UCL Observatory (UCLO)


UCLO News Archive until End of 2005

Please be aware that any observing information presented in this archive page is likely to be out of date, so it may be of little or no use for locating the object to which it refers. Some of the links may also be out of date and will not work.

NAGTY Astronomy Summer School 2005 at UCLO

On the 15th and 18th of August the facilities of the Observatory were used by the National Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth (NAGTY) Astronomy Summer School 2005 , based at Imperial College London. The activities undertaken included solar observing, computer-based and other experiments, and several interactive presentations.

For most of the fifteen summer school participants this was their first visit to an astronomical observatory. UCLO provided three telescopes fitted with white light and H-alpha filters, and with good weather and largely clear skies, every student had the chance to observe sunspots and prominences at first hand.

Starlight Reception

The "Starlight Reception" on March 22 2005 was a major event at UCLO and marked a new stage in theCampaign for UCL. The evening was highly succsessful in raising the profile of the observatory and brought UCLO to the front page of the UCL website.

Whilst being one of the best teaching observatories in the UK, UCLO needs a new alt-azimuth mounted reflecting telescope if the observatory is to continue to provide long term state of the art facilities.

To quote from the article: "The starlight reception introduced the need for the telescope to a mixed group of business leaders, UCL alumni with an interest in astronomy, contacts from professional and amateur astronomy circles and local Mill Hill residents. Attendees had a chance to look at the current equipment in the observatory, and guest speaker and UCL alumnus Professor Richard Ellis (now Director of Caltech Optical Observatories in the USA) talked about developments in astronomy over recent years, emphasising the importance that the telescope would have as a teaching resource."

Transit of Venus, 2004

On the morning of 2004 June 8, the first Transit of Venus since 1882 took place. This was therefore the first opportunity for any living person to see this event, which began near dawn and lasted until noon.

We were blessed with good weather, and record numbers of visitors attended UCLO. A contemporary record, including images and video clips, is available here.

Solar Activity (from October 28 2003):

The Sun is highly active once again. Recent images obtained at UCLO can be found here.

Check out the following sites for the latest news on solar activity and space weather:

N.B.: Never observe the Sun directly without proper eye-protection, or serious and permanent eye damage or blindness will result.

Mars apparition, 2003:

Astronomers at UCLO are keeping an eye on Mars and attempting to obtain some images of the planet.

Latest results can be viewed here.

Transit of Mercury:

On 7 May 2003, the transit of Mercury was observed from UCLO. Further details and images can be found here.

Diploma 2003 Results

Congratulations to students in UCL's part-time Diploma in Astronomy. The first group to complete the two-year course, which includes first and second year practical courses at the Observatory, has been awarded their Diplomas or Certificates (where appropriate) as follows:

Of those completing, 11 received the Diploma in Astronomy with Distinction; another 8 received the Diploma in Astronomy; 1 received a two-year Certificate with Distinction; another 6 are eligible for a one-year certificate based on work done last session but most have requested that they be allowed to re-enter in 2003-04 or later to complete the course.

The first year group has also completed its examinations and practicals. Twenty-nine students have succeeded in passing their first year courses. Another student who was ill plans to take special resits in September. The examiners are pleased to report that there were no failing marks! Well done to everybody involved.

Astronomy Field Trip 2003

The Observatoire de Haute-Provence has awarded 6 nights to UCL's Astronomy Field Trip in 2003, between February 21 and 26 (finishing on the morning of the latter date). The Astronomy Field Trip is a half-unit course (designated ASTR3C32) available to students in the third year of a BSc or MSci degree in Astronomy or Astrophysics (or either of these subjects combined with Physics or Maths) at UCL.

Congratulations to the students who took part in the Field Trip to Haute-Provence during 2002: Matthew Callender, Rachel Clarke, Robert Cockcroft, John de Rohan-Truba, Matthew Geal, Elizabeth Hodges, Nicola Mehrtens, Alastair Partington, Rachael Savage, George Seabroke, Carys Toms and Mark Westmoquette. They all passed the course with a score at first class standard.

News About Comets:

The latest news on comets visible from the UK can be found from the BAA Comet Section pages.

Elements and ephemerides are available from the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

Comet C/2002 C1 (Ikeya-Zhang)

Comet Ikeya-Zhang (2002 C1) is about magnitude 4 in March, first visible in the north-eastern evening sky, but staying visible all night and best observed in the early morning hours. It is well-placed for observers in the UK during April. It should be easily visible through binoculars. See the BAA Comet Section pages for an update on its brightness and observability.

Some images obtained with the Radcliffe telescope at UCLO can be viewed here.

Comet C/2000 WM1 (LINEAR)

An image of Comet C/2000 WM1 (LINEAR) , obtained by undergraduate students Marios Kallis and Oliver Walton, using a Meade 10-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope and SBIG ST6 camera on 2001 November 13, is shown here. The exposure was 180s, unfiltered.

Comet 2001 A2 (LINEAR)

The latest bright comet to be roaming our skies is Comet 2001 A2 ( LINEAR), which is presently visible. This comet has become the kind of comet which astronomers find a huge interest in as it is rather unpredictable.

The LINEAR project announced the finding of an asteroidal object on images obtained on January 15 2001. At the time the magnitude was given as 15.8. From three precise positions an ephemeris was posted on the Near-Earth Object Confirmation Page of the Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams(the clearing-house for observations of comets and asteroids). On January 16 P. Pravec and L. Sarounova (Ondrejov Observatory) noted a coma 0.3-arcmin across while M. Tichy and M. Kocer (Klet) noted the object was diffuse with a coma 10 arcsec across.

Where can I see it?

The comet had its maximum brightness around June 22. It will be visible from the UK from late June/early July, although the Moon will interfere somewhat from about July 3. The comet will fade during July, perhaps reaching 6th mag by mid-month. By the end of July it will be visible most of the night as it heads toward the Milky Way, but then it is predicted to fade rapidly, and will probably be lost to most viewers by August. Up-to-date reports of its brightness and visibility may be obtained from the BAA Comet Section pages .

The comet is most easily found using binoculars. To help you locate Comet 2001 A2 (LINEAR), here is a local finding chart (generated using SkyMap Pro v.7).

Using binoculars, scan the area towards the south-east indicated on the chart.

Further information

Here are some recent images of C/2001 A2 (LINEAR) and some general images of comets. And here are some tips on viewing and astrophotography of comets for beginners and the experienced.

Among the most famous comets ever seen was Comet Hale-Bopp. What really set Hale Bopp apart from all previous comets is its extended visibility with the unaided eye. As of early 1997 November the comet had been seen without optical aid for more than 17 months. The previous record holder, the Great Comet of 1811, was accessible to the naked eye for only 10 months.

Latest news on comets in the UK can be on the BAA Comet Section pages .

[Information on C/2001 A2 (LINEAR) prepared by Suma Bhattacharya]

Astronomy Field Trip:

Congratulations to the students who took part in the Astronomy Field Trip to Haute-Provence, France in 2000. They all passed the Field Trip course ASTR3C32 with a first-class mark (that is, they all scored 70% or more). The students involved were: Beth Argent, Ben Burningham, Yvonne Ho, Xavier Koenig, Leigh Jenkins, Dawn Leslie, Robert Macciochi, Tamara Repolust, David Seaman, Dan Stansall, Harriet Williams and Dugan Witherick.

Congratulations to the students who took part in the Field Trip to Haute-Provence during 2001: Leo Ballerio, Robert Barber, Catherine Barraclough, Janice Drohan, Joanna Fabbri, Adam Hill, Richard Knowelden, Justyn Maund, Matthew Pitkin, Nutan Rajguru, Suzanna Randall, Fabrizio Sidoli.

They all passed the course with a score at first or upper second-class standard.

The Astronomy Field Trip to the Observatoire de Haute-Provence enjoyed two nights which were entirely clear, three further nights which were partially clear, and one night which was lost entirely to cloud, out of the six-nights between 2002 February 18 and 24. All of the observational objectives were met, and the Field Trip party returned to London on the evening of February 25. The Astronomy Field Trip is a half-unit course (designated ASTR3C32) available to students in the third year of a BSc or MSci degree in Astronomy or Astrophysics (or either of these subjects combined with Physics or Maths) at UCL.

The Observatoire de Haute-Provence awarded 6 nights to UCL's Astronomy Field Trip in 2001, between February 19 and 25 (finishing on the morning of the latter date).

The Observatoire de Haute-Provence awarded 6 nights to UCL's Astronomy Field Trip in 2002, between February 18 and 24 (finishing on the morning of the latter date).

V1494 Aquilae:

Nova Aquilae 1999 No. 2 (V1494 Aquilae) was discovered by Alfredo Pereira in Portugal on 1999 December 1.785 with 14x100 binoculars. For latest news check the recent IAU circulars from the IAU Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams.

The nova is now fading. It was observed with binoculars by several first-year undergraduate students at UCLO on about December 7.75 UT, and appeared to be about as bright as 22 Aql (V=5.58).

A spectrum was obtained at UCLO on December 7.7625 UT by Stephen Boyle using the Allen 24-inch telescope and spectrograph; the spectrum clearly shows strong, broad H-alpha emission. Expanding the y-axis scale shows absorption features in the spectrum more clearly (the features longward of 6860 A arise from telluric O2).

A further spectrum obtained on December 16 shows some interesting evolution in the H-alpha feature to be taking place. Again, a version with an expanded y-axis scale is available.

Total eclipse of the Sun:

Information on the total eclipse of the Sun, 11th August 1999, can be found here...