May 2024 – News

20th May

Solar Observing: A clear, bright and sunny day led GKWJ to alert All Staff and members of Radcliffe Society that the Observatory would be open in the afternoon for solar observing. JAG assisted with 54 members of staff and assorted family, 13 pupils and 2 dogs that enjoyed views with: eclipse specs, the Celestron 8-inch in White Light, with a rash of sunspots visible in lovely detail, the Lunt 50mm in hydrogen alpha, giving a detailed view of the full disk with active regions, filaments and multiple prominences, including one vast prominence that stretched about 6 Earth diameters from the chromosphere, and the 10-inch with the hydrogen alpha filter which showed a more detailed view of the large prominence and the main active region, AR 3685. Seeing was good, though variable through the afternoon; in the large clear patches, it settled to give stunning views.

10th May

Aurora Imaging: A truly unexpected news item… GKWJ visited the Observatory at about 23:45 to capture the end of the most incredible display of the Aurora Borealis. Huge active region AR 3664 has been crackling with activity recently, sending five CMEs towards Earth. They arrived on Friday evening, sparking the largest geomagnetic storm for over twenty years. The Aurora was seen overhead in extreme southerly latitudes, including Marlborough. An amazing show to witness and unlikely to be repeated for at least twenty years!

An extraordinary display of the Aurora Borealis over
the Blackett Observatory on 10-05-2024 (photo by GKWJ)



GCSE Observing: The 16 Remove Astronomers had Period 2 at the Observatory with GKWJ. Sunny conditions, though through hazy high cloud, were perfectly timed to fit in with their current topic about Solar Astronomy. The session started with a look at the Sun through Eclipse Specs, with AR 3664/8 clearly visible by naked eye, it really is a gigantic active region. Outside, the photosphere was observed in white light with the Celestron 8-inch, and the chromosphere in hydrogen alpha through the Lunt 50mm. The group moved inside to the 10-inch, where the full disk was seen in hydrogen alpha at 90x, with multiple prominences, the vast AR 3664/8 and various other filaments and active regions. Magnification was increased to 140x for a close inspection of the large AR and nearby complex prominences. The session ended with the pupils making a sketch of the whole disk or a feature of their choice.

8th May

Outreach Lecture: GKWJ and JAG delivered their ‘Cosmic Recycling’ lecture to a group of 20 members of the Leckhampstead WI. The talk was followed by various questions from members and a delicious sit down WI tea!

4th May

Outreach Observing: GKWJ and JAG hosted 28 members of the public across two groups for the annual solar observing open day. The sky was mostly cloudy, but with sufficient breaks to allow a few glimpses of the Sun. Eclipse specs were used outside, along with the Celestron 8-inch with a white light filter and the Lunt 50mm hydrogen alpha telescope. 7 sunspot groups were clearly visible in both scopes and the Lunt also showed multiple prominences. The second group enjoyed larger gaps in the cloud and the 10-inch was used with the hydrogen alpha filter, first at 90x magnification and then at 140x, to observe the prominences and larger active region in exquisite detail.

2nd May

Astronomy GCSE Field Trip: 15 Remove Astronomy GCSE pupils were accompanied by GKWJ and JAG to the Royal Observatory Greenwich for the annual field trip. It was a grey, misty day, but that didn’t deter the group. The visit involved first a workshop about exoplanets, followed by a picnic lunch. Next, a workshop debating whether civilians in space should be called Astronauts or Space Tourists, then a fabulous show in the Peter Harrison Planetarium. The group then spent the afternoon looking around the old North Site, including Flamsteed House, the Prime Meridian (which isn’t at exactly 0° these days), the transit instruments and the main observatory. The visit ended with an expedition to find the actual Prime Meridian, which was discovered to be a few seconds East, next to a large green bin!