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Blackett Observatory Dome
Welcome to the Marlborough College Blackett Observatory, home to the largest refracting telescope in Wiltshire. Learn more...
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SpaceWeather | More weather... Coordinates: 51.25.25 N and 1.44.24 W
Marlborough College
Oxford Astrophysics
Green Templeton College

Friends' drinks (14th anniversary) Friday 21st at 6.30pm in Observatory (non-weather dependent)

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day
Cocoon Nebula Deep Field

What's Up - Week of September 17th

  • Astronomical twilight ends at 21.12 BST at the start of the week and 20.56 BST at the end

  • The Autumnal Equinox falls this year next Sunday (23rd) when the Sun will rise due East and sets due West. This is the moment that the Sun (at RA 12h and declination 0 degrees) crosses the Celestial Equator from North to South and our nights become longer than our days. Though referred to as the First Point of Libra, due to precession over the last 2 millennia, the Sun will actually be in Virgo

  • The Moon is waxing and will be Full at the start of next week

  • The Sun is blank

  • The ISS returns next week-end: Saturday at 21.00.30 from SSW to SSW reaching 15 degrees altitude. Sunday at 20.09.15 from S to SE reaching 17 degrees and 21.44.13 from WSW to WSW to 13 degrees

  • There are no bright evening Iridium flares this week


Random Blackett Image
A wonderful explosion of colour (in Gemini) as an old star dies leaving a central tiny, hot, White Dwarf and several layers of exploding gas (NASA, Hubble)

News - 6th September

Comet 21P: GKWJ and JAG set off at 2.30am to attempt observing Comet 21P/Giocobini-Zinner in Auriga. At 10 degres centigrade and a waning Moon, conditions were excellent. The 10 inch slewed accurately to the Comet. Sketches were made and the first photographic run with a Canon EOS 1Dx started at 03.11. 45 frames of 16 seconds with a 20 second interval between frames. The run finished at 04.14. A time lapse of the 90 frames was then produced, see Vimeo at https://vimeo.com/288544707. The Comet moved 739 pixels in an hour at a resolution of 0.375 arcseconds per pixel. Later calculations gave a speed across the line of sight of 22km/s, in close agreement with other estimates. A great effort in the early hours

27th - 29th August

British Astronomy and Astrophysics Olympiad (BAAO) training camp: The observatory again was the venue for the 2 day observational training section of the weeks Camp, based in Oxford, for the UK 5 student team (This year all year 12). 4 boys and one girl and the second team leader joined CEB for 2 days in the College running through the high level knowledge and understanding needed to compete in the Observational rounds of the International Competition (IOAA). CEB will lead the team for the 12th Olympiad, which will tale place in Beijing in November. Despite cloudy skies, we managed some hands on experience at the Dome and a short burst of Solar observing

23rd August

Mid-Atlantic observing: As part of a his 2018 lecture series for Cunard, CEB gathered a group of some 150 guests on Deck 13 of the Queen Mary 2 in balmy 23 degree temperature, 3 days out from New York. Tours of the sky were given using the laser pointer, including very bright Mars and major asterisms. Though M31 was viisble, the Milky Way was drowned out by the Waxing Gibbous Moon. Binoculars were used to observe Mars and M31

21st August

Astrophotography evening: JAG joined GKWJ in calm and 15ÂșC.A camera was set up to make a star trails image, running for two hours (roughly 30 degree arcs) Second, Mars was imaged, clearly showing dark detail and an icecap. Third, the 10 inch observed two globular clusters M2 and M15 and then NGC 7009, the Saturn Nebula, a small and relatively faint planetary nebula in Aquarius. In 50mm eyepiece, it appeared as a small mark on the lens but the 28mm eyepiece showed definite elongation and it became clear as to why it was so named. Finally, binoculars were used to find Brocchi's Cluster, the Coathanger, in Vulpecula

10th August

Early Persieds: JAG and 2 College staff observed (and CEB seperately) under a very clear sky with no Moon and incredibly bright Milky Way. Disapointingly only 12 Persieds were seen (they seemed to be fainter) The number of satellites equalled the number of meteors

9th August

Early Perseids: JAG and 2 visitors observed for 90 minutes seeing 17 Persieds (including a -5 fireball) and 5 sporadics

5th August

Early Perseids: CEB and family, including 2 visiting Australians, observed 10 Perieds (including a fireball) in an hour on a warm, clear night. Many satellites were also seen

1st August

Summer School week 4: For the first time since starting 15 years ago, all 4 Wednesday evenings of Summer School have been clear. Now noticeably darker, some 40 Summer School guests and staff, including 10 from the School of English and Culture, came up to the Dome joining CEB, JAG and GKWJ. Outside targets included Jupiter, Saturn and Mars, M13 and M31, Mizar A and B and Albireo. An excellent ISS pass was viewed by all at the start of the evening and an Iridium flare and a couple of meteors were also seen. The 10 inch tracked Jupiter and 4 moons (Io just emerging from behind the planet at the start of the evening) then Saturn with Titan and 2 other inner moons and finally Mars. Mars to the naked eye was as bright as ever and the best since 2003 (though at low altitude). Shining at magnitude -2.8, it outshone Jupiter by nearly a magnitude and dominated the SE sky. Through the 10 inch it was incredibly bright and showed a brigher ice-cap and some darker markings. Many nationalities were represented in the group including, Ukraine, Spain, Syria, Poland, Syria, Italy, France, Germany and Eritrea

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