Find us on Facebook & Twitter

Stars & Snowdrops 2016 cancelled

With great regret, we are cancelling Stars & Snowdrops 2016. A combination of circumstances, including a family crisis, building work at Hanwell Castle overrunning, and forecast rainfall levels affecting the woodland walk have meant that organising the event this year would be incredibly difficult and potentially hazardous.

We all really enjoy putting on Stars & Snowdrops – it’s a great way for HCO to start the year, and its brilliant seeing so many people enjoying the snowdrops and chatting to us at the observatory – so it was a very difficult decision to make. Unfortunately though, with circumstances conspiring against us this year, it is impossible for Stars & Snowdrops to happen in 2016.

However, we have a number of exciting developments and events in the pipeline here at HCO, so stay tuned for details of these over the next few months. And, of course, Stars & Snowdrops will be back again in 2017…


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.

January: Eridanus

These notes are taken from Christopher Taylor's observations of Eridanus over the years, all using the McIver Paton telescope. A good session at the telescope last night, something which doesn’t happen all that often at our monthly HCO meetings. The mirror of the 30-inch is still in the w’shop at Walthamstow but should be back v. shortly; in its absence, we had some good views in the 12.5-inch in quite a good , if not superlative, sky more...

December: Aurora

The outer layer of the sun, called the corona, it is continuously expanding and throwing out charged particles into space called Plasma – this is called the Solar Wind. Occasionally there are eruptions on the Sun in the form of Coronal Mass Ejections CME when large amounts of Plasma are thrown out in to space. If the Earth is in way of one of these  CME then the charged particles interact with the Earth's magnetic field and they are drawn to more...

November: Observing Notes

These notes are taken from Christopher Taylor's observation notes from an evening in November 2010, using the McIver Paton telescope, for a visiting undergraduate studying the history of astronomy. 61 Cygni (first object) – 1st star-distance ever measured, F.W.Bessel, Konigsberg Obsy. 1838 – one of our nearest stellar neighbours. 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