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, especially if you live within a half-hour drive of Banbury.

This exciting enterprise is not a local astronomy society (holding lecture-meetings, etc) but a group of enthusiasts dedicated to taking the personal, first-hand astronomical experience to the general public: practical outreach ‘at the eyepiece’. The HCO team are currently recruiting actively for:


Skyguides help run our visitor stargazing evenings using the Hanwell telescopes, binoculars, sky-pointers, etc (all the way from unaided eye to 30-inch reflector). All very welcome here, whether ‘old hands’ OR newly budding astronomers, as these events are always hosted by at least 2 HCO skyguides even for the smallest visitor-groups (minimum 10), so plenty of experienced support is always on hand and, if needed, on-the-job training. You would not be called upon for skyguiding more than 4 or 5 times per year – unless you want to do more – and HCO aims to build up a pool of guides sufficient to run at least two public evenings per month regularly, on this basis, throughout the 8 or 9 darker months Sept.-May each year. It is one of the most delightful revelations on becoming involved with telescopes & stargazing, and perhaps not the most expected, how hugely enjoyable it can be to show others, especially first-timers, the wonders of the night sky: for some of us that is reward enough in itself. If you haven’t tried it, give it a go! We’re here to help, if you’ll help us.

Engineering Support

We have a Project Engineer and several other team-members with fabrication skills but more help on this front is always extremely welcome. If you enjoy using tools and making things, or just want to work off a bit of energy doing simple outdoor physical tasks on-site, and have time on your hands, we would love to hear from you! The usual range of hand-tools is available at Hanwell and we can provide on-site workshop space.

Recruiting Help

That is, help with mounting and running the HCO presence at a variety of outside public events, talking to potential recruits to convince them of what a wonderful project it is, and so on… Or for implementing any other ideas you may have for attracting new HCO members.

It is vital to a voluntary enterprise such as this to maintain ‘critical mass’, so in return for an active commitment to the above, HCO is happy to offer an additional incentive to new members: personal use of the 30-inch reflector and/or the John Wall 30-inch refractor when these are again fully operational. This fits in very naturally with HCO’s secondary objective of using the Hanwell instruments, when not booked for visitor events, as the basis for an informal ‘research school’ of amateur and student astronomy, perhaps in association with organizations such as the BAA. We don’t want large, permanently-mounted telescopes sitting idle while the stars shine!

One last point. HCO is not just a “boys and their toys”gang consisting solely of men of a certain age – young people (from 14 y.o.) and women are especially welcome. Sharing the wonder of astronomy with anyone who may possibly never have experienced it is the central objective; the hardware, however impressive, is simply a means to that end.


If this grabs you and you really feel you want to be a part of HCO, PLEASE CONTACT US. We will then arrange a mutually convenient date within the next month for you to be shown around the Hanwell setup. You can contact us through this form or on 01295730762. We greatly look forward to hearing from you: we mean it.

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Addendum: Education Officer

The post of HCO Education Officer has recently become vacant and we would very much like to hear from anyone who has an interest in taking this on. HCO’s educational aims are primarily to use observational astronomy (a) to support mainstream teaching of the physical sciences curricula for ages 8 – 18; (b) to enthuse and inspire young people with the fascination of the natural world, in the hope that some may be motivated to pursue careers in the physical sciences, astronomy OR otherwise; and (c) to use that same inspiration, imparted at first hand out under the stars, face-to-face with the actual reality, to instil an awareness of, and sensitivity to, nature – the true “real world” – which is increasingly rare in this ever-more urban age of reality-disconnection. The role of HCO Education Officer is to liaise with local schools and colleges in furtherance of  these aims and it could obviously ( for instance, but not exclusively) suit someone with past or current teaching experience in these fields. This role, like all others at HCO, is voluntary and very much part-time. How much time the new Education Officer devotes to this is entirely their choice within wide limits but it doesn't have to be more than a few hours each month - the possibilities are wide open. IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN THIS, PLEASE LET US KNOW.