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About us

Hanwell Community Observatory comprises a group of volunteers based in Hanwell (near Banbury, North Oxfordshire) promoting astronomy in the community. Whether you have private or educational interests in the subject, our aim is to make astronomy accessible to you. We welcome public and school groups to star parties and other events that will open up the Heavens and share with you the wonders of the cosmos. If you are a student or teacher at a local school or university, please see the Education section for details of our current activities and how you can get involved. more...



Every month, get ideas of things to see in the night sky, and find out what what HCO members have been observing, with Skynotes - excerpts from HCO member's own observing notes.

April: Virgo Galaxy Cluster

Finally I managed to point the telescope to the skies again. This time at the core of the Virgo Galaxy Cluster, in particular at the centre at M86 (NGC 4406) around which are a feast of Galaxies to be seen. At the LH side of the image are NGC 4435 & NGC 4438 (The Eyes Galaxies). more...

March: Mare Imbrium

The Mare Imbrium (Sea of Showers) is estimated to be around 4 billion years old. It can be seen with small telescopes and binoculars towards the northern edge of the Moon. This massive lunar feature is one of the largest craters in the Solar System (757 x 757 miles) more...

February: M42 - Orion Nebula

These notes are a collection of observations and images of the M42 Orion Nebula by HCO members Christopher Taylor and Bob Sayer. Astrophoto of the Orion Nebula by HCO member Bob Sayer in 2013. The following notes were taken from Christopher Taylor's observations of the more...

See more Skynotes »


Visit HCO

You can visit the observatory for a stargazing evening, either privately booked for your party of 10-25 people, or on one of our scheduled public evenings. "Private" events are specifically for large parties, be they business outings, societies or educational groups.
Find out more about our 'star parties' »

We also open up the Hanwell Castle grounds to visitors every February in our open weekend, Stars & Snowdrops, where you can enjoy a woodland walk amongst vast, ancient, snowdrop colonies and talk to the astronomers at the observatory.
Find out more about Stars & Snowdrops »


Would you like to join HCO?

Do you enjoy sharing the fascination of astronomy with others? Or feel you would like to?? In that case, the Hanwell Community Observatory team would love to welcome you as a member!
Find out how to get involved with HCO »


History at Hanwell

Archaeologist Stephen Wass embarked on a five year project to uncover the lost gardens of Hanwell Castle in January 2013. There have been substantial diggings all over the grounds and significant artefacts have been found.  Emerging is a picture of a very carfeully constructed and elaborate layout of walled walks and terraces. The gardens were visited in the seventeenth century by King James I and Charles I. The scientific interests of Sir Anthony Cope (d.1675) provide an interesting historic link for HCO. There is a sense of continuing in the spirit of a man, described by the Oxford Chemist, Sir Robert Plot,  as a 'great virtuoso', for his boring of cannons, polishing of stones and grinding of corn in these grounds which Plot called 'A New Atlantis'.
To find out more about the project, click here to visit the Polyolbion website »


Click here to see an album of astrophotography by HCO members on our facebook page (you can view the photos without a facebook account).

M65 and M66 Double Star