January 2021 News

28th January

House visit: 8 pupils from PR Shell joined via Zoom. Unfortunately the wifi was not stable and the evening had to be abandoned. The visit is rescheduled for Tuesday 2nd March

Next House visit: Thursday 4th February (SU)

21st January

House visit: 10 pupils from NC Shell joined CEB via Zoom along with their HM and family and the new Deputy Head (Co-Curriculum) and family. The event was recorded for those not attending, due to time zones. The evening was cloudy.

Next House visit: Thursday 28th January (PR)

18th January

Radcliffe Society: Members met online to hear GKWJ present an Observing Challenge for the coming weeks, with objects to be viewed by naked eye, binoculars and a small telescope. This was followed by an introduction to the Blackett Observatory Radio Meteor Detection System. Next Meeting: 8th February

16th January

Friends Observing: A group of a dozen Friends met on Zoom for the annual ‘Bring Your Own Telescope / Binoculars’ observing session. Cloudy conditions prevailed, so a Q&A session was enjoyed. A whole range of questions were raised, ranging from ‘how do I actually find objects with a pair of binoculars?’, through to ‘what is the best approach to start astrophotography with my 9.25 inch Celestron telescope?’. It was a stimulating session, with great participation from all attending

14th January

House visit: 7 Shell pupils from MO joined CEB on Zoom. Several were based overseas and thus the event was recorded. The night was mild and cloudy

Next House visit: Thursday 21st January (NC)

7th January

House visit: The first House visit of the term occured remotely via Zoom, a new venture. The majority of Shell pupils from MM were able to attend and the visit was recorded for those in different time zones. The night was cold and foggy, but only CEB was exposed to this. The pupils could sit in the warm in their homes for the observatory tour

Next House visit (Zoom): Thursday 14th January (MO)

2nd January 2021

Friends Observing: A group of around a dozen Friends joined CEB, GKWJ and JAG online via Zoom to observe the Quadrantids meteor shower. It was cloudy, so observation was only possible with the Radio Meteor Detection System. CEB gave an introduction to the Quadrantid shower and GKWJ gave an update on the radio system. We then watched for meteors, but it was relatively quiet with only a small number of short ‘pings’ seen. The peak of the Quadrantid shower evidently hadn’t started yet. The radio detector live stream continued online through the night and activity has increased significantly, with a constant stream of events visible by the morning

December 2020 News

15th December

Great Conjunction: JAG and GKWJ went to the Dome to try and see Jupiter and Saturn as they approached their Great Conjunction. A gap in the clouds allowed the planetary pair to be viewed through binoculars and just in the 10-inch. Their separation of 45 arcminutes put the two planets on the very edge of the eyepiece

13th December

Friends Observing: Cloudy conditions and Covid restrictions did not deter over thirty Friends and members of the U3A from gathering to observe the annual Geminids Meteor Shower. We met online via Zoom; CEB introduced the Geminids, GKWJ spoke about the new radio meteor detector and then we observed the waterfall from the radio system. We saw many ‘pings’ accompanied by the characteristic ‘weeeooo’ sound emerging from the ‘ssssshhhh’ of the static background noise. In the two hours of observing from 8pm to 10pm, we witnessed the system detect over 200 events

10th December

House Visit: 11 Shell pupils from EL came up to the Dome. It was cloudy and raining

Next House visit: Thursday 7th January (MM)

7th December

Radcliffe Society: A select band of members met online. GKWJ gave a round up of What’s Up over the coming months. A pupil read out their essay entitled ‘Do Humankind’s Best Days Lie Ahead?’ where the prospect of space travel and extra terrestrial colonisation was explored. Finally, a pupil introduced a video ‘Does Planet 9 Exist?’, which provoked interesting discussion. Next meeting: 18th January 2021

3rd December

House visit: 14 Shell pupils from DA came up to the Dome with a Tutor. It was cloudy

Next House visit: Thursday 10th December (EL)

1st December

House visit: 10 Shell pupils from IH came up to the Dome with a Tutor. It was cold and cloudy

Next House visit: Thursday 3rd December (DA)

November 2020 News

28th November

Meteor Detector: The new Blackett Observatory Radio Meteor Detection System was brought up to the Dome today, following initial set up and testing in GKWJ’s office. It is now up and running 24/7, detecting reflections of the GRAVES radio transmission (143.050 MHz) by ionisation caused by meteors as they ablate in the atmosphere. The signal is processed by software (Spectrum Lab) to produce a waterfall of events. The system will keep track of hourly event numbers and should show increased numbers during meteor showers. The Geminids, with an expected peak on the 13th / 14th December, will be its first true test

26th November

GCSE Observing: Despite freezing fog, Remove astronomers came to the Dome to sketch the Moon. They started with a naked eye view, showing the 11 day old phase, a double aureole and Mars only a few degrees away. They then sketched a more detailed view given by the two ETXs and a close up of the crater Tycho, through the 10-inch. Photos were taken with their mobile phones through an ETX

House Visit: 10 pupils from Cotton Shell came to the Dome. Despite the fog the Summer Triangle and Polaris were visible and bright red Mars. The Moon and Tycho crater were viewed in the 10 inch

Next House visit: Thursday 3rd December (DA)

25th November

EP Observing: Under clear skies, but with a Waxing Gibbous Moon, the L6 EP pupil continued his astrophotography work at the Dome with GKWJ, gathering data sets of M45 (Pleiades), the Double Cluster and M81 & M82 (Bode’s & Cigar Galaxies). Photographs of the Moon were also taken, along with ‘test shots’ on a number of targets

19th November

GCSE Observing: Pupils from the Hundred continued their Aided Observing Tasks. Sketches were made of Messier objects – M45 (Pleiades) through binoculars, M31 (Andromeda Galaxy) through an ETX and M57 (Ring Nebula) through the 10 inch. Photographs were taken of star trails around the NCP and of the sky to try and catch meteors. Several late Leonid meteors were seen through the evening

House Visit: 12 pupils from C3 Shell came to the Dome with a tutor. The sky was clear if very damp. M31 (Andromeda Galaxy) and the Milky Way were seen by eye. M45 (Pleiades) was veiwed in Binos and M57 (Ring) was viewed in the 10 inch.

Next House visit: Thursday 26th November (CO)

17th November

Friends Observing: A group of some 23 Friends and pupils gathered online via Zoom to observe the annual Leonids meteor shower. While cloudy conditions meant that optical observing was not possible, all was not lost. The group was introduced to the new radio meteor detection system that is in development for the Dome. CEB introduced the Leonids and GKWJ introduced the radio system. One meteor ‘ping’ was seen on the radio feed – a first for the Marlborough College Blackett Observatory! The challenge is to have the radio system fully installed and operational for the Geminids in December

12th November

House visit: 8 pupils from LI Shell came up to the Dome. Initially it was raining but a break in the cloud allowed views of the main Autumn asterisms and the Milky Way and also all present were able to see M31 by (averted) eye

Next House visit: Thursday 19th November (C3)

9th November

Radcliffe Society: The Society met on Zoom for the November meeting. The topic of ‘Life Elsewhere’ was explored through three videos (phospine in the atmosphere of Venus, tidal heating and the Drake equation) and discussion amongst the group. Next meeting: 7th December

6th November

EP Observing: This year’s astronomy focussed Extended Project pupil had his first evening at the Dome with GKWJ, starting to learn the basics of astrophotography. Images of M31, the Andromeda Galaxy, were taken through the Smith 8-inch under a predominantly clear sky, but intermittent cloud hindered perfect progress

5th November

GCSE Observing: The Hundred GCSE astronomers started their Aided Observing Tasks at the Dome tonight. Sketches were made of M45 (The Pleiades) through binoculars and of M57 (The Ring Nebula) through the 10-inch. Photographs of star trails around the North Celestial Pole were taken

House Visit:11 pupils from C1 Shell came up to the Dome with a Tutor. The sky was largely clear with falling temperatures. A tour was given outside the Dome and then the 10 inch was used to view Mars. The ice cap and some dark green markings were discernable

Next House visit: Thursday 12th November (LI)

3rd November

GCSE Observing: The Remove GCSE astronomers joined CEB and GKWJ at the Dome for an excellent evening of naked eye observing. They made sketches of the main asterisms looking north and then south, adding in the waning Gibbous Moon and a wonderfully bright Mars. Apparent magnitudes of the principal stars were estimated and calculations using local sidereal time were attempted

October 2020 News

18th October

Friends Observing: Unfortunately cloud prevented the scheduled observing of double stars, but that did not deter us from meeting. A group of around a dozen Friends gathered online for the first ‘Cloudy Alternative’ and considered the topic of ‘Life Elsewhere’, inspired by the recent discovery of phosphine in the atmosphere of Venus. A fascinating discussion ensued, though ultimately inconclusive, we all agreed that simple life forms are probably abundant while complex life forms require a complex set of conincidences and are therefore likely to be extremely rare

15th October

GCSE Observing: 8 Hundred astronomers had their first evening of the year at the Dome. It was cloudy to start with, but soon cleared to enable a revision session Sky Tour

9th October

GCSE Observing: 10 Remove GCSE astronomers came up to the Dome for their first evening of observing. Under a cold and clear autumn sky, they enjoyed a Sky Tour around the major asterisms, the Andromeda Galaxy, the Milky Way and the planets, Jupiter, Saturn and Mars. The invisible ‘lines in the sky’ were identified. They then used the clinometers they had made in class earlier to measure the altitude of Polaris, calculate the altitude of the Celestial Equator, measure the alitude of the star Deneb and calculate its Declination. They were also able to estimate Deneb’s Right Ascension given its distance from the meridian and the local sidereal time. Finally Mars was viewed through the 10inch, where some surface detail was visible

8th October

House visit: 12 pupils from C2 Shell and a Tutor came up to the Dome. The sky was largely cloudy, though allowed sights of 2 major asterisms, the Saucepan and Polaris and the Summer Triangle. Jupiter and Saturn were also visible as the group departed

Next House visit: Thursday 15th October (IH)

1st October

House visit: 11 Shell pupils from BH came up to the Dome. The sky was cloudy and it was raining by the end of the evening

Next House visit: Thursday 8th October (C2)

September 2020 News

29th September

Lecture: CEB delivered the talk ‘Stories in the Stars – Cultural interpretations of the night sky’ via Zoom to an audience of some 40 pupils and staff

25th September

Friends of the Marlborough Telescope 16th Anniversary: A select group of Friends gathered via a Zoom link to chat and hear CEB look back and then forwards at the Friends Diary. GKWJ ensured that we had a live stream from the Observatory. The Friends were able to stay on to view the waxing Gibbous Moon through the 10 inch, with clear views of craters near the terminator and some super mountain shadows

24th September

House visit: 10 pupils from B1 Shell were the first to come up to the Dome this year. Socially distanced and in masks, they saw the sky darken and the Summer Triangle appear, with Arcturus setting in the West. They then had an introduction to the workings of the Observatory and then we turned the 10inch on Saturn. We were able to get a clear view of the rings and Titan. Mars was rising as they left

Next House visit: Thursday 1st October (BH)

21st September

Friends Observing: History was made at the Blackett Observatory tonight as, for the first time ever, live views through the 10inch were streamed across the internet to over 30 Friends in 24 households, watching from the safety and comfort of their own homes. CEB anchored the online presentation, with JAG providing supporting information and GKWJ controlling the telescope and camera. Observing started with Jupiter and its four Galilean Moons; surface details including the Great Red Spot were visible. Next was dwarf planet, Pluto – only the second time that Pluto has been observed at the MCBO. We then moved on to Saturn and through the use of long exposure photography, the group was able to identify 6 moons: Dione, Tethys, Enceladus, Rhea, Hyperion and Titan. A brief interlude outside while the 10inch carried out a meridian flip offered a chance to enjoy wide views of the sky. Observing continued back at the 10inch with blue tinged Neptune and another first for the Dome, its moon, Triton was clearly identified in the live images. The tour continued to Mars, which made a spectacular sight, resplendent in its orange-red hues, with very clear surface detail across the disk and the South polar ice cap easily visible, looking smaller than usual, a sign that it is currently Summer in the Southern Hemisphere of Mars. The session ended with Uranus and again, a first for the 10inch, four moons were identified: Oberon, Titania, Umbriel and Ariel. A wonderful night of observing with excellent participation from all attendees. This surely bodes well for Friends observing through the coming winter

Radcliffe Society: The first meeting of the new academic year took place and eight members joined GKWJ, JAG and CEB on Zoom. We started with What’s Up using Sky Safari, including a look at the sky view from Bangkok, Thailand – noticing that Mars is directly overhead from that latitude. Future plans and projects for the year ahead were discussed and then the members enjoyed a live observing session using a camera attached to the 10inch. We found Jupiter, with its four Galilean moons all visible. We then moved on to Saturn, where the Cassini Division could just be made out and four moons could be seen with a long exposure view; the moons were Dione, Tethys, Rhea and Titan . The session ended with a view of Neptune and its moon, Triton. Next meeting: 9th November

13th September

@MCBO Live: Further testing was carried out by GKWJ, this time of an alternative approach to enable live views of deep sky objects. JAG and another Beta Tester were treated to a Zoom tour of the following: M15, M31 (Andromeda Galaxy), M33 (Triangulum Galaxy), NGC 457 (Owl Cluster), IC 1805, M76 (Little Dumbbell Nebula), M74 (Phantom Galaxy) and finally, Mars, with the southern polar ice cap and some surface detail visible. A very successful session which paves the way for live observing events to come

5th September

@MCBO Live: GKWJ started work on a way to enable live observing over the internet from the Dome to overcome the problem of social distancing measures currently prohibiting gatherings at the observatory. Using a new Canon camera, broadcast software OBS and Zoom, live images were shared online with CEB and JAG, who enjoyed the night sky tour from the comfort of their sofas. We started with the camera attached to the 10inch and slewed to the bright Solar System objects – Jupiter with all four Galilean moons, then Saturn with multiple moons, Titan, Tethys, Iapetus, Dione & Rhea, which became visible when the exposure was altered. We moved on to the double star, Albireo, which was easily split with obvious colour and magnitude differences seen. We then tried the globular clusters M71 & M15, but this did not work with the current set up. We then went outside and used various camera lenses for wide views of Ursa Major and the Summer Triangle, then zooming in a little to Delphinus and Lyra, where we could just make out M57 – The Ring Nebula. We moved to the 87% waning Gibbous Moon close to Mars, finishing with an easy split of Alcor and Mizar. The initial tests were extremely encouraging. There are strategies available to improve visiblity of the fainter deep sky objects, which will be tested under the next clear sky. There is great potential for a winter of fine online observing with @MCBO Live – check back here for updates

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