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Sunday, 24 January 2016

Deep Space Astrophotography and the Blackett Observatory

The first Friends' visit and talk of the year was to the Mount House Gallery to see Gavin Jones' exhibition of deep space astrophotography. We were treated not only to the photos, but a video Gavin had made of his telescope in his back garden in Marlborough, and a detailed explanation  of how the photographs were treated to enable a better view of space.
Here are a couple:
and this one of the North American nebula
 We were also treated to a session on how we perceive stars according to where they are in relation to us and each other. I am a bit hazy on the details because the group was quite large, and we split into two so that some could go to the Blackett Observatory while others stayed for the astrophotography, and I spent quite a bit of the evening ferrying people back and forth from the gallery to the observatory.
Here we are on arrival:

The Blackett Observatory is a wonderful place, only a short distance from the Mount House Gallery, quite high up behind the tennis courts and cricket pitches, it's an amazing place, run by Director of the observatory, Charles Barclay,  who guided us through the rules of looking effectively at the night sky as we sat in red light, designed to maximise our pupil size after 30 minutes and enable proper viewing.
This is what he put about our visit on the Blackett website:
'News - 21st January
External visit: Some 26 Friends of Swindon Museum and Art Gallery visited for a double evening combining a visit to 'In the Marlborough Night Garden' with Gavin James and then a trip to the Observatory. Sadly the sky had clouded and only the Moon occasionally got through the cloud. Before the groups came up the sky was clear and Comet Catalina had been located in the 10 inch and a drawing made showing it close to a 9th magnitude star in Draco, several degrees away from its position on Tuesday.'
 To find more about the splendid telescope and how you can have a look at it, then please click on the link to the Blackett website.
Apart from the general information about the telescope, we were given information about how climate change has affected the weather to such an extent that since September, there have been very view evenings when the sky has been clear enough to see the stars before about 2am.
We weren't allowed to photograph anything in the observatory, but I did manage a photo of the moon:
Thank you to all who made the visit such a successful event.

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