Radcliffe Society Report

This year has seen the new programme for pupils in the evening, with clear Tuesday nights being open to all College pupils from 8.30pm as usual (with an expectation of attendance, if free, from GCSE Remove and Hundred Astronomers) and Thursday night, whether clear or not, being used for the planned House visits for all the Shell. Bar a few individuals, all 14 Houses were able to attend an introduction to the Observatory, Astronomy, the Observatory web-site (www.blackettobservatory.org) and if lucky to observe (this year only NC, MM and LI had clear skies). As sometimes happens, Tuesday nights seemed particularly plagued by poor weather, and only 7 nights were available from September till March, pushing many GCSE coursework observation projects up to the deadline. Major events, the Orionid, Taurid, Leonid and Geminid meteor shower peak nights and the total Lunar eclipse in October were also clouded out. Nevertheless old favourites, Neptune, Uranus, Saturn and Jupiter were observed with the classic Messier objects including some seen for the first time (M: 2, 6, 38, 41 and 52) The most unusual target was a beautiful Comet (Machholz) which we followed across the sky from late November till early March. There was also the excitement of a very rare glimpse of Auroral activity (green glow of the Northern Lights) following a major Solar storm on 9th November. As more pupils become aware of the facility on offer at the Dome, it is hoped that the Society can grow, weather permitting. Apart from the meteor showers, next academic year we have a close approach of Mars and 2 partial Solar eclipses to look forward to, not to mention a number of significant Lectures by outside speakers.


C.E. Barclay