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Planet Pavilion nominated for BBC NWT Building of the Decade.

We’re delighted that the Planet Pavilion at Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre has been shortlisted for the BBC North West Tonight’s ‘People’s Choice Building of the Decade Award.

The Planet Pavilion, which was designed by architects Fielden Clegg Bradley, has been the start of a journey of discovery for over 1 million visitors since opening in 2011 to explore the Story of Jodrell Bank and its ground-breaking research. With science engagement intrinsic to its architecture and interior, the Planet Pavilion is a portal to the science of Jodrell Bank, as well as being a hub for the community and offers a take-home educational experience through its ever-popular café and award-winning gift shop.

Vote for the Planet Pavilion today by clicking here. Voting is open until 12:00 (Friday 20th April)!


50th Anniversary of the Discovery of Pulsars


From Monday 4th to Friday 8th September, Jodrell Bank Observatory is hosting the 337th IAU Symposium meeting at the Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre. As well as the 60th anniversary of the Lovell Telescope, the year 2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the discovery of pulsars – which are rapidly rotating neutron stars, the remnants of some of the most spectacular explosions in the universe. The meeting, “Pulsar Astrophysics: The Next 50 Years” aims to pause, reflect on the successes of the last quarter-century, and look ahead to the future.

When, on November 28th 1967, the first pulsar was discovered by Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, its signal appeared as a pulse, repeating every 1.33 seconds, completely periodically]. It was playfully nicknamed LGM-1 (“little green men”), and as more of these objects were discovered all over the sky, it became clear that pulsars were an exciting glimpse into the Universe in their own right – even if they weren’t signs of an alien civilisation. Many agreed, and in 1974 the discovery of pulsars secured astronomers with their first Nobel Prize in Physics – a controversial move as Jocelyn Bell was not one of them.

It is now known that pulsars are the dead hearts of giant stars. At the end of their lives, massive stars explode in dramatic supernova which can outshine entire galaxies. These titanic explosions compress stars’ cores down to extreme densities and may become neutron stars – if it were possible to scoop up a teaspoon of material from a neutron star it would weigh about 10 million tons! Pulsars are neutron stars: as the star’s core shrinks it spins faster and faster, and particles which accelerate along their magnetic poles release electromagnetic radiation in beams. The end result is a tiny, incredibly dense core producing radiation from two poles, which sweep around with each rotation like a cosmic lighthouse. The pulses seen every 1.33 seconds by Jocelyn Bell were LGM-1’s beams every time they swept by Earth.

Fifty years and a thousand pulsars later, scientists are just as excited about them. Their extreme natures allow us to test theories of gravity, probe spacetime, and learn about the nature of matter and the structure of our own Milky Way. Their stability and longevity could, in the distant future, be useful for navigation during deep space travel. We’re developing new ways to search for them – in 2016 Jodrell Bank collaborated with Zooniverse and the BBC to help citizen scientists all over the world look for new pulsars – and this week’s meeting will cover next generation pulsar searches, future uses for these fascinating objects, and more. Guest speakers include none other than Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell herself, in addition to many who have played vital roles in making pulsar science as diverse as it is today.

You can discover more about pulsars at our Girls Night Out Pulsar Party on 28th September. The event will be led by Dr. Sally Cooper, one of Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics’ resident pulsar hunters, the evening will include an inspiring introductory talk, a Q&A session with the pulsar hunting team, some hands-on pulsar model making, and a host of interactive experiments in our very own mini pulsar fair.



Award-Winning Bluedot Festival Returns in 2017

As the nights draw in and the seasons change, we can’t help but think back to the summer and the Bluedot festival’s spectacular debut. The inaugural event was packed with incredible performances from across the musical spectrum, spectacular scientific happenings, and a mind-expanding programme of arts and culture. You can find out about the inspiration behind the festival here.

We were delighted with the festival’s success, which welcomed nearly 15,000 people and has since won two prestigious AIF Awards and has been nominated for a host of others*. A combination of the incredible location and the rich diversity of the musical line-up, along with the science, arts, and culture content really set us apart from the pack. Our audiences loved it and the festival received wide critical acclaim.

“This bespoke, immersive, science-themed weekender offers something unique and out of this world” –THE GUARDIAN

We are similarly delighted then to announce that the festival will return next year, taking place on 7th – 9th July. We can’t wait to welcome everyone back and we’re determined to raise the bar once again –watch out for exciting developments to be announced over the coming months.

Tickets for next year’s festival are available to book online.


*Bluedot has been awarded two AIF Awards  including New Festival on the Block and Mind Blowing Spectacle for Brian Eno’s projection onto the Lovell Telescope.

It has also been shortlisted in no fewer than six categories at the UK Festival Awards, including Best New Festival, Best Small Festival and Best Headliner for Jean-Michel Jarre. The UK Festival Award winners are decided through a combination of public vote and a panel of music industry experts. Public voting has now closed and the awards will be announced on  28th November.

#discoverthebluedot  @bluedotfestival

Bluedot Festival 2016, photography by Howard Barlow

From Dark Matter to White Noise – A collaboration with Hondartza Fraga

image001_2Hondartza Fraga, Lovell’s Shadow, 2016. Kodak metallic paper, edition 25 +2 a/p. Limited edition prints £40 (unframed), proceeds to Macclesfield Barnaby Festival. Contact to pre-order; payment by BACS or cheque and collect at the festival. 

At Jodrell Bank, we find that it’s invariably interesting, challenging and illuminating to work with artists. We find new perspectives, entirely new frameworks for approaching and speaking about the world and the way in which science interrogates it – and many surprising overlaps and resonances.

As part of our new ‘First Light at Jodrell Bank’ project, we are bringing this into the heart of our approach to welcoming visitors to our site and engaging them with our work.

As we work through the development phase of the ‘First Light’ project, we are also exploring new partnerships and links to our surrounding communities. We are delighted to have been able to put one of these experimental partnerships in place with the Barnaby Festival, which runs every other year in Macclesfield, the nearest large town to Jodrell Bank. The festival was established in 2009, but draws a line back to the ‘Barnaby Fair’ that has reputedly taken place in Macclesfield in June since the 13th Century.

The partnership has taken the form of an artist residency at Jodrell Bank for Hondartza Fraga, a visual artist based between the UK and Spain.

The first element of Hondartza’s residency took place in February this year, when she was on site for the celebrations of the 50th Anniversary of the Luna 9 Space Hack in February 1966.

Hondartza was able to work with both some of the heritage images from the early days of Jodrell Bank and spend time photographing and drawing here, as well as speaking to visitors and staff.

The result is ‘From Dark Matter to White Noise’ – an exhibition of work provoked by Hondartza’s residency. Hondartza will be speaking about the exhibition on at the Barnaby Festival on Sun 26th June and at the bluedot festival in July.

We are also planning to display Hondartza’s artwork during our August Heritage celebrations this summer.

These activities were made possible by funding from the University of Manchester’s Art Science Collaboration Fund.

Jodrell Bank : The Kubrick Connection

Photo Credits : Anthony Holloway

Early in October 2014, we were delighted to be able to form a creative partnership with Abandon Normal Devices (AND) in order to deliver ‘Watch the Skies’ a weekend celebration of Sci-Fi film at Jodrell Bank as part of the British Film Institute’s ‘Days of Fear and Wonder’ series.

The weekend programme included outdoor screenings of 2001: A Space Odyssey and Alien, as well as world premieres of original commissions for Soup Collective and Oneohtrix Point Never.

Alongside that (of course) we ran our usual range of science engagement activities (it was great to see AND’s perspective of it in their blog here).

The weekend was a great success (we were lucky with the weather!) thanks not only to AND, but also to our long-term partners Ground Control and Bluman Associates, who produced and projected things in fine form.

There is a back-story, however, that has a lasting legacy.

Behind the scenes, we had been surprised (and excited) to find that there was a direct link between Jodrell Bank and Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.

In 1966, Kubrick was working to ensure that his new film, 2001: A Space Odyssey had the credibility that Sci-Fi often lacked in popular culture. In order to do this, he assembled a list of renowned thinkers of the time and filmed interviews with them in which they spoke about the possibility of alien cultures, intelligent computers and the origins of life. One of these esteemed thinkers was the renowned physicist and radio astronomer Sir Bernard Lovell, founder of Jodrell Bank.

The original plan was that the interviews would be shown as a prologue to Kubrick’s yet-to-be made sci-fi masterpiece. The short film is now lost, but the transcript of the interview with Lovell still exists and became the inspiration for AND to commission Soup Collective  to celebrate the meeting of these two great minds.

The film included recordings of current Jodrell Bank staff, reading out Lovell’s words from the interview transcript and was projected onto the Lovell Telescope just prior to the screening of 2001.

We are currently working on a second version of the film that will be shown as part of the bluedot festival.

Teresa Anderson

Updated 31:05:16

Why bluedot

The reason

People come to Jodrell Bank for many reasons. They may be curious about what we do; interested in science in general; came on a school visit when they were young, aficionados of engineering heritage, drop in for a coffee on a cycling trip or are looking for a great day out with the family.

Visitors to Jodrell Bank are welcomed by our Discovery Centre – which, at the time of writing, has been open only 5 years.

When we opened the Centre, we had, at the core of our many aims and objectives, some key guiding principles.

One of these was that we want to work to inspire the scientists of the future (an aim in which we include engineers, doctors, technologists – in fact, anyone who might be inspired, by a visit to Jodrell Bank, to realise their potential).

The other is that we firmly believe that science is part of culture. It underpins  the development of society, the ways in which we interact, our increasing longevity and the way in which we address current and future challenges for our species and our planet.

Science  runs like a thread, both implicitly and explicitly, through art, music, architecture, literature and both provokes and facilitates great individual and collective endeavour.

In the 5 years since the opening of the Discovery Centre, we have seen a huge change to the number (and type) of visitors who come here – a change that we have worked hard to make, as another guiding principle we have is that science is for everyone.

One of the ways in which we are doing this is via our new bluedot festival.

The Inspiration

In 1994, NASA scientist and broadcaster Carl Sagan gave a speech at Cornell University in which he coined the phrase ‘pale blue dot’ to refer to our home planet, Earth.

Photo 1 Photo 2 Photo 3






The iconic “Earthrise” image taken by the Apollo 8 crew in orbit around the Moon, 1968 Dec 24. These photos inspired the modern environmental movement. The “Pale Blue Dot”: a photograph of planet Earth taken on Feb 14, 1990, by the Voyager 1 space probe from a distance of about 6 billion kilometres (3.7 billion miles). In 2006, the Cassini spacecraft photographed Saturn backlit by the Sun. In the background, nearly a billion miles away, lies the Blue Dot of Earth.

Since then, these Blue Dot images of planet Earth have come to represent many things (see some links from : The Guardian, 2008; New Humanist Magazine, 2013; NASA, 2006 )

Awe-inspiring realisations of how small our planet is in the vastness of space;

  • Icons for the human desire and capacity to explore new frontiers;
  • Celebrations of our technological capabilities;
  • Expressions of human creativity;
  • Clear reminders that our planet is special and must be cared for.

The Blue Dot festival will take this inspiration to celebrate life on Spaceship Earth: EXPLORATION, DISCOVERY, SCIENCE, CREATIVITY, TECHNOLOGY, ENVIRONMENT and SPACE.

These are big themes – and, from the starting point of Astronomy, give us a perspective that includes a lot of things that are important to humanity ( and certainly many things that are important here at The University of Manchester ).

This year, we have timed the festival to coincide with the opening weekend of the European Science Open Forum (ESOF) 2016 , which is hosted this year in Manchester. Delegates from the festival will be joining us on Saturday 23rd July.

We hope that you will join us at this celebration.

Find out more on the dedicated bluedot website.



Teresa Anderson, Director, Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre

Tim O’Brien, Associate Director, Jodrell Bank Observatory

19th April 2016

New Heritage Officer for Jodrell Bank

Elizabeth Bruton
Photo John Cairns Photography

We’re delighted to announce that Dr Liz Bruton has joined Jodrell Bank as its Heritage Officer. Liz will be working on the exciting new ‘First Light at Jodrell Bank’ project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and will be helping us all develop new approaches to conserving and celebrating the heritage of this important site.

Liz joins us from the University of Oxford’s Museum of the History of Science, where she recently curated the ‘Dear Harry: Henry Moseley, a scientist lost to war’ exhibition, which focused on the scientist Henry Moseley, who lost his life in the First World War. She has a first degree in Computer Engineering from Trinity College, Dublin; an MSc in History of Science: Instruments, Museums, Science, Technology from the University of Oxford; and a PhD in History and Philosophy of Science from the University of Leeds.

Liz said ‘It’s a real privilege to be able to join Jodrell Bank at such an important point in its story. The site has a unique place in the history and heritage of the emergence of Radio Astronomy and is important not only in the UK, but also worldwide. I’m looking forward to making a significant contribution to bringing this to public awareness’.

Teresa Anderson, Director of the Discovery Centre says ‘Liz is hugely well-qualified and experienced and we’re very happy that she has started work with us. We have some big challenges ahead, including the ‘First Light at Jodrell Bank’ project and the progression of our case for UNESCO World Heritage Site status. It’s great to have such a strong colleague join us in this work’

bluedot – Jodrell Bank to host new festival that’s out of this world


Taking place 22-24 July, bluedot is a brand new three-day festival of discovery that promises to fuse a complex mix of artists, speakers, scientists and performers into an event unlike any on earth

Heading the music bill with a UK festival exclusive is the legendary Jean-Michel Jarre. Renowned not only for his revolutionary electronic compositions that spawned an entire genre and gave rise to a generation of experimentalists, Jean-Michel is known for his incredible live performances having pushed the very limits of light, laser and pyrotechnic technology during his performances at some of the world’s most iconic locations from the Pyramids of Giza to the Eiffel Tower.

Given the stunning backdrop of the giant Lovell radio telescope it can only be imagined that Jean-Michel’s performance at bluedot will be remembered as one of the most spectacular in his long career.

Also headlining are psych-electronica pioneers Caribou and – arguably one of the most influential British bands of the last three decades – Underworld, whose infamous live performances are the stuff of legend.

Other artists featuring on the first wave of the line-up are electro-rock darlings Everything Everything, art-rock archivists Public Service Broadcasting, neo-psychedelic titans Mercury Rev, folk experimentalist Steve Mason, post math-rock instrumentalists 65daysofstatic, genre-transcending indie rockers British Sea Power and Californian space-rock adventurers Moon Duo.

The late-night electronic line-up promises to be equally impressive with the initial bill including Erol Alkan and Richard Norris’ electro-house alter egos Beyond the Wizards Sleeve, Hessle Audio founder Ben UFO and turntable maestro DJ Yoda with many more still to be announced.

Recording an episode at the festival is Radio 4’s The Infinite Monkey Cage with Prof. Brian Cox and Robin Ince. Theirirreverent and frequently hilarious insight into some of science’s biggest questions is guaranteed to entertain and elucidate and will undoubtedly be a highlight of the festival.

A full science and culture programme will be announced in the coming weeks but attendees can expect an incredible array of talent from across the scientific, literary and arts communities with five distinct arenas featuring space orchestras, talks, screenings, lectures, comedy and debates and a vast spectrum of hands-on activities including the Luminarium, art installations, robot workshops, a planetarium, the Galaxy Garden, pulsar hunting, graphene making classes and much more.

Created by From the Fields – the team behind Kendal Calling, Forgotten Fields and Live from Jodrell Bank – and the Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre, bluedot promises to be something new and very different.

Said festival director Ben Robinson: “bluedot is a brand new festival with a mandate to deliver a festival like nothing else on earth with a stellar programme of music, science, art, film and technology.

“Securing an amazing line-up like this in our first year is a massive coup – but bluedot isn’t just about the music, having The Infinite Monkey Cage at the festival with Brian and Robin is going to be a real highlight.

“We have a lot more still to announce including our full science and culture programme and some more big name acts that we feel will really fit the ethos of what we are trying to achieve with bluedot – a forum where music, science and the arts can really come together.”

Professor Tim O’Brien, Associate Director of Jodrell Bank and together with Professor Teresa Anderson, one of the festival’s science directors, said: “bluedot is going to be special. We want to blow people’s minds with some amazing music and some incredible ideas – from the Big Bang to black holes, AI to climate change, and loads more.

“A nod to Carl Sagan’s pale blue dot, the festival will celebrate our planet in the vast cosmos, showcasing humanity’s creative achievements in arts, science, technology and the exploration of space.”

Bluedot is supported by the UK Space Agency and the EuroScience Open Forum (ESOF), Europe’s largest interdisciplinary science meeting taking place for the first time in Manchester 23-27 July 2016.

For those wishing to enjoy the three-day festival, a diverse mix of culinary options will be on offer along with standard and luxury camping options.


Full weekend camping and day tickets go on sale on Wednesday, 16 March at 9am. Weekend tickets start at £119 and day tickets start from £35. The full schedule will be announced in the coming weeks. More information can be found at:


The Luna 9 ‘Space Hack’ – 4th Feb 1966

This week we are celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the audacious ‘Space Hack’ carried out at Jodrell Bank on 4th Feb 1966.

Jodrell Bank was deeply involved in monitoring the early space race between the USA and the Soviet Union.

The Soviet Union was far out in the lead with its Luna Programme and in February 1966 was successful in making the first ‘soft landing’ (as opposed to a ‘crash landing’) on the surface of the Moon with the ‘Luna 9’ space probe.

On landing, the craft unfurled to reveal a camera which allowed it to photograph of the surface of the Moon (this was a time well before the invention of the digital camera). The probe encoded the image in the style of early ‘fax’ technology and beamed the resulting signal back to Earth using a radio transmitter.

The signal was intended to reach the space programme team in the Soviet Union. However, the team at Jodrell Bank picked up the signal and someone recognised it as the signal for a fax machine. These were quite rare at the time, but eventually someone managed to borrow the right equipment (some from Manchester and some from London) from the offices of the Daily Express newspaper.

It’s hard to imagine how exciting it would have been to see the first picture sent from the surface of another celestial body appearing from the fax machine printer.

Of course, the Daily Express celebrated this remarkable image across its front page (and several other pages) in its publication the following day.

This week we are celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the happening with a series of events at Jodrell Bank. At the heart of these – in pride of place in our new Star Pavilion –  is the exhibition of the original fax machine, on loan to us from our friends at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester.

Muihead fax machine

Alongside it, we have both an edition of the original newspaper and a collection of some of the amazing photographs and film from the time.

Daily express photoFor families, we have created an amazing activity (popular also amongst our staff….) based on a 5metre wide vinyl print out of the latest image of the Moon’s surface created by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (which is a spectacular object  – and a whole story in itself). Visitors can walk on the surface of the Moon and place flags at the location of all the Moon missions which have landed (rather than crashed) on the Moon since Luna 9.

Moon mat             Remove shoes photo

And on Thursday (the day of the 50th Anniversary of the ‘Space Hack’) we are hosting one of our Heritage Lecture Series (already sold out) where our very own Professor Tim O’Brien will tell the story, alongside some of the colleagues who were here at Jodrell Bank at the time.

Next weekend (6th and 7th Feb), our Star Pavilion will be open for families once again – the last chance to see the original ‘Space Hack’ fax machine this time.

Blogger: Dr Teresa Anderson MBE is Director of Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre.

HLF logoThe heritage work at Jodrell Bank is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund as part of our ‘First Light at Jodrell Bank’ project.

Jodrell Bank celebrates 70th birthday

The First Day at Jodrell Bank
Photograph taken by Bernard Lovell on his first day at Jodrell Bank in December 1945. Image credit: The University of Manchester.

A year of celebration will start this week as the world-famous Jodrell Bank Observatory celebrates its 70th birthday.

Among the events to mark the anniversary are lectures, school events and a fundraising campaign.

Seventy years ago today Bernard Lovell, a physicist at the University of Manchester, switched on some army surplus radar equipment in a muddy field in Cheshire, part of the University’s Botany Department.

With permission to stay for just two weeks, he never left. And now Jodrell Bank Observatory is a world-renowned centre of radio astronomy research.

Tim O’ Brien, Professor of Astrophysics, and Associate Director at Jodrell Bank, said: “After 70 years, Jodrell Bank remains at the cutting edge of scientific research. Work which will continue for decades to come, thanks to projects such as the Square Kilometre Array, the next great radio telescope, whose international headquarters is now at Jodrell Bank.”

“It is a real privilege to work at such a wonderful facility.”

Professor Teresa Anderson, Director of the Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre, said “Jodrell Bank holds a place in people’s hearts across the North West and beyond. It has become a major landmark in the Cheshire countryside and an icon of science & engineering. But it is also a landmark visitor destination, with educational programmes inspiring the next generation.”

After developing aircraft radar systems during the Second World War, Bernard Lovell returned to his position at The University of Manchester, continuing his work on cosmic rays – high-speed particles from outer space. Background interference from the electric trams on Oxford Road compelled Lovell to seek a more secluded location for his work, which led him to Jodrell Bank in 1945, an outpost for the University’s Botany department. Here, Lovell used radar to investigate meteors and built the 218-foot Transit Telescope, which made many important discoveries, particular among them being the detection of radio noise from the Great Nebula in Andromeda – the first time that a known extragalactic radio source had been detected.

These ground-breaking developments in radio astronomy soon led Lovell to build the giant 250-foot radio telescope, which still bears his name. Since 1957, the Lovell Telescope has led the world in exploring the invisible universe using radiowaves. It also holds the distinction of being both the third largest steerable radio telescope in the world and a Grade 1 listed structure. This revolutionary new telescope helped create an awareness of a wider universe, and played a key role in the discovery and study of quasars, pulsars, gravitational lenses and many other phenomena. It also tracked the early space missions, including the Russian rocket, which put the first artificial Earth satellite, Sputnik, into orbit in 1957, at the dawn of the Space Age.

Today, Jodrell Bank remains one of the most important scientific landmarks in the world and is on the UK shortlist for UNESCO World Heritage Site Status.

HLF logoThe heritage work at Jodrell Bank is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund as part of our ‘First Light at Jodrell Bank’ project.