logo
Blackett Observatory Dome
Welcome to the Marlborough College Blackett Observatory, home to the largest refracting telescope in Wiltshire. Learn more...
Status CURRENT MOON
moon phase info

Solar X-rays Status Status

Geomagnetic Field Status Status
From n3kl.org

SpaceWeather | More weather... Coordinates: 51.25.25 N and 1.44.24 W
Marlborough College
Oxford Astrophysics
Green Templeton College

Will SpaceX Demo-2 Crew Dragon Launch this Weekend?

After the launch of SpaceX Demo-2 Crew Dragon from the Kennedy Space Centre was aborted at T minus 17 minutes on Wednesday, the next launch window is today, Saturday 30th at 20:22 BST (weather permitting, again!). Different trajectory this time and it is set to pass by Marlborough at 22:13 BST, W to S, max alt 15°, max mag +2.3. Fingers crossed for a successful launch


Unfortunately the Observatory will remain closed to visitors
while social distancing measures are in place

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day

What's Up!

Week of 25th May

  • Astronomical twilight does not end until 21st July as the Sun does not sink lower than 18° below the horizon

  • Mercury reaches its highest point in the evening sky on Sunday. Look to the northwest in the hour after sunset to see Mercury climb ever higher this week

  • Comet C/2020 F8 (SWAN) reaches perihelion on Friday. Look to 18° altitude above the northwestern horizon at around 10pm BST. It is about mag +6, on the border of naked eye visibility, but given its low altitude and the lack of darkness, binoculars will be required

  • On Wednesday evening at 9.32pm BST you should be able to watch the NASA/SpaceX Demo-2 live launch online. The first launch from US soil to the ISS since 2011

  • Binocular Deep Sky Target of the Week: M13, The Great Hercules Cluster. This globular cluster is the brightest in the Northern Hemisphere sky and is easily visible in binoculars at mag +5.8. Look on the western side of the Keystone asterism in the constellation of Hercules. It lies about 25,000 light years away and contains some 300,000 stars

  • The Moon is waxing and will be First Quarter on Saturday

  • The Sun has no active regions, with the current spotless stretch at 22 days

  • The ISS makes the following evening passes this week:
    Monday: 22:55, W to ESE, max 62°
    Tuesday: 22:07, W to ESE, max 76° and 23:44, W to SSW, max 25°
    Wednesday: 22:57, W to SSE, max 35°
    Thursday: 22:09, W to SE, max 47° and 23:46, WSW to SW, max 13°
    Friday: 22:58, W to S, max 18°
    Saturday: 22:10, W to SSE, max 26°

More...


Random Blackett Image
A bright meteor (shooting star) originating from the 'Radiant' in Leo captured during the Leonid storm of 2001. Here a tiny (mm) dust particle left by Comet Temple-Tuttle vapourises at around 80km altitude. In the background is Orion's belt (top) and the Orion Nebula (M42). (Brown)

News

21st May

Solar open day: The annual solar observing session could not take place at the Dome this year due to the social distancing measures in place. Not wanting to be thwarted by this, CEB and GKWJ attempted the first ever live streaming astronomy event for Friends and College staff. High hazy cloud rendered the 10inch ineffective, so live views from the River Park Observatory through a Lunt 2inch H alpha solar telescope were streamed via Zoom. Around 40 visitors dropped in to the event over the course of the afternoon. The seeing was poor at best. Two plage areas were observed on the surface, but otherwise it was featureless, to be expected given that we are still in the solar minimum. The main attraction was a large prominence on the northeast, oncoming limb. It extended to about four Earth diameters above the solar surface, with two loops extending out in opposite directions from the main area. This prominence complex was clearly seen to develop and change over the two and a half hour session. Numerous small explosions of plasma were seen to bubble up and collapse nearby on the limb. Unfortunately, gathering cloud spoiled the view towards the end of the session, but it was a great success and opened the way for new methods of astronomical observing at Marlborough College.

4th May

Radcliffe Society: The society met online via Zoom for the first time. GKWJ gave the monthly What's Up, JAG presented on Current Comets and two pupils gave presentations on 'The Baryon Asymmetry Problem' and 'Physics in Cinema'. Next meeting: 22nd June

22nd March

Messier Marathon: it was a great shame that the College Messier Marathon attempt had to be cancelled this year due to the Coronavirus outbreak. Typically, conditions could not have been more perfect: New Moon and clear skies. GKWJ and JAG could not let the opportunity pass by, so decided to make the Messier Marathon 2020 attempt 'behind closed doors' on Sunday night. The session started at 19:20 with a stunning view through the 10inch of Venus in its dichotomy phase. The hunt for as many of the 110 Messier objects with the 10inch then started in earnest. Two online Zoom sessions were held during the evening, allowing a number of the GCSE pupils and DGR to join the hunt from home. As we were working in very dark conditions this was more of a radio link than video! Highlight objects through the night included: open clusters M34, M35, M38, M52 and M67, galaxies M51, M81 and M82, planetary nebulae M27 and M57, nebulae M17 and M42 and globular clusters M3, M13, M14 and M92. During the night, Comet ATLAS was viewed twice and its significant movement was noticed. Great empathy was felt with Messier, who was of course trying to find new comets, compiling his catalogue of objects that were not comets and to be avoided on future nights. It is amazing how much a globular cluster looks like a comet! Several breaks were taken and the night sky outside was admired; Betelgeuse was noted to be markedly brighter at around mag +1. Saturn and Jupiter, with all four Galilean moons visible, were viewed through the 10inch in the morning twilight. The Marathon finished with M2 being the final observation at 04:53. In total, 96 out of 110 Messier objects were seen. The fourteen missed were due either to the bright evening and morning twilight sky or because they were below the horizon for the 10inch. It was a very successful night, but hopefully the 2021 attempt will be enjoyed by a full team of pupils too.

11th March

Radcliffe Society: 10 pupils from Sixth Form, Hundred and Remove attended the March meeting of the Radcliffe Society with GKWJ and JAG. GKWJ gave the monthly What's Up guide, a video interview with Subir Sarkar (University of Oxford) discussing 'The Evidence for Dark Energy' was watched and then two Upper Sixth pupils gave presentations on 'The Standard Model and Neutrinos' and 'Entropy'. Next meeting: 4th May

27th February

GCSE Observing: A good cold and clear winter's night enabled 6 Hundred Pupils to join CEB and GKWJ at the Dome to finish their Aided Observing Tasks. The session started with views through the 10inch of a Gibbous Venus and the 4 day old waxing crescent Moon with obvious Earthshine. Arcturus, the Spring marker star was seen for the first time this year. 4 pupils used the 10inch to draw Messier Objects: M1, the Crab Nebula and M42 with M43, the Orion Nebula, all enhanced with a UHC Nebula Filter. 1 pupil took photographs through the Smith 8inch of: M45, M42, M1, M51, M81 and the Double Cluster. 1 pupil took a star trail photo sequence around the NCP. Finally, the Double Cluster was viewed through binoculars and 9th magnitude Comet C/2017 T2 (PANSTARRS) was observed through the 10inch

25th February

House Visit: The Shell visit season ended in fine style with a clear sky for the 12 Shell boys from Turner and their Tutor to enjoy with GKWJ. The session started with a sky tour of the winter constellations, then M42, the Great Orion Nebula, was viewed in the 10inch and finally M45, the Pleiades, was viewed through binoculars

13th February

House visit: 10 Shell boys from Summerfield and a Tutor came to the Dome with GKWJ. It was cloudy.

Next House visit: Tuesday 25th February (TU)

External visit: 17 Year 5 pupils and 2 staff from Swindon Academy Primary School visited the Dome with NMA under clear skies. This was the last of the four Swindon Academy visits this academic year. Venus was seen through binoculars as it set in the West and the first magnitude stars were observed as they appeared in the darkening twilight. Familiar asterisms including the Plough, Cassiopeia and Orion were identified by naked eye

11th February

GCSE Observing: 5 Hundred pupils joined GKWJ at the Dome. Unfortunately the clear forecast did not hold true and broken cloud hindered project work. One pupil managed to take photographs of star trails. The waning Gibbous Moon was enjoyed through binoculars as it rose

Radcliffe Society: 8 members of the Radcliffe Society visited the White Horse Bookshop Gallery to see the exhibition 'In the Marlborough Night Garden 2', GKWJ and JAG's collection of astrophotographs and accompanying book

6th February

GCSE Observing: 12 Remove pupils joined CEB and GKWJ at the Dome on a clear but moonlit night. They made angular measurements of Orion to calculate its angular speed. They drew the Winter Wreath and estimated apparent magnitudes and celestial coordinates of its member stars given information about Rigel. The waxing Gibbous Moon was viewed in the 10inch

House visit: 12 Shell girls from New Court and a tutor enjoyed a clear sky at the Dome with GKWJ. A sky tour was followed by viewing the Pleiades (M45) in binoculars, to finish, the waxing Gibbous Moon was observed in the 10inch.

Next House visit: Thursday 13th February (SU)

4th February

House visit: 14 Shell girls from Morris, a Tutor and JAG visited the Dome with GKWJ. Early cloud parted to give a clear sky dominated by the waxing Gibbous Moon. The group enjoyed a sky tour, including Venus setting in the West and the dim Betelgeuse. The Moon was then viewed in the 10inch, with good detail visible along the terminator.

Next House visit: Thursday 6th February (NC)

3rd February

EPQ Observing: An EPQ pupil came to the Dome with GKWJ and used the Smith 8inch to gather spectra of a range of stars as part of their project investigating methods of determining astronomical distances

More news...