatory and viewed the Sun in goggles, Solarscope, ETX and the 10 inch (with H alpha). The Photosphere was entirely blank, but 3 small prominences were visible in H alpha

 

 

Summer School week 3: 40 Summer School guests and staff attended the Dome on another clear, warm evening. After dividing into 3 groups led by CEB, JAG and GKWJ, the instruments were used to view all the usual targets (including the waxing Gibbous Moon) outside and Jupiter and 3 moons (Io was occulted) and then Saturn and 3 moons (unusually for such a bright night, Tethys and Rhea were both visible) in the 10 inch. Clouds had begun to gather before Mars could be viewed in the 10 inch. An excellent overhead ISS pass was also seen

 

24th July

Summer School Astronomy Course: GKWJ brought his course member up to the Dome for Solar viewing. The Sun was viewed between clouds with solar goggles, the Solarscope, an ETX with white light filter and the 10 inch in H alpha. No active regions were seen, but a faint filament and a small prominence were visible

 

23rd July

Summer School Astronomy Course: On the first night of the course GKWJ brought a group of 10 up to the Dome. Conditions were reasonable, very warm with some passing hazy cloud. A wide range of equipment was used outside including 15×80 binoculars, two small refractors and two small reflectors. We started by viewing the waxing Gibbous Moon, then the parade of planets; Venus, Jupiter, Saturn and Mars. Saturn, with Titan and a peppering of other moons clearly visible, followed by a hazy Mars were also viewed in the 10 inch. Two passes of the ISS were seen, first at 21:48 and then again at 23:24. The group also enjoyed a naked eye tour of the summer constellations

 

18th July

Summer School week 2: Some 30 Summer School guests joined CEB, JAG, DGR and GKWJ at the Dome under clearing skies. Venus was seen in the twilight and then Jupiter (first with 3 moons and then with IO appearing from its shadow) in the 10 inch, then Saturn with Titan and finally Mars, which showed more detail than last week and a discernable bright ice cap. The ETX and various binoculars were used outside to view the Moon, M13 and M31 and to split Mizar. A couple of metors were seen, but we missed the low ISS pass

 

14th July

 

Impromptu observing: GKWJ and JAG hosetd a small group of six visitors at the Dome under excellent clear moonless skies and good Seeing. The 10 inch viewed Jupiter and its four Galilean moons, Saturn and possibly five of its moons, a dusty featureless, but bright and very red Mars, double star Albireo, M57, the Ring Nebula, M56, a Globular Cluster in Vulpecula and M27, the Dumbbell Nebula. An OIII filter was used with M27 and it definitely improved definition of the shape (a sheaf of wheat). The summer constellations and the Milky Way were good with naked eye outside and M31 and the Double Cluster through binoculars. A large number of meteors were seen throughout the evening. Five meteor shower radiants are close together near the southern horizon around midnight; Southern Iota Aquariids, Southern Delta Aquariids, Piscis Austrinids, Alpha Capricornids and June Scutids. All have their maxima later this month

 

11th July

Summer School week 1: CEB was joined by JAG, DGR and GKWJ at the Dome under clearing skies for group of some 20 Summer School guests. Bright stars were spotted as they appered in cloud gaps and then in improving conditions Jupiter and 4 moons was viewed in ETX and Binos and in the 10 inch, which showed some colour on Io and 4 bands on the planet. The 10 inch then moved to Saturn and not only was the Casini Division well defined, but 4 moons were visible. After most visitors had gone the 10 inch moved to view the Double binary in Lyra. As we left the Dome bright red Mars was rising and was viewed as a bright disc in the ETX

 

27th June

External visit: A small group of friends from Oxford were followed by a Norwegina Reuters’ Fellow and colleague from Oxford University. Both groups had clear skies and super views of the Sun through goggles, in the SolarScope and ETX and in H alpha in the 10 inch. A huge triangular shaped prominenece was seen in good detail

 

24th June

External visit: A small group from London came to the Dome for an afternoon of solar observing. The Photosphere was viewed in goggles, projection box and ETX (where spot group 2715 was easily visible) and then the Chromosphere with several active regions in the 10 inch

 

21st June

Solstice observing: JAG and GKWJ joined CEB and a small group of Friends to see out the Solstice. The night was warm and clear and as the sky darkened, there were plenty of targets to observe, including a bright Iridium flare. The Moon was viewed in the ETX and the 8 inch Smith and Binos. Venus showed its 70% illuminated phase in ETX. Jupiter and 4 moons were seen in ETX then Smith then 10 inch, with Io and Ganymede overlapping. The 10 inch then moved to Saturn, very orange and low on the horizon, then Antares in search of Antares B. Some thought there was a little assymetry in the twinkling star. Vesta was then well veiwed as a steady disc. M10 was too faint to see detail but M57 was clear. Saturn was viewed again with both Titan and Rhea now visible. The evening ended just before midnight with a viedw of Albireo, such a beautiful bi-coloured double of the blue B8 and yellow K2 stars

 

19th June

Wetton Workshop and lecture: CEB attended the official opening of the Roswitha Wetton Telesope (RWT), a new 2 radio dish interferometer on the roof of the Denys Wilkinson Building. Following the unveiling a lecture on Exoplanet discoveries was delivered in the Martin Wood lecture theatre and then dinner in Christ Church

 

14th June

External visit: In the last Swindon Academy group visist, 11 year 10 girls and their teacher came up to the Dome. The Sun was viewed in goggles between clouds and in the projection box and then in the ETX. The 10 inch showed a couple of prominences on the southern limb in H alpha

 

13th June

External visit:12 year 7 girls and their teacher from Swindon Academy came up to the Dome. The sky was cloudy

 

12th June

External visit: 22 year 7 pupils and 2 teachers from Swindon Academy came up to the Dome as part of their stay at the College. They were accompanied by a postgrad from Imperial College and undergrad from Birkbeck. The sky was sadly cloudy

 

Observing evening: The two University visitors joined GKWJ and JAG at the Dome as the sky had cleared for a tour of the sky with the 10 inch. Jupiter and its moons, Vega, Albireo, M13 and Saturn, still rather low to the horizon, were viewed

17th May

Solar open day: Under sunny skies but sadly increasing high cloud, the Dome opened to public, Friends and College staff. The Sun was viewed in solar goggles, the projection box and the ETX in white light and a dedicated small solar refractor and the 10 inch in H alpha. Despite a totally blank disc, reflecting the minimum in the solar cycle, there was a decent quiescent loop prominence visible in H alpha when the sky was clear enough. JAG and GWJ helped CEB welcome families, Friends and staff from 3 yrs and up

 

30th April

Lunar imaging: GKWJ attempted a mosaic of the lunar surface at the Full Moon. Despite clear patches, the Seeing conditions were poor

 

21st April

GCSE Solar observing: Remove set 1 came up to the Dome under clear if hazy skies. The Sun was viewed in goggles then via projection and in the ETX, where the faint spot 2706 was seen. The H-alpha filter on the 10 inch showed no activity due to the poor clarity

 

19th April

GCSE Solar observing: Remove set 2 came up to the Dome in hot sunshine as part of Topic 11 and the Sun’s surface. The Sun was viewed in goggles, via projection and the ETX the blank photosphere in white-light and then the 10 inch showed a couple of Chromosphere prominences in H-alpha

 

18th April

GCSE Solar observing: The Hundred Astronomy set came up to the Dome in their afternoon lesson under clear skies. The Sun was viewed in goggles, projection box, ETX and white-light filter and then despite no sunspots, there was activity in the form of an erruptive prominance and quiescent prominance in H-alpha through the 10 inch

 

28th March

Lunar imaging evening: GWJ and JAG working into the early hours put the 10 inch through its paces in a firet attempt at some detailed Lunar imaging, including the building up of a photo mosaic

 

26th March

Friends outing: CEB led a group of 16 Friends to Oxford to visit the new radio telescopes on the roof of the Denys Wilkinson Building. After a lecture on Radioastronomy and Oxford’s projects by Professor Mike Jones, we has a tour and demonstration of the operating dish by Alex Pollak. After a pub lunch the gorup then had a tour of the Tower of the Winds (old Radcliffe Observatory) in Green Templeton College

 

21st March

Sun-Earth lecture: The 2018 talk ‘Victorian Phoenix – the story of the Marlborough telescope’ was delivered to an audience of Friends and colleagues by CEB

 

15th March

External visit: 17 year 12 pupils and 2 teachers from Lycee Jules Verne came up to the Dome before sunset

 

13th March

GCSE observing: 8 Remove pupils joined DGR and CEB for the last night of observing this term. The Spring sky was light due to high cloud and skyglow but the waning crescent Moon had not risen. Drawings of M45 and M44 were attempted and M31 was viewed in the 10 inch. Arcturus was also drawn rising in order to estimate the length of the sidereal day

 

9th March

RAS prize: Z.Place (CO, L6) was presented with his Winton Capital prize for winning the inaugural RAS poster competition by RAS President Professor John Zarneki at the March RAS Open meeting. This was followed by the 2018 Eddington lecture by Professor Karin Ohberg from Harvard on ‘Chemistry of planet formation and planet habitability’

 

24th February

External visit: JAG and GKWJ hosted a select group of three adult visitors in cold and clearing conditions. The evening started with a tour across the main constellations of the night sky, which was dominated by a 67% waxing gibbous Moon. The Pleiades were viewed through binoculars. Targets in the 10 inch started with M42, followed by a long session on the Moon, both wide and in close up, a most impressive sight. We then moved on to Castor, Pollux and HR2764 (a double star in Canis Major known as the Winter Albireo, an interesting white-blue and orange double. The session ended with views of the Pleiades and the Double Cluster h and chi Persei

 

22nd February

External visit: 13 year 8 pupils from Realschule Freising II in Germany and 4 teachers came up to the Dome before sunset as the sky cleared

 

House visit: 9 pupils for TU Shell came up to the Dome as temperatures fell. The waxing 6 day old Moon was viewed in the Zeiss Binos, Polaris and major stars were pointed out and then M42 viewed in the 10 inch

GCSE Observing: 13 Remove astronomers came up to the Dome to first drew the Moon by eye from behind the Dome and then draw the Moon using any of the available instruments. New sets of 10×50 Helios binos were in use as well as the older instruments. Pupils also viewed, and some drew M42 in 10 inch

14th February

External lecture: CEB delivered the 36th Astronomy for All talk ‘Victorian Phoenix’, the story of the Barclay Equatorial, at Green Templeton College, Oxford

 

8th February

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

 

Next House visit: The last visit of the year for Shell pupils will be on Thursday 22nd February (TU)

6th February

Art project: A sixth form pupil came up to the Dome to take copious images for his Moon themed project

 

4th February

External visit: JAG & GKWJ hosted a group of 3 adults and 2 children (ages 6 and 4). Thick cloud started to clear just in time to commence the evening with an ISS pass. Perfectly clear skies ensued for about an hour. Orion, The Plough and Polaris were identified outside. Variations in star colour were observed through the 10 inch, with Alpheratz (blue-white), Scheat (orange-red) and the double, Almach (orange and white). Next, The Double Cluster, then on to M31. Outside to see Pegasus, Andromeda, Perseus and Cassiopeia to place the objects viewed. Finally we observed Uranus in the 10 inch

 

1st February

House visit: 10 pupils and a House tutor from NC Shell came up to the Dome. The evening was cold and there were gaps in the cloud. The bright Moon appeared on occasions and by the end there was enough of a gap for most to view the Trapezium in M42

 

Next House visit: Thursday 8th February (PR)

GCSE observing: Perhaps the last chance this winter presented itself, though in the swamped light ‘pollution’ of the just post Full Moon. 1 hopeful Remove came up and all 4 Hundred. The sky then remained cloudy till after 10pm, at which point we were able to swing into action. Star counts were done and a drawing of both M42 and M31. For the first time images were taken via SLR through the 10 inch of M31, which showed the bright nucleus and central few minutes well. The evening finished at 11pm

30th January

External visit: 5 year 10 pupils and their teacher from in WLSA Fudan Academy, Shanghai came up to the Dome. The evening was cloudy

 

House visit: 14 Shell pupils and a House tutor from MO came up to the Dome under cloud and drizzling skies

Next House visit: Thursday 1st February (NC)

25th January

House visit: 14 Shell pupils from MM came up to the Dome. It was largely cloudy, though Sirius made an appearance

 

Next House visit: Tuesday 30th January (MO)

18th January

House visit: 10 pupils from LI Shell came up to the Dome on the first really clear night this term. M45 was viewed in Binos and M42 the Great Orion Nebula in the 10 inch. Several sporadic meteors were seen

 

Next House visit: Thursday 25th January (MM)

GCSE Observing: All 4 Hundred, and all bar 4 of the Remove, came up to the Dome. With no Moon and initially good Seeing the conditions were ideal for Star counts in and out of the MW plane and drawings of M45 and M42. Photographs of M42 were taken on tripod and via a new adaptor using the 10 inch with suprising success and great colour contrast in the nebula. Remove drawing and star counts in Orion were attempted. Several more sporadic meteors were seen. The Seeing declined during the evening.

11th January

House visit: 9 pupils from IH Shell and a Tutor came up to the dome. The evening was cloudy

 

Next House visit: Thursday 18th January (LI)

8th January 2018

Charity evening: JAG and GKWJ hosted ‘An evening with the Stars’ as a charity evening for 9 adults, who had won the auction prize in aid of SWIFT Medics (Wiltshire). The night was crystal clear with no Moon with a temperature of -1, feeling like -6 in the wind. Uranus was viewed in the 10 inch. M45 in Binos, M42 in the ETX and the the Perseus Double cluster in both. The 10 inch then viewed the Trapezium in M42 and then M1. The 10 inch was then used to split Castor and Alnitak (just). Finally Open clusters with Christmas tree and 15 Monocerotis, M35, M36, M37 and M38. A great start to 2018

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)

2016 News

9th to 18th December

10th International Olympiad on Astronomy and Astrophysics (IOAA):Sandor Kruk (PhD student in Oxford Astrophsics Department and Merton College) and CEB led the UK team of 5 students (4 boys and 1 girl) in Bhubaneswar, India. All 5 team members gained awards; 1 Gold (10th overall out of 240 competitors), 1 Silver, 1 Bronze and 2 Honourable Mentions. This ranked the UK 6th out of the 42 countries competing, behind Russia, Iran, India ,China and USA. The effort required in the three 5 hour exams is considerable and we are delighted with the result

 

6th December

St John’s class: CEB taught a second class at St John’s Academy with 20 pupils from years 7, 8 and 9

 

House visit: 11 C1 Shell pupils came up to the Dome. The sky was cloudy

1st December

External visit: NMA hosted another group (yr 5) from the Swindon Academy primary school. The sky was clear with a very young crescent Moon

 

House visit: 12 TU Shell pupils came up to the Dome. The sky was clear and Andromeda M31 and the Milky Way was viewed by eye and notable asterisms identified. The Binos viewed M45 and the ETX Mars. The Dome had unfrozen and thus the 10 inch was used to look at Aldeberan a K Giant (given the Shell are covering HR diagram)

Mext House visit: Tuesday 6th December (C1)

GCSE Observing: 1 Hundred astronomer grabbed another opportunity for star counts. The clouds moved in by 9.30pm

30th November

External visit: Though not as cold or clear as last night, the sky was clear and seeing I/II. A large group of 21 Savernake Explorers, 16 students from yrs 10 to 13 (mainly from St John’s) and 5 adults, came up to the Dome. M45 Pleiades was viewed in Binos and setting Mars in ETX. Sadly the extreme cold had frozen the Dome, so the 10 inch could only view a random star

 

GCSE observing: 3 Hundreds pupils came up to the Dome to carry out onstellation photography, Messier Drawing (M45 in binos and M42 in ETX) and star counts

29th November

Blackett Science Lecture: The 2016 lecture was given by C. Barclay ‘Tungunska’s legacy – The threat of asteroid impact’ and was attended by local Friends, pupils and visitors

 

28th November

External visit: 19 pupils from yr 7 of Swindon Academy’s Grammar stream came up to the Dome. The sky was clear with no Moon

 

GCSE observing: Possibly the best evening so far with a New Moon, so dark and clear Milky Way. Seeing for once was II as the temperature fell. 4 Hundreds pupils came up to the Dome to carry out star counts parallel and perpendicular to the Galactic plane. The Binos showed M45 well and the 10 inch initially viewed M29 Open cluster, then M1 (Crab SNR) and finally for the first time this winter, M42 which, the low, showed good detail and a well resolved Trapezium

24th November

External visit: 16 year 6 pupils from Swindon Academy were hosted at the Dome and Marlburian by DGR and NMA. M31 was visible between clouds

 

House visit: For the very first time 12 DA Shell pupils and a tutor came up to the Dome. The sky was largely cloudy, though M45 was viewd in Binos just before departure

Next House visit: Thursday 30th November (TU)

GCSE Observing: 3 Hundreds and 4 Remove pupils came up to the Dome and were looked after by CEB and DGR respectively. Whilst Remove drew Constellations the Hundred drew Messier Objects (M45 (Pleiades) in Binos and M57 (Ring) and M27 (Dumbell) in 10 inch. The ETX was used for star counts

23rd November

External visit: 27 visitors from the St John’s Academy community crammed into the Dome, including one teacher, 7 parents and 19 pupils from years 6 to 12. Sadly the sky was cloudy

 

18th November

External visit: 7 sixth form girls from St John’s Academy came up to the Dome and were hosted by JAG

 

17th November

House visit: 11 Shell pupils and a House Tutor from NC came up to the Dome. Luckily the rain kept off, but the sky was cloudy with just the waning gibbous Moon being visible and Vega and Polaris in cloud gaps. No Leonids were seen

 

Next House visit: Thursday 24th November (DA)

External visit: 26 year 5 from the Woodpecker class at Swindon Academy Primary School came up to the Dome and were hosted by NMA and DGR. In spite of clouid and rain, half the group found some clear sky and managed to see some stars and Mars. As well as using the Observatory, the second group worked at the Malburian Social Centre, where a scale Solar System was displayed with a 3m disc for the Sun and 3cm picture of the Earth

16th November

External visit: 24 Cubs (girls and boys from years 4,5 and 6) from Aldbourne and 10 adults including leaders and parents attended the dome in 2 sessions. The rain had stopped but the sky was completely cloudy, though the waning gibbous Moon was just visible at the end through cloud

 

10th November

GCSE observing: 3 Hundred and 3 Remove pupils came up to the Dome. The sky was clear between cloud banks. The 8 inch initally viewed M13 and was then used to photograph the 81% waxing gibbous Moon. M45 Pleiades were drawn in Binos and M57 the Ring nebula was drawn in the 10 inch. The ETX was used for Stellar Density counts

 

8th November

House visit: 8 Shell pupils from IH came up to the Dome. It was wet and cloudy

 

Next House visit: Thursday 17th (NC)

External visit: 26 year 5 children aged 9 and 10 years old and 4 teachers from the Swindon Academy visited the Observatory in two groups with NMA in charge to learn about the dome, the telescopes, observing the night sky and meteorites. Due to the poor weather, they also took part in activities in the main Pavillion

7th November

Public open evening: Some 25 visitors came up to the Dome, many for the first time. The evening was clear, though moisture scattered the moonlight. Mars was viewed in the Smith and ETX. The first Quarter Moon was viewd in Binos and the ETX. The 10 inch split gamma Delphinus and then delta Cephei. M42 was viewed in ETX when it rose and the Binos were used on M45. M13 was also viewed in the Smith 8 inch. 2 meteors were seen, possibly a bright Northern Taurid and an Andromedid

 

5th November

Friends Q&A: A small group of Friends braved the first real winter evening, with falling temperature and the best skies this term, to attend a Q&A session on ‘Citizen Science’. Current Zooniverse projects (inclugding Galaxy Zoo, Planet Hunters, Radio Meteors, Finding Comets, Disc Finders and Gravity Wave searcher) were introduced. Given the clear skies, the Binos were used for M45, M31 was easily viewed by eye and the 10 inch was used to split 3 Optical Doubles. First theta Serpens and lovely balanced pair of white stars with a 22 arc sec seperation. Next Albireo (beta Cygni), the famous bright double, seperated by 34 arc sec and clearly coloured (Blue and Yellow) and last gamma Delphinus, an aesthetically pleasing yellow and green Double with a 10 arc second seperation

 

1st November

House visit: 11 pupils from SU Shell came up to the Dome. The sky was cloudy

 

Next House visit: Tuesday 8th November (IH)

24th October

Maintenance: The new Drive system returned from AWR Engineering repaired after the August electrical storm damage. CEB wired it up and then re-calibrated the drive speeds on both axes

 

22nd October

Orionids: a very small group gathered, with clear skies near the zenith and a good Milky Way, to catch some Orionid meteors. None were seen. Neither were any satellites and we suspected that the high misty cloud may have obliterated all but the brightest lower altitude meteors. One bright sporadic was seen and two possible Northern Taurids

 

10th October

GCSE Observing: One Hundred pupil ran up to get the chance of photographing the 8 day old Moon for his Lunar features project. Initially cloudy, the sky cleared. Seeing was poor but the Moon bright and well placed for observing in the 8 inch Smith

 

6th October

House vist: 9 pupils from BH Shell came up to the Dome, including the grandson of Basil Blackett, after whom the Observatory is named. The sky was largely cloudy but the Moon was viewed in Binos and the ETX

 

Next House visit: Tuesday 1st November (SU)

GCSE Observing: 1 pupil who is embarking on lunar feature photography cam up to catch the waxing Crescent Moon. The Moon was low by 8.30pm and the heavy 8 inch Smith had to be moved to the top corner of the parking space. Trial exposures were done and despite some tree branches interfering some decent first images obtained 5th October Drive Engineer visit: Following the lightning storms in August, a visit was needed to attempt to locate the cause of malfunction. After a couple of hours of rewiring and testing, it seems likley that the main processor chip needs replacing. It is hoped to get the 10 inch operational after half-term

4th October

GCSE Observing: 4 Hundred and all 10 Remove pupils came up to the Dome, joning CEB and DGR. In light wind and no moon some work was carried out and an introduction for some to the Dome. The binos focused on M31 Andromeda and M45 Pleiades at the end of the evening). The ETX was used for Star Counts (having viewed M82 for the first time before the pupils came up). The Binos were also used to locate and draw M13 in Hercules

 

30th September

Dr Payel Das visit: Dr Das from Oxford University Theoretical Physics Dept came to attend physics lessons in the morning, have lunch with a number of Astronomy pupils and attend Period 6 with all the Remove and Hundred Astronomers. After supper with invited Physicists, She then gave the lecture ‘Galactic Archaeology’ in L3 in the evening to Astronomers and 6th Form Physicists

 

29th September

House visit: The first Shell House visit of the year took place. The sky was largley clear and the temperatures were falling. The 10 inch was out of action following the August storms and so M31 Andromeda was viewed in the Binos, having been located by eye

 

Next House visit: Thursday 6th October (BH)

GCSE Observing: The first evening for observing saw 4 of the Hundred coming up to the Dome for a familiarisation session. M31 was viewed by eye and in binos and the Smith 8 inch was brought out to view Altair and to practice some star photography

23rd September

Friends drinks party: The 12th annual Friends drinks party took place at the Dome with long standing and new Friends having a chance to catch up and look ahead to the winter

 

23rd August

BAAO Training Camp: A second night of observing for the team. The sky was largely clear at 9.30pm. Past paper observing questions were tackled. Telescopes were used to locate Messier objects and positions and motions in the sky were estimated. The Dome closed at 2pm as tiredness set in. The team then headed next day to Oxford for 3 days of theoretical training

 

22nd August

BAAO Training Camp: CEB and Sandor Kruk (Oxford Astrophysics) led the first day of the 5 day summer training Camp for the 5 students selected for the UK Team (competionmg in the 10th International Olympiad in Astronomy and Astrophysics in India in December). The Observatory swung into action at 10pm as the sky cleared. All instrumemnts were in use. Targets vairied from Double stars to Open Clusters, Globular Clusters, Mars and Saturn as they set and the waning Gibbous Moon. Drawings were completed of the Moon, Tycho and the Ptolemaeus triplet of craters, Mizar and Alcor and M31. The 10″ initially tracked Uranus then M57 (Ring) Planetary nebula. M13 the Great Globular in Hercules was drawn and then the Open Cluster (Phi Cassiopeia). Separations and distances and magnitudes were estimated. The Dome closed at 2.30am in bright moonlight

 

12th August

Perseids: A larger group of Frinds gathered with JAG at the dome but the weather prevented all but a couple of sightings

 

11th August

Perseids: JAG gathered a small group of Friends at the Dome for an early Perseid watch and was rewarded by 78 Perseids (couple of fireballs) and 5 Sporadics

 

29th June

National Astronomy Meeting: CEB was invited to speak at the Education and Outreach lunch in Nottingham at NAM 2016. The talk was on the new GCSE 2017 Astronomy Specification

 

18th June

Solstice observing: A small group of Friends gathered in the summer twilight to watch 3 planets appear. Despite the nearly Full Moon, Mars shone brightly in the South and Jupiter in the West. Saturn was rather close to the Moon and dimmer. Red Antares twinkled in the thick lower atmosphere with blue Spice in the South West. The Moon was observed in the ETX and then Jupiter. The 10 inch tracked Saturn as as the sky darkened first Titan then Tethys then Dione appeared. A good Summer Sky tour was also possible.

 

9th May

Transit of Mercury: The first of the pair of Transits this decade took place amid very poor weather forecasts. Just on the off chance of a glimpse, CEB and JAG went to open the Dome at noon and were joined by a small groupd of Friends and visitors. Extraordinarily around 12.05 BST the sky largely cleared by high cloud. The 10inch had sufficient light gathering to give a cler view of the photosphere. Seeing made the limb wobbly, but using a radio controlled clock the moment of First contact was seen about 10 seconds late. As the planet moved onto the disc there was a clear ‘dragging’ on the black of space behind it (like a pool with an outflow) giving an indisputable ‘black drop effect’ which lasted a while and was drawn by eye at 11.15.28 UT. Second contact was observed with a narrow arc of light between the planet and the limb at 11.15.31 UT (fractionally before the time predicted). The perfect black dot moved on across the disc and more Friends joined joined to see it between clouds. By 1pm the clouds and then rain ended the observations

 

5th April

BAAO training camp: CEB spent a day in Oxford on day 2 of the 4 day British Astronomy and Astrophysics Olympiad training and UK team selection camp (12 yr12 and yr13 pupils being narrowed down to a team of 5 and a reserve for the 2016 International Olympiad on Astronomy and Astrophysics in India in December). CEB ran a planetraium session, gave a lecture on Telescopes and Optics followed by some questions and then in the evening oversaw an observing session on level 6 of the Denys Wilkinson Building. 2 ETX 105 Meades were available as well as a small Newtonian and a huge 12 inch Meade (brough by Alan Pickwick). The sky was largely clear and, though the view was restricted by the buildings, Jupiter and its moons were viewed (with Europa and Io in conjuction and visibly seperating over the 2 hours of observing) and Mizar and Alcor (with Mizar A and B resolved) and then h and k Persei, the Double Open Cluster. Individual stars were also identified and pointer patterns discussed

 

24th March

Sun-Earth Lecture: The 14th lecture focussed on the Vernal Equinox and tackling subjects within the basic field of Sun-Earth connections ‘Transits an Occultations – the importance of shadows’ was delivered to an audience of some 40 Friends and visitors by CEB

 

19th March

Friends outing: A group of 20 Friends headed to Oxford for visits in the Astrophysics sub-department. A talk on the E-ELT and Oxford contribution to major instruments by Dr Fraser Clarke and tours of the Instrumentation labs. After lunch the group were met by Proffessor Jeff Burley in Green Templeton College for tours of the Tower of the Winds and the old Radcliffe Observatoy

 

13th March

House visit: The last Shell House visit of the academic year took place with 7 pupils from PR coming up to the Dome. The temperature was falling and the sky very clear. There were also no Astro lights so the conditions were perhaps the best so far since January. The 4 day old Moon was viewed in the ETX and M45 in the Binos. Jupiter shone brightly in the ESE and was viewqed very well in the 10 inch with Europa and Ganymede very close and several storm bands on he planet seen

 

12th March

Spring Sky: A small group of Friends and visitors, including a family from Oxford and a yr 6 and yr 8 pupil, came up to the Dome. Depsite mist and hazy cloud the 3 day old Moon was viewed in the James ETX and the Pleiades in Binos. The ETX was used for M42 the Orion Nebula earlier. A tour of the sky was given including the Zoiac constellations. The 10 inch tracked Jupiter and its 4 moons. 2 main bands and 2 subsidiary bands were visible on the main planet

 

8th March

House visit: 9 pupils from C1 Shell came up to the Dome. It was cloudy

 

Last House visit of the academic year: Sunday 13th March (PR)

6th March

House visit: 7 pupils from CO Shell came up to the Dome. One or two stars were visible in cloud gaps; only Sirius identifiable

 

Next House visit: Tuesday 8th March (C1)

28th February

House visit: An even better clear night greeted 14 MM Shell. The Pleiades ere viewed in Binos and Jupiter and 4 moons in ETX. The 10 inch showed good detail of M42, the Orion Nebula and the Trapezium

 

Next House visit: Sunday 6th March (CO)

23rd February

House visit: At last a clear night and LI Shell drew the lucky card. 8 pupils came up to the Dome. The sky was bright with the waning just off Full Moon beutifully in conjunction with Jupiter less than 2 degrees away. The Binos were used to view the pleiades and the ETX Jupiter and 3 moons (Io in Occcultation) The 10 inch tracked M42 (Orion nebula) and gave a super viw of the Trapezium and good detail in the nebula itslef. The bottom right star inthe Trapezium could just be resolved into two

 

Next House visit: Sunday 28th February (MM)

GCSE Observing: The last chance for Coursework to be completed by Hundreds. With CEB, NMA and DGR at the Dome, 6 pupils came up to complete stellar density and Messier drawings and photographs. All the instruments were used, Binos, 2 ETXs and the Smith Newtonian. Several Remove also came up to fisnish Constellation drawings , using Orion and Cassiopeia. Io was seen to appear from occultation and the Spring marker, Arcturus, rose in the East. A close call, we have never had to wait to so near March to complete observations

10th February

GCSE Obsertving: At last a clear night and an emergency observing session with 5 out of the 6 Hundred pupils joining NMA at the Dome to complete drawings

 

7th February

House visit: 14 Shell pupils form EL came up to the Dome in rain and high winds, having been out climbing during the day. One of the most miserable evenings but lots of good questions

 

Next House visit: Tuesday 23rd February (LI)

31st January

House visit: 10 pupils from TU Shell came up to the Dome in high winds but at least no rain

 

Next House visit: Sunday 7th February (EL)

21st January

External visit: Some 26 Friends of Swindon Museum and Art Gallery visited for a double evening combining a visit to ‘In the Marlborough Night Garden’ with Gavin James and then a trip to the Observatory. Sadly the sky had clouded and only the Moon occasionally got through the cloud. Before the groups came up the sky was clear and Comet Catalina had been located in the 10 inch and a drawing made showing it close to a 9th magnitude star in Draco, several degress away from its position on Tuesday

 

19th January

Comet spotting: A clear night at last and the chance to see Catalina. The 10 inch found it straight away with coordinates input. Finding it in the binos was harder and needed the old technique of finder charts, A small group of Friends and staff gathered in advance of the GCSE observing session. The 9-10 day old waxing Gibbous Moon really washed out the sky and the Comet was not much more than a faint blur. Some assymetry was visible suggesting tails. Seen against a couple of faint stars the motion was perceptable over 3 hours and was estimated to be 1-2 arc minutes. It was good to be visited by a couple of past GCSE astronomers too

 

GCSE Observing: 10 Remove astronomers came up, some not in very warm clothes as temperatures dropped to -5 degrees. Constellaon drawings were completed. Sadly the Moon was very close to Orion, Only one Hundred astronomer appeared and managed 3 Messier drawings though again the mMoon rendered M42 and M45 less than perfect

17th January

House visit: 11 Shell pupils from BH came up to the Dome. It was cloudy

 

Next house visit: Sunday 31st January (TU)

16th January

Stargazing Event: CEB assisted at Oxford Astrophysics Department’s annual Jnauary Stargazing event. Some 1300 visitors were entertained in the Department from 2pm till 10pm

 

14th January

GCSE Observing: NMA and DGR were at the observatory and a number of Remove came up to continue Constellation drawing. Sadly Hundred pupils had mocks the next day

 

Astrophotography exhibition: Some 60 Friends and visit0rs attended the private viewing of Gavin James’ ‘In the Marlborough Night Garden’. A stunning array of 17 images taken with modest equipment from his garden in central Marlborough

10th January

House visit: 12 Shell pupils from B1 came up to the Dome. The sky was clear until 30 mins before they arived and then clouded over

 

Next House visit: Sunday 17th January (BH)

7th January

GCSE Observing: DGR gathered a group of 5 Remove astronomers in a short cold clear break to continue Constellation drawing

 

3rd January

Quadrantids: A small number of optimistic Friend gathered for 40 minutes of clear sky in between clouds. One meteor was seen!

 

2015 News

6th December

House visit: 11 pupils from SU Shell came up to the Dome. The sky was cloudy

 

Next House visit Sunday 10th January 2016 (BH)

29th November

House visit: 10 Shell pupils from IH came up to the Dome in wet and windy weather

 

Next House visit: Sunday 6th December (SU)

24th November

Blackett Science Lecture: Professor Donald Kurtz, University of Central Lancashire and Vice-President Royal Astronomical Sociaty delivered the 11th annual lecture ‘Planets and Pulsations – A new Keplerian revolution’

 

15th November

House visit: 12 Shell pupils from C3 came up to the Dome. It was cloudy

 

Next House visit: Sunday 29th November (IH)

8th November

House visit: 12 Shell pupils from MO came up to the Dome under cloudy skies and light rain. As they left the sky was clearing

 

Next House visit: Sunday 15th November (C3)

4th November

External visit: 12 Spanish sixth form students and their teacher from Colegio Peleteiro in Santiago de Compostela were accopanied to the Dome by AHDT. The sky was cloudy

 

31st October

Double Star obsrving: A small number of Friends gathered on a classic Halloween evening (misty and laterly moonlit) and unusually clear. The Pleiades (this night is the Feast of the Pleiades and perhaps the origin of the Feast of the Dead) were viewed in Binos. The calibrated 10 inch was then turned to a number of Double Star targets, all selected to be high in the sky away from the mist and to test both the observing power of the telescope and observers. First Epsilon Lyrae: A widely spaced Double of almost identically bright, white stars, easily split in binos. The telescope however weas just able to split each of these into close binaries. Beta Cyni (Albireo) was next: A beutiful easy Double, 2 magnitues difference and coloured. The brightest a bright gold (described as Topaz) and the dimmer a slight blue (sapphire!). Omicron (31) Cygni: The is a triple system (squashed triangle) in a very rich star field. The brighter stars are well separated. Each has a slight colour (officially red, white and blue). Gamma Delphinus: A beutiful close bright pair. A magnitude difference and showing a gold and ?green clour. We then pushed the telescope to nearly vertical to view Delta Cephei (the original Cepheid variable) A fine double of nearly 2 magnitudes difference and showing orange and blue. We estimated that the variable was towards the dimmer end of its cycle. Several Taurid meteors were seen in the telescope

 

22nd October

External visit: 8 children (mainly yr 10 and 11) and 10 adults from Albourne Youth Council came to the Dome. A lunar aureole was seen and the waxing gibbous Moon was viewed in Binos. Otherwise the sky was cloudy

 

18th October

GTC visit: 16 Staff, Fellows and family from Green Templeton College Oxford (the previous pre-1935 home of the 10 inch) came up to the Dome. The evening was cloudy

 

11th October

House visit: 11 pupils from NC Shell came up to the Dome with 2 Tutors. The evening was cloudy

 

Next House visit 8th November (MO)

9th October

GCSE Observing: 8 Remove astronomers joined DGR at the Dome and though hazy near the horizon, managed drawings of Casssiopeia and Cygnus. The Pleiades (M45) were viewed in Binos

 

7th October

Friends Q&A: A small group of Friends attanded the Dome for a Q&A on Dwarf Planets, particularly the status of Pluto and definitions of planets. As a bonus we were able to observe Vesta in the 10 inch and then Uranus; neither of which showed the colour we had seen at the week-end4th OctoberHouse visit: The first House Shell visit of the academic year saw 10 pupils from C2 and their HM’s wife and children visit the Dome. The sky was cloudy

 

Next House visit: Sunday 11th October (NC)

3rd October

Outer Planets: A small group of Friends gathered (possibly reduced in number by the England rugby match) on a clear evening for the first observing event of the new Diary. The ETX split Mizar A and B and then M13 and the Binos M31, which was easily seen by eye. The 10 inch was calibratedand then tracked Neptune, which showed a lovely pale blue colour and just discernable disc. Vesta was the next target and bright in comparision with a discernable warm brown/orange colour. The last target was Unranus showing a much bigger disc and a clear green-blue (or blue-green) hue

 

1st October

GCSE Observing: The first clear evenming of the academic year saw DGR and NMA at the Dome with 2 H and 18 R astronomers who had an introduction to the Dome, asterisms and constellations and the ETX was used to view some Messier objects

 

28th September

Total lunar eclipse: CEB decided to go to the Dome between 3am and 4am to watch the Total lunar eclipse (having seen the last in April in Australia) It was most impressive by eye, though the Binos showed it well against the background stars. In fact the most impressive sight was when it first rose early evening and appeared huge a pink against the horizon

 

25th September

Friend drinks: The 11th annual Friends drinks took place at the Dome under initially clear skies. A good number of Friends both old and new gathered in advance of the new Diary year

 

14th August

‘Family’ visit: 4 descendents of Joseph Gurney Barclay visited the Dome. A Gt-Grandaughter and, from the States, a Gt-Gt-Grandaughter and 2 Gt-Gt-Gt Grandaughters

 

13th August

Perseids meteor shower: A good group of Friends and past pupils gathered up at the Dome, joining JAG and CEB as the light faded. Setting Saturn was viewed in the ETX. Almost to order, at just before 10pm, we were treated to a super-bright -6 fireball, lighting up the sky like a flare and this was follwed shortly by another in the SW which left a long train in the sky which persisted for 20 seconds or so. In the first 20 minutes there were 6 fireballs giving green, pink, blue and yellow meteors. The display quietend down after that and encroaching high cloud probably stopped many meteor from bing seen. After 11.30pm the sky cleared again. In all 54 meteors were recorded

 

24th July to 4th August

9th International Olympiad on Astronomy and Astrophysics: CEB and Sandor Kruk (Oxford Astrophysics) led a team of 3 year 13 students (from schools around the UK) in the first UK entry to this Olympiad, which took place in Magelang, Central Java in Indonesia. Over 200 students competed, from 41 countries. The competition consited of 3 tough rounds; Observation, Theory and Data Analysis. The opening ceremony was at Borobudur temple and the closing ceremony at Prambanan. Excitingly, the team won 2 silver medals, coming 22nd and 30th overall. The UK was thus 9th in the medal table. The top three countries were Iran, India and Indonesia. The UK Team managed to come second to India in the Team competition

 

22nd July

Summer School visit: 21 visitors came up to the Dome on a clear evening. Stars were identified as they appeared in the dimming twilight. The Moon was viewed in Binos and then Saturn in ETX. The 10 inch then tracked Saturn which was well viewed with 4 to 5 moons depending on eyesight

 

15th July

External lecture: CEB delivered the talk ‘The oldest GOTO telescope in the World’ to some 25 residents, the Warden, Steward and a Trustee of the Duchess of Somerset’s Alms House in Froxfield

 

Summer School visit: 14 visitors from Week 1, including a family from near Bilbao and from Hong Kong, joined JAG and CEB at the Dome. The sky was largely cloudy, however gaps appeared and enabled the Summer Triangle, Arcturus, Antares and Spica to be seen along with the Saucepan and Polaris and Cassiopeia. Sevral satellites were spotted. The ETX was used to view Mizar and Alcor and split the binary Mizar A and B

28th June

IOAA Training Camp: CEB and Sandor Kruk from Oxford Astrophysics spent the day in Oxford with the 3 pupils who are to compete at the IOAA in Indonesia at the end of the month (The first time a British Team has entered). The Pupils practiced questions and, using solar goggles and the ETX, were able to view the Sun, though there was only one pair of sunspots. In the warm evening, on Merton playing fields using the ETX, many objects were viewed and coordinates and angular seperations practiced, until the sky clouded over at midnight; including Venus’ crescent phase, Jupiter and 3 moons, the Gibbous Moon and its main ray craters. Mizar and Alcor among other Doubles were split and also Mizar A and B seen

 

18th June

External visit: 15 Pupils from Marlborough Malaysia and two teachers came up to the Dome with 2 ex-pupils from Waterford Kamhlabe United World College in Swaziland. A faint CZA was visible when we first reached the Dome (2nd in a week!) The Sun was then viewed in solar goggles and the with ETX and white light filter. The sky was too cloudy sadly for the H alpha filter

 

16th June

External visit: A large group of local group of Ladies Who Latte came up to the Dome late afternoon. Though no Latte was provided they were greeted at 6.30pm by a clear sky and for the first time that I have seen, 3 solar atmospheric phenomena. Either side of the Sun were clear Parhelia (sundogs)or rainbow clouds, 11 degrees from the Sun at 9 and 3 o’clock. Joining them was a faint Parhelic circle of diameter 22 degrees. Most beutiful however was a clear Cicumzenithal arc (CZA)an inverted rainbow arc directly above the Sun. These all lasted for 15 minutes or so. The Sun was then viewed in solar goggles, Solarscope and then the ETX, which showed clearly the group 2367. The 10 inch was then used with the H alpha filter to view spot 2365 and its Plage. Very faint prominences were seen, however the sky had already become hazy

 

15th June

External visit: 2 yr 12 pupils from Pate’s Grammar School in Cheltenham visited the Dome at the start of a work experience week, where they are to assist in the putting together an exhibiton of astronomical images which will hopefully run early in 2016. The sky had rather clouded over but in bright breaks the Sun was viewed in solar goggles, the ETX (which clearly showed the large sunspot group 2367 with umbra and penumbra and then the 10 inch and H-alpha filter which showed some clear prominences and granulation

 

External lecture: CEB gave the lectue ‘The oldest GOTO telescope in the World’ to a large gathering of Chipping Norton Amateur Astronomy Group

13th May

Solar open day: 15 Friends and College staff gathered on a clear sunny afternoon. The Sun was veiwed in the Solarviewer which clearly showed the enormous sunspot group 2339 and 2345. The ETX showed excellent detail of the umbra and penumbra of the larger spots and clear striation in the penumbra. The main pair of spots were seen also to split into further pairs. Some 7 other spot groups were visible. The 10 inch viewed the Sun in H alpha and was focused on the lower limb where an enormous quiescent Hedge Prominence was seeen in the process of lifting of the surface. A great deal of detail was evident and the shape change perceptively over the 2 hours of observing

 

24th April

NASA lesson: The top Remove Physics sets had a lesson with Dr Abell and were able to ask plenty of questions

 

23rd April

NASA visit: Dr Paul Abell, lead scientist for small planetary bodies at Johnson Space Centre, Houston, came to the College for an outreach visit. He talked to Physicits and Astronomers about detecting, monitoring and intercepting asteroids and then gave an open talk on Asteroid Impact Threat and the Chelyabinsk Event in 2013

 

4th April

Total Lunar Eclipse: CEB and a family group in Gembrook, Victoria observed the eclipse until Totality (only 5 minutes or so) as the Moon became a dull red colour. It was the first time that the pair of eclipses 2 weeks apart had been seen by CEB

 

Good Friday 3rd April

Outreach lecture: CEB gave the lecture ‘The oldest GOTO telescope in the World’ to a large and diverse audience at Mt Burnett observatory near Gembrook to the East of Melbourne. The talk was followed by Observing using the 18 inch Newtonian Relefctor (ex Monash University). Several new objects were seen, including the Omega Centaurus Globular and the Jewel Box Open cluster

 

1st April

Archaeoastronomy meeting: CEB met the Nura Gili Indigenous Astronomy Group at the University of New South Wales in Sydney. This was followed by an exciting visit to rare petroglyphs north of Sydney in the Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park

 

26th March

Sun-Earth lecture: The Rev. Dr Janneke Blokland gave the 12th annual lecture in the Ellis Theatre, ‘Particles in the Spotlight’, which was well attended by Friends and visitors

 

20th March

Partial Solar Eclipse: Astronomers past and present and Friends started gathering at 8am under cloudy skies. A glimpse of sunlight but nothing for First Contact. Then around 8.45am the Sun appeared and could be located in the 10 inch (with solar filter!). The ETX and filter was in use and all watchers had solar goggles. NMA created an amazing projection box and in this and the 10 inch the large sunspot was visible as well as the rugged edge of the Moon itself (mountains and valleys). Cheers went up as the skies cleared. Collinders were put to use and multiple images projected as planned. At 9am the pupils and CEB departed to join the whole College community on the XV Ruby pitch. 100s watched as the eclipse drew to a maximum, leaving a smiley face, aerial photographs were taken. The observatory continued to operate till Last contact at 10.38.59 UT. An experience to remember!

 

5th March

External vist: 20 pupils and 2 staff from the French exchange school near Versailles came up to the Dome. The afternoon sky was cloudy. All were briefed on the forthcoming eclipse and went away with solar goggles

 

26th February

House visit: The last Shell visit took place with 9 pupils from IH coming up to the Dome. This was one of the best evening s this year and as well as a tour of major asterisms, the Moon was viewed in ETX and Pleiades in Binos. The ten inch tracked Jupiter ad gave a good image of the planet and 3 moons, 2 of which closed perceptively during the evening

 

Next House visit: September 2015

24th February

House visit: 11 Shell pupils from C1 came up to the Dome. The sky was initially clear and enabled major asterisms to be pointed out. Jupiter was viewed in the 10 inch with 4 moons and clear equatorial bands. The sky then clouded over

 

Next House visit: Thursday 26th February (IH)

17th February

Extra GCSE Observing: In a frantic last ditch attempt to finish Coursework observations, 2 Hundreds girls came up to complete star counts. This was done amid patches of cloud. Mars and Venus were clear in the West and Jupiter bright in the South East. A good ISS pass was viewed before they came up and a bright meteor seen in UMi

 

12th February

House visit: 9 pupils (reduced by illness) from EL Shell came up to the Dome. There were some clear patches on arrival and Polaris, Jupitr and Orion were located. The clouds however closed in before any of the instruments could be used

 

Next House visit: Tuesday 24th February (C1)

3rd February

GCSE Observing: 3 Hundreds and 1 Remove pupil came up to the Dome to complete coursework. The sky was bright with the Full Moon (and Jupiter only 5 degrees away) star counts and a constelation drawing were done

 

External visit: 10 students and a an accompanying adult from 4 Schools in China came up to the Dome in the cold and remnants of the morning snow

22nd January

House visit: 12 Shell pupils from TU came up as temperatures dropped. The sky was clear though there was high cloud/mist. Pleiades were viewed in Binos and Jupiter and 3 moons seen in ETX and then in the 10 inch where some good detial on the planet’s surface was seen

 

GCSE Observing: The Hundreds all came up to continue their star count coursework. The Seeing was better and there was no Moon but the light fog was a problem and soon started to render dimmer stars invisible. Comet Lovejoy was found in Aries but has noticeably faded

Next House visit: Thursday 12th February (EL)

19th January

Extra GCSE observing: Period 6 was cancelled and an opportunity seized to get the Hundred astronomers to the Dome. Though Astronomical twilinght had not ended it was possible for each to get a pair of stellar density drawings done using the ETX and Carl Zeiss binos. At the end of the hour Comet Lovejoy was found in the Binos and for the first time its long Eastwards Ion tail was seen pointing towards the Pleiades

 

15th January

House visit: 12 Shell pupils from BH came up to the Dome in a very chilly (with wind chill) 1 degree clear night. The Seeing was very poor and the sky bright with skyglow. Nevertheless Comet Lovejoy was easily found just below M45 (Pleiades) and viewed in Binos and M42 tracked in the 10 inch

 

Next House visit: Thursday 22nd January (TU)

GCSE observing: With a clear sky, Hundred astronomers were summoned to catch up much needed coursework drawing. On arrival at the Dome it had clouded over. One Remove drawing of Orion was done as the stars faded behind cloud

13th January

House visit: 12 Shell pupils from LI came up to the Dome. The sky was cloudy

 

Next House visit: Thursday 15th January (BH)

10th January

Comet Lovejoy: Given an unusal clear night (though a moisture laden sky) the Dome opened in an attempt to find Comet Lovejoy which had just passed Perigee and was around 0.79 AU distant and peaking in magnitude at around +4 (though this is integrated across a large (0.3 degree) spread out Coma. Initially it was hard to find. As the sky darkened it was picked up by sweeping to the right of Orion and below Aldeberan with wide field Binos. It was then discernable by eye (with averted vision) Coordinates for the 10 inch proved useless due to the rapid motion and the Comet had to be acquired by eye. The 10 inch gave a very fuzzy image, though showed a brighted nucleus. The traking was not able to prevent the Comet going out of view and we were able to calculate a motion of some 0.1 degrees per hour by watching the background stars. The best view was gained using the new 8 inch (Smith) Newtonian which was both clear and bright and showed the slight greeninsh tinge. Altogether 15 or so gathered, including Staff and Friends and 3 L6 pupils also were attempting digital photography of the winter constellations rising over the Dome

 

8th January

House visit: The first visit of 2015 took place with 12 Shell pupils from B1 coming up to the Dome. The sky, though clear in the late afternoon, had largely clouded over, though there were glimpses of the Pleiades cluster and then Orion at the end

 

Next House visit: Tuesday 13th (LI)

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