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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.

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...

October: Venus & Jupiter

If you look east before sunrise you can see the conjunction which has been happening over the last few weeks. Venus, Mercury, Mars, Jupiter and also the Moon appear to be grouped together and even line up. more...

September: The Moon

People often think that it is best to observe the Moon when it is full - this very bright to look at and it can look quite flat. I prefer to observe and image it when the Moon is not full and showing a phase. The line of the shadow which crosses 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