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The Observatory Science Centre
Herstmonceux
Hailsham
East Sussex
BN27 1RN
Tel: 01323 832731
Fax: 01323 832741

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What to see on Open Evenings

Please note: the list of Open Evening Dates for 2018 is on the Open Evenings page.
What to see on Saturday 3rd March 2018
Time: 6.30pm - 11pm

The Sun will have already set at 5.44pm and the end of ASTRONOMICAL TWILIGHT is 7.35pm so by the time the Centre opens at 6.30pm it will be dark. The phase of the Moon is a waning gibbous, 1 day after FULL MOON. It will rise at 7.39pm so will be visible through the historic telescopes when it has risen high enough in the sky towards the last half ogf the evening. It is magnificent to look at but will be very bright.

To see the sky chart for the 3rd March visit Heavens Above. You will need to alter the times and dates in the boxes below the current chart to find out what is in the night sky on the dates of the open evenings.

Even with the glow of the Moon deeper sky objects will still be seen. A favourite at this time of the year is the ORION NEBULA which is still prominent and beautiful to look at. If you look at the constellation of Orion in the south westerly sky you should easily make out the 3 stars of his belt. Just below the belt you may spot, just with your eyes, a smudgy patch; this is the Orion nebula a massive stellar nursery. Through the telescopes it comes alive and you are able to see the gas and dust from which the hot young stars have formed.

Star clusters and double stars will also be visible throughout the evening including naked eye objects such as the Pleiades or seven sisters OPEN CLUSTER.

While Mercury and Venus appear in the darkening sky low on the western horizon these planets will both be setting about 6.45pm so not visible during the evening.

STEM Ambassador volunteers will be situated on the lawns and welcome you to come along and take a look through their own smaller telescopes.
What to see on Saturday 17th March 2018
Time: 6.30pm - 11pm

The Sun will have already set at 6.08pm and the end of ASTRONOMICAL TWILIGHT is 8.01pm so by the time the Centre opens at 6.30pm it will be dark. The phase of the Moon is NEW MOON so will not be visible at all througout the evening making it extremely dark.

To see the sky chart for the 17th March visit Heavens Above. You will need to alter the times and dates in the boxes below the current chart to find out what is in the night sky on the dates of the open evening.

With no Moon the deeper sky objects can be seen much clearer. A favourite at this time of the year is the ORION NEBULA which, although heading towards the western horizon now will still be prominent at the start of the evening. It is stunning through the telescopes. If you look at the constellation of Orion in the south westerly sky you should easily make out the 3 stars of his belt. Just below the belt you may spot, just with your eyes, a smudgy patch; this is the Orion nebula a massive stellar nursery. Through the telescopes it comes alive and you are able to see the gas and dust from which the hot young stars have formed.

Star clusters and double stars will also be visible throughout the evening including naked eye objects such as the Pleiades or seven sisters OPEN CLUSTER.

Both Venus and Mercury will be in the low western sky until about 7.30 and 8pm respectively and even though they are too low for the historic telescopes you will still see them with the unaided eye and through the smaller telescopes on the lawns. Venus will be lower than Mercury and is at MAGNITUDE -3.9 (nice and bright). Mercury will remain in the evening sky just a bit longer than Venus and is at MAGNITUDE -0.6. It reached GREATEST EASTERN ELONGATION on the 15th March so it is a very good time to catch Mercury through the middle of March.

Uranus is also in the low western sky and will be setting at about 9pm.

The smaller scopes of amateur astronomers will be situated on the lawns and welcome you to come along and take a look through their telescopes. The amateur astronomers are all STEM Ambassador volunteers.
What to see on Saturday 31st March 2018 'BLUE MOON'
8pm - 12.30am

The clocks have now sprung forward and we have entered British Summer Time making sunset an hour later. This means that the Sun will not set until 7.31pm; this is the reason for a later than normal start time. It will be reasonably dark when the Centre re-opens at 8pm but the end of ASTRONOMICAL TWILIGHT is not until 9.31pm so technically it will be dark but still in twilight hours. The phase of the Moon is FULL and will have risen at sunset (7.31pm). It will be visible all night.

To see the sky chart for the 31st March visit Heavens Above. You will need to alter the times and dates in the boxes below the current chart to find out what is in the night sky on the dates of the open evening.

Tonight is all about the Moon. It is the second BLUE MOON of the year; the last one being on the 31st January. So what is a BLUE MOON? It is the second full Moon in the same month. Usually they are not that close together but because there was a Full Moon right at the end of January and February is shorter than one LUNATION (e.g. Full Moon to Full Moon which takes 29.5 days) then February misses out on a Full Moon altogether and March gets two!

While Full Moon is very bright and not the best time to look at it through the telescopes it is still beautiful and adds a lovely Moonlight glow to the evening.

Orion is now heading quickly towards the western horizon so will be too low for the Orion Nebula but Hercules is making an appearance in the eastern sky which means the fabulous GLOBULAR CLUSTER M13 may be visible later on in the evening although looking a bit washed out because of the Moon. M13, is located on the right hand side of the body of Hercules (which looks like a key stone). It appears as a beautiful three dimensional ball of stars through the telescopes.

The smaller scopes of amateur astronomers will be situated on the lawns and welcome you to come along and take a look through their telescopes. The amateur astronomers are all STEM Ambassador volunteers.

What to see on Saturday 8th December 2018 'Christmas Round the Moon'
Time: 6.30pm-11pm

The Sun will already have set at 3.51pm and ASTRONOMICAL TWILIGHT ends at 5.54pm so it will be completely dark when the Centre re-opens at 6.30pm. The phase of the Moon is 1 day after NEW MOON and will already have set at 5.04pm before the Centre re-opens for the evening making it very dark all night. You may be wondering if we cannot see the Moon why are we calling this evening Christmas around the Moon? It was 50 years ago this month that Apollo 8 went up into space and orbited the Moon so we could not let that anniversary pass us by! 

Apollo 8 was the second manned spaceflight mission. Launched on December 21, 1968, it became the first manned spacecraft to leave the Earth's orbit, reach the Earth's Moon, orbit it and return safely to Earth. 

To see the sky charts for the 8th December visit Heavens Above. You will need to alter the times and dates in the boxes below the current chart to find out what is in the night sky on the dates of the open evenings.

Uranus and Neptune will already have risen and may be located during the course of the evening along with deeper sky objects which are much easier to see when there is no Moon. These include the ANDROMEDA GALAXY and some ineresting double stars. As we descend into winter you will see the CONSTELLATION of Orion appearing over the eastern horizon and it will be high enough in the sky to view the beautiful ORION NEBULA. Lovely to look at through binoculars but stunning through a telescope!

Objects to look out for without having to use a telescope include the Pleiades cluster in Taurus, which should be nice and high in the night sky. This is a beautiful knot of stars also known as the 7 sisters. On a very clear evening and with good eyesight you should be able to spot about 7 of the hundreds of stars in this OPEN CLUSTER. The Pleiades cluster is far too big to look at through the telescopes and it is better to view it through a pair of binoculars. Another object to look out for with binoculars is the double cluster in the CONSTELLATION of Perseus. 

You should also watch for shooting stars, the fleeting bright streaks of light left behind as meteors enter the Earth's atmosphere. The 8th December is a few days before the peak activity of the Geminids METEOR SHOWER but still falls on the edge of the normal limits of activity which is 8th - 17th December. The Geminids occur as the Earth passes through the debris left behind by the ASTEROID 3200 PHAETON and the radiant, where the meteors appear to come from is in the CONSTELLATION Gemini (see below; image courtesy of stardate.org). These meteors are slow moving with a good proportion of bright events. There are usually about 100 per hour at the peak. You need to look towards the CONSTELLATION Gemini in the east to try and spot these shooting stars and with no Moon to spoil the party spotting them is very favourable this year. This is the richest of all the annual showers.
OPEN EVENING 3rd MARCH
We will be re-opening at 6.30pm on the 3rd March. With clear skies we will be looking through the telescopes (some of the largest in the country) at some fascinating night sky objects including the magnificent MOON. Alongside the historic telescopes there will be the smaller telescopes of amateur astronomers. Viewing is always weather permitting and if you are travelling some distance please phone The Centre before you make the journey to check our forecast. On cloudy nights we usually offer a planetarium style show if there are enough people in The Centre. Regular admission price applies but if you are visiting during the day and would like to return for the evening, then take advantage of our special offer of just £5 per person with a valid receipt.
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