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