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read more » 31st Aug 2017 11:28
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 February 2018 

Time: 6.30pm - 11pm


The Sun will already have set at 4.53pm and the end of ASTRONOMICAL TWILIGHT is 6.48pm so by the time the Centre opens at 6.30pm it will be very dark. The phase of the Moon is 4 days before LAST QUARTER and will not rise until 8.51pm so will be visible through the telescopes as it rises high enough in the sky for the historic telescopes.

To see the sky chart for the 3rd February 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.

At the moment the only planet visible will be Uranus and that is difficult to see. It is in the constellation of Pisces and does not set until about 11pm. It will be best seen before the Moon rises because it needs to be dark. It is a long way away so don't be disappointed if you see it as a very small object. Look again it is a definite disc and don't forget the reason why you see it is because it is reflecting the Sun's light and the Sun is an average 1,784 million miles from Uranus.

The Moon is actually very beautiful to look at through the telescopes and will be visible through the historic telescopes as it rises higher and higher in the sky. You should be able to see the dark patches (Maria or Seas) and craters plus you may just be able to see just how rugged and hilly the landscape is. The Moon will be bright when it rises but you should still be able to see the more prominent, brighter night sky objects even after it has risen and flooded the night sky .

Another fascinating object to look at is the ORION NEBULA, a favourite deep sky object at this time of the year. It is fabulous to look at. If you look at the constellation of Orion in the south to 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. STEM Ambassadors will be bringing their smaller amateur telescopes (weather permitting) will also be on the lawans and you are welcome to take a look.

What to see on 17th February 2018 

Time: 6.30pm - 11pm

The South Downs National Park was designated an International Dark Sky Reserve in 2016. To celebrate they are holding their second 'Dark Skies Festival.' Events are happening throughout the region and as such we are running this Open Evening to help them celebrate.

The Sun will have already set at 5.19pm and the end of ASTRONOMICAL TWILIGHT is 7.11pm so by the time the Centre opens at 6.30pm it will be dark. The phase of the Moon is 2 days after NEW MOON and will be setting just after 7pm so will not be visible throughout the evening.

To see the sky chart for the 17th February 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 date of the open evening.

With no Moon the sky will remain very dark making it easier to see the deeper sky objects. 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. Uranus will not set until about 10.30pm so should be visible in the early part of the evening too. It is in the constellation of Pisces. It is a long way away so don't be disappointed if you see it as a very small object. Look again it is a definite disc and don't forget, the reason why you see it is because it is reflecting the Sun's light and the Sun is an average 1,784 million miles from Uranus.

Amateur astromomers will be situated on the lawns and welcome you to come along and take a look through their telescopes.
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.