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Behind-the-Scenes @ University College of London Observatory

Saturday 11th February 2017 @ 18:30


A private tour to one of the best-equipped astronomical facilities in the UK with introductory lecture followed by a full tour of the telescopes.

The University College of London Observatory (UCLO) in Mill Hill is a hidden joy for amateur astronomers and stargazers of all ages.

Although it is a hands-on teaching observatory and research establishment (part of the Astrophysics Group in UCL's Department of Physics and Astronomy), Friends have been able to secure a private tour for the evening of Saturday 11 February 2017.

Be aware that the site has gravelled grounds and steep stairways so do consider this when booking.

At its opening in 1929, UCLO was a research institute, but after the Second World War practical astronomical teaching at UCL was moved from Gower Street to the Observatory.

It is currently equipped with five permanently mounted telescopes, two lecture/classrooms, and a specialist astronomy library. It also remains active in scientific inquiry, with a strong observational research programme in extrasolar planets.

For background reading, you can find out more on their website here.

The timetable for this Behind-the-scenes is as follows:

18.30 – 18.50: Members arrivals / Welcome at the UCLO by our host, Dr Mike Dwortsky.
Rita Leek, a Friends Committee Member and main leader of the group for the evening will be there from 18.15.

19.00: The start of the tour. It involves visits to each of the main telescopes and use of the Fry telescope to observe the night sky if it is clear enough to do so. This telescope - an 8-inch refractor with a focal length of 126 inches - is used extensively for student instruction and for solar and planetary observations.

It will conclude with a visit to the lecture room for a brief presentation and questions and answers. For clear sky, estimate a 20.30 finish, and if cloudy, perhaps 20.20.

20.45: With the official part of the tour finished, should you then wish to continue the conversation over wine and food, Rita has kindly researched a pub nearby for post-event refreshments. Rita will kindly treat everyone to their first glass of wine and nibbles at the Three Hammers which is only 1 mile away. We will ask attendees nearer the time to RSVP for joining these post-event refreshments so that we can book the correct number of places in advance.

Travel to UCLO:

For the exact location, click here.  (If in doubt, note that the Observatory domes are easily identifiable by zooming in on Google Maps' 'satellite view' or street view.)

You can see full travel details on their website here.

The main points are:

By train: The most convenient way to get to UCLO from central London is by the Thameslink rail service to Mill Hill Broadway (Travelcard zone 4), followed by a 10–15-minute walk to the Observatory.
The line has a number of stations in central London, including City Thameslink, Farringdon, and St. Pancras International. Journey times from Farringon and St. Pancras International are about 20 minutes. Oyster cards can be used on this route.

By bus: Bus service 113 stops on the A1 (Watford Way) just past UCLO. Services 186, 221, 240, and 251 stop at Mill Hill Broadway, a 10–15-minute walk from ULO via Hartley Avenue.

By tube: There is no nearby tube station; the closest are Mill Hill East (shuttle service to Finchley Central on the High Barnet branch of the Northern Line) and Colindale & Burnt Oak stations (Edgware branch of the Northern Line), each around 2.5km distant.

For tube travellers, the following may be tolerably convenient options:
• Take the Northern Line (Edgware branch) to Hendon Central, then Bus 186 or 113 (the northbound bus-stops are over the road and up the hill from the tube station). These buses take about 10 minutes to reach a stop just past UCLO (although waiting times can be long).
• Alternatively, take Bus Service 221 from Mill Hill East to Mill Hill Broadway (approx. 20 min) or Service 240 to Mill Hill Broadway Station (approx. 13 min).

By car: arrival by car is discouraged! The Observatory is on the north-bound side of Watford Way dual carriageway. located off the northbound carriageway of the A1 in Mill Hill, North London. There is no vehicular access from the southbound carriageway; pedestrians on the southbound side of the road must use the under-road subway just north of the Observatory.

Enjoy the stars - but not the cars!

Venue: UCLO, Mill Hill, London