The rest, as they say, is history.  Jodrell Bank has gone from strength to strength.  Today its range of telescopes includes the refurbished Lovell telescope, the smaller Mark II, a 13 metre telescope and the baby of the

Flamsteed Astronomy Society

Flamsteed visit to Jodrell Bank

April 28-29, 2007

family, PET.  PET is used by the undergraduates at Manchester, by remote access students and also by schools.  It is also used as a test-bed for any new computer systems, before they are unleashed on the precious larger telescopes. In addition to these radio telescopes, Jodrell Bank has another telescope in the cleaner skies of the Canaries.  Sir Bernard Lovell still keeps an eye on his children and works at the observatory three afternoons a week, at the age of 93.


Today the telescopes are not only used as free standing instruments but also as part of arrays, which allow earthbound telescopes to produce results that equal those of Hubble, while remaining cheaper and easier to repair (the Lovell was awaiting a small repair while we were there).  The MERLIN array links the Mark II, and sometimes also the Lovell Telescope, to others spread across the UK to create an array with a 217 km diameter.  Amongst other functions, MERLIN has been used to measure the speed and direction of movement of pulsars.  Soon to come is the European Very Long Baseline (EVLBL), which will comprise 20 telescopes across Europe and out as far as Mongolia and Beijing. The result will be an array that is the equivalent of a radio telescope with a diameter equal to that of the Earth itself. 


To come in future are e-MERLIN (a 2GHz) fibre optical system to provide a better link for data handling and which will mean that from 2009, for a few years at least, MERLIN will be the most sensitive “telescope” on Earth.  Jodrell Bank is also assisting with the fibre optics for the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA), which will comprise 50 linked 12 m dishes, and the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) which will consist of I million square metres of small collecting dishes in a “pseudo random” arrangement.

The high points of our visit were probably the elements that are not permitted to “ordinary” visitors. Oh all right – we loved the 3D film trip to Mars but we are all allowed to be kids for a few minutes. However, our special highlights included a trip into one of the many small buildings on the site, which resemble cricket pavilions clustered around a sports field but which in fact house extremely sophisticated equipment.  In one, Ian Morison demonstrated how the cryostats needed to cool the telescope receivers are constructed – giving an ad hoc lesson in the underlying physics and an insight into how astronomers still often have to adapt or construct their own kit. 

“The picture from Sky One is terrific” Prof Morison talks about the 7-m telescope     (pic: Pat Wainwright)

The Lovell and 7-m scopes   (pic: Ian McDowell)

The 13-m scope   (pic: Ian McDowell)

The control room & Lovell telescope

(pic: Ian McDowell)

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