June 2023 – News

21st June

Friends Observing: A beautiful close alignment of the thin Waxing Crescent Moon and Venus in the west on a calm evening with some hazy cloud greeted the group of 18 Friends who assembled at the Observatory with GKWJ and JAG to celebrate the Summer Solstice and explore the early summer sky. Observing began with the 3 day old Moon in the 10-inch, followed by Venus, which showed a very clear waning crescent phase. As partial darkness slowly descended, the group went outside to see the brighter stars appear in the sky, with Arcturus, Vega and Deneb standing out. Mars was then observed in the 10-inch, its apparent size of just 4 arcseconds being significantly smaller than the view at opposition in December when it was about 16 arcseconds. Outside again to see red supergiant Antares in the south, the double Mizar and Alcor, and the Summer Triangle. Throughout the evening, a large number of satellites were seen all over the sky, more than usual due to the Sun being closer to the northern horizon. Unfortunately, the haze was now turning to bands of thicker cloud and the group started to disperse having enjoyed a relaxed evening of observing.

19th June

Radcliffe Society: 5 members of the Radcliffe Society joined GKWJ and JAG at the Observatory for the final meeting of the year. In what is becoming an annual tradition, various rockets were launched on the sports pitches. This year, two pupils had designed and 3D printed their own rockets to launch alongside the two purchased rockets, Alpha and Wizard. Eight launches were carried out in total with a range of motors. All four rockets were first launched with low power A8-3 motors; the two pupil built rockets gained height successfully, but then span out of control. The Alpha and Wizard rockets were both launched with a B6-4 motor and then a C6-5 motor. Unlike last year, all launches were successfully recovered, thanks to the use of streamers rather than parachutes. Measurements of each launch were made and a new maximum height was recorded with the Wizard reaching about 260 metres.

10th June

Open Day Observing: GKWJ set up the Lunt 50mm solar hydrogen alpha telescope in Court next to the Marquee for attendees of the Open Day. Over 60 children, parents and members of staff observed the Sun safely with eclipse specs and through the Lunt in hydrogen alpha which showed much surface detail and multiple large prominences.

9th June

GCSE Observing: The 15 Remove GCSE Astronomy pupils had their lesson at the Observatory with GKWJ and CJW on a beautiful sunny day for solar observing. The Sun was seen through eclipse specs, in a Solarscope, in white light with the 10-inch, an ETX and the 8-inch, and in hydrogen alpha with the Lunt 50mm solar telescope. Sketches were made and the sizes of features were estimated.

6th June

Outreach Sessions: 28 pupils and 2 members of staff from Pinewood prep school visited the Observatory as part of the ‘Marlborough in Motion’ STEM outreach day. GKWJ hosted two sessions with help from a L6 pupil, introducing the Y6 Pinewood pupils to solar astronomy. Safe methods of solar observation were demonstrated, though unfortunately, cloudy skies meant it was theory only! Features, the solar cycle and space weather were explored. The pupils used photographs to determine differing rotational periods of the Sun according to latitude, and the elliptical nature of the Earth’s orbit. The pupils all thoroughly enjoyed the sessions and asked a fabulous range of searching questions.