Friday, 11 April 2014

J is for Jodrell Bank Observatory


J is for Jodrell Bank Observatory, Cheshire

Today we are travelling to the North West of England to visit

Jodrell Bank Observatory

Is a British observatory hosting a number of radio telescopes and is part of the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics at the University of Manchester.  It was established in 1945 by Sir Bernard Lovell, a radio astronomer at the University of Manchester who wanted to investigate cosmic rays  after his work on radar during the Second World War.

The Lovell Telescope was completed in 1957 and was the largest steerable dish radio telescope in the world, 76.2 metres (250 ft) in diameter but it is now the third largest after the Green Bank (USA) and Effelsberg (Germany) telescopes.  It was able to track the launch of Sputnik 1, the world’s first artificial satellite and located the booster rocket by radar just before midnight 12th October 1957.

Lovell Telescope

Lovell Telescope

Tracking space probes only takes up a fraction of its observing time and the remainder of the time is used for scientific observations including using radar to measure the distance from the moon and to Venus, observations of astrophysical maser around star-forming regions and giant stars, observations of pulsars, quasars and gravitational lenses.  

The use of mobile phones on site is forbidden as the Lovell telescope is so sensitive that even the microwave in the staff tea room is shielded inside a metal box to prevent interference
Jodrell Bank Observatory has made its way into modern fiction, notably a 1981 episode of Dr Who, played by Tom Baker, who fell to his death from a walkway at the Lovell telescope where he regenerated into Peter Davison
In Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Jodrell Bank scientists missed the alien invasion because they were having a cup of tea.

So many things that cannot be seen alone by eye

Whirring machinery moves the telescope

Looking for new life, new chances, new hope

Data comes streaming back into the computer

Analysed and scanned, measured by the unseen watcher

Observed by others perhaps unknown to humans

Another race, alien beings, so many questions

So much knowledge to be gathered and learned

So many people are concerned

Progress continues the future is uncertain

As we delve and probe further out from heaven.
Picture: Jason Hawkes


  1. We just watched the movie Contact last night have you seen it Sally? And of course we're getting ready for a lunar eclipe next week. Love looking up at the stars although i've never been near anything quite so big!

  2. Nice post, very informative. So, how far is it from the moon to Venus? Good question. I love weird facts like that. :-)

  3. Another nice journey to a special UK place. Thanks for showing us the Jodrell Band Observatory.