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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...


Stars & Specula

A joint event of Museum of the History of Science and HCO, providing a chance for participants to compare the actual performance of ancient and modern telescopes.

Friday 3 March 2017, 6pm to 7:30pm
Museum of the History of Science, Broad St., Oxford

Click here to find out more »



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.

The Moon

First-quarter Moon, taken on 5th Jan. 2017 by Harry Tate of Banbury. Harry had only begun observing the Moon two nights before, and took this excellent photo (a single shot) using the simplest possible equipment, a mobile-phone camera pointed through the eyepiece of a 60 mm. refractor. The picture captures beautifully just how much can be seen in a very small telescope.


M1 & M15

At long last the weather has been kind enough to finally get imaging. This is the first outing since completely overhauling my EQ6 equatorial mount and fitting a Rowen belt kit. The mount performed amazingly well for this first outing and after carrying out some final tweaks I managed to capture 2 objects. My main target for the night was M1 but as it was still early and M1 was not in my view M15 was a easy target.

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 Orion Nebula over the years, using the McIver Paton telescope (for the 1998 observations) and the Hanwell 30-inch Reflector telescope (for the 2010 observations).

See more Skynotes »


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 »


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 »


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

Stars & Specula. Click for more information.