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Green Tourism Award for Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre

We’re thrilled to announce that we’ve received a Silver Green Tourism Award in recognition of our commitment to sustainability.

As one of the University of Manchester’s Cultural Institutions, we work towards the University’s Sustainable Development Goals and its overall Environmental Sustainability Strategy. We’re committed to supporting the University’s aspirations including in areas such as energy efficiency, sustainable building and construction, waste reduction, and sustainable purchasing and catering.

Some of our green credentials include:

  • Buildings installed with wind catchers, LED lighting and air source heat pumps, along with movement sensor lighting to reduce energy consumption and automatic windows to ensure heat conservation.
  • Recycling bins across the site and a green waste recycling scheme for the gardens and grounds
  • A year-round programme of works to maintain the diverse ecology of the 35 acres of gardens and arboretum at Jodrell Bank.
  • A hybrid vehicle for staff use, for example when travelling to educational outreach and community engagement sessions
  • An electric buggy for use on site
  • Partnerships with local suppliers to promote organic and sustainable food production in relation to the Jodrell Bank cafe.
  • Working with sustainable, artisan, local, and fair trade suppliers when purchasing for our gift shop.

We’ll continue to embrace sustainable practices as we embark on new developments at Jodrell Bank with our First Light Project. A range of initiatives are already in place as we begin construction of the First Light Pavilion in the Jodrell Bank gardens. This includes work to promote species protection such as hedge and meadow planting, pond diversity improvements and the expansion of our national tree collection.

A key part of our approach to sustainability is in engaging our communities with green activities that focus on environmental impact. We work with a number of community and voluntary groups including the RSPB and the Cheshire Beekeepers Association to help us protect and enhance our natural environment, and we run a range of public events and activities that celebrate our unique rural landscape and the diversity of our gardens and grounds.

Meanwhile, our annual festival, bluedot, which welcomes over 25,000 people to Jodrell Bank over 4 days every summer, celebrates our home planet and deliberately places science alongside culture in order to inspire curiosity and promote the value of science in helping us tackle some of the planet’s most pressing issues.

The festival is an industry leader in sustainability. -It was the first of its kind in the UK to use all-LED festoon lighting and has an entire zone dedicated to communicating Earth science and sustainability.

New Heritage Officer for Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre

We are delighted to announce that Hannah Niblett has joined the team here at Jodrell Bank as our new Heritage Officer. Hannah will be helping to deliver our First Light at Jodrell Bank project, funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, and developing ways of preserving and interpreting Jodrell Bank’s inspirational heritage.

Hannah is a heritage engagement specialist who comes to us from the University of Manchester Library Special Collections, where she managed social history archives and developed public, community and academic engagement programmes. She has also worked with the University’s institutional and scientific object collections, has recently completed an MA in Museum Studies, and has a research interest in academic heritage.

Hannah has said ‘Although the history of radio astronomy is a new area for me, the Jodrell Bank philosophy that science is part of our shared culture is something I strongly believe in, and I’m massively excited to be joining the team as we embark on delivering the First Light project. I’m especially looking forward to working with our audiences and communities to collect and interpret the shared history of Jodrell Bank’   

Head of Engagement, Julia Riley says “As we wait to hear about our case for UNESCO World Heritage Site status, and embark on our ambitious new First Light Project, this is an exciting time for the Discovery Centre. We have lots of work to do over the next few years and we’re thrilled to have such a well-qualified, experienced, and motivated new member of our team. Hannah will be a great asset”

You can find out more about First Light at Jodrell Bank here.

A fond farewell to our Galaxy Garden

Designed by the award-winning TV gardener Chris Beardshaw, in collaboration with Professor Tim O’Brien, the Galaxy Garden has been a real highlight of the Jodrell Bank gardens for the last 7 years.

Since it was installed in 2012, over 1 million visitors have passed through our doors, many of them exploring the grounds and delighting at the Galaxy Garden’s unique depiction of the development of our universe.

Now however, as we embark on our next chapter and look forward to our National Lottery supported First Light Project, its time to say thanks and farewell to this wonderful garden. Over the next few months the garden is to be carefully removed, with plants transported to other parts of the grounds or shared amongst our staff and volunteers, in order to make way for the stunning new First Light Pavilion. The new building, which will sit discreetly within in its beautiful green surroundings, will provide us with a state-of-the-art facility in which to communicate the inspiring heritage of Jodrell Bank.

The Galaxy Garden was made up of seven interlinked spaces each communicating major milestones in the history of the universe, from the pin prick of the Big Bang, through the birth and death of stars and planets, to an impression of our own solar system.

Glowing stars, supernovas and clumps of dark matter were represented by a kaleidoscope of herbaceous perennials whilst radio waves, planetary dust, comets and space debris were replicated with airy grasses. Colliding protons and neutrons were recreated with clipped box balls and the willow spiral galaxy mazes provided hours of entertainment for children and adults alike as they travelled through time between the gardens.

The garden successfully drew in plant lovers of all ages and introduced to them to the fascinating science of Jodrell Bank whilst they were here. And in the same way, it served to encourage those already interested in science to venture into the gardens and arboretum, discovering the extensive tree collection created by Sir Bernard Lovell.

It also played host to special Science Shows and Garden Tours over the summer months, provided a stop on our Bee Backpack trail, and offered our Garden Volunteers the chance to help maintain it, learning new knowledge and skills as they did so. Meanwhile, the Willow spiral galaxies have given us thousands of beautifully coloured stems which we harvested each year for creative family activities during school holidays.

The Galaxy Garden has also offered a welcome respite from the buzz of bluedot, as well as a perfect backdrop for an episode of BBC Radio 4’s Gardener’s Question Time, broadcast on Easter Sunday 2013 and reaching over 2 million listeners around the world.

We are hugely grateful to Chris Beardshaw and his landscaping team for their work and dedication and to the North West Development Agency (NWDA) and the European Regional Development Fund for supporting us in creating this much loved garden. We look forward to exciting times ahead as we enter a new era for the Discovery Centre.

First Steps to First Light…

We’re thrilled to announce that work on our highly anticipated First Light Project will begin later this month with preparatory landscaping taking place in the gardens of Jodrell Bank.

First Light, which has been generously supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund and DCMS, will be a truly transformational project for the Discovery Centre and will allow us to develop the much-loved site into a world-class visitor attraction.

Alongside an enhanced programme of community engagement and education activities, the project will see the creation of a spectacular new building discreetly nestled in our ecologically-diverse gardens. This new multi-purpose space will help us engage more people with the stories behind Jodrell Bank’s heritage, its pioneering scientific and cultural history, and its global significance in the development of radio astronomy.

After years of hard work, we’re very excited to be able to begin in earnest and we can’t wait inspire even more children, families and visitors with the unique heritage of Jodrell Bank.

The preparatory works required to make way for the development will involve some grounds clearance and tree felling. This will enable a service road to the location of the new building, allowing us to prepare the ground for construction.

We’ve been sure to minimise any impacts of this initial work by creating the new road along a route of an existing clearing. Meanwhile, our Cheshire Orchard will be protected from the construction works, along with the veteran Oak trees which were here long before the Observatory. Our tree collection will remain extensive too, with over 3,000 trees and shrubs, including 200 Champion Trees noted for their local and national importance, being unimpeded.

Further landscaping works beyond this stage will be supported by the planting of replacement trees and wildflowers as part of our commitment to sustainability. We’ll also host a range of volunteer-led activities to restore habitats throughout the grounds, and any chippings and offcuts from felled trees will be recycled across the site.

This important project milestone also kickstarts a new volunteer programme dedicated to supporting the cultivation of Goostrey Gooseberries, helping to revive a long standing tradition in our neighbouring community.

The gardens will be closed until Saturday 6th April but after that will remain open as usual, although access to areas where tree felling is ongoing will be restricted.  You can find out more about the project, including news and developments here.


Moon Landing 50th: Celebrations and Events at Jodrell Bank

Jodrell Bank played a unique role in the historic 1969 Moon landings and 2019 marks 50 years since that momentous occasion when humanity first stepped foot on another celestial body.

In July 1969, the Jodrell Bank Observatory team, led by Director Sir Bernard Lovell, monitored signals from the Apollo 11 Eagle lander carrying legendary astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. Signals intercepted at Jodrell Bank caught the moment when the Eagle lander touched down on the surface, capturing one of the greatest achievements of mankind.

This year, we’ll be hosting a packed programme of public events and celebrations to mark the momentous anniversary.

Moon Landing 50th will run throughout 2019 and is set to include a wealth of events and activities to engage all our visitors and communities.

Families can plan ahead and look forward to a range of fun-filled and fact-packed ways to get involved. Highlights include two Stargazing Nights on 15 February and 29 March and two new moon-themed Live Science Shows running through May Half Term and the Summer holidays.

Families visiting us in the summer will also be able to get their hands on real pieces of the Moon brought back by Apollo astronauts in Moon rock and meteorites. Meanwhile, we’re looking forward to presenting our first Rocket Lab, a series of hands-on activities all about rocket science! There’s fun for the under 7s too with Tiny Astronauts, a drop-in session for budding young astronauts keen to explore our Solar System!

A special Girls Night Out event will take place in October, welcoming Dr. Katie Joy from the University of Manchester who’ll talk about her work as a planetary scientist with a special focus on the Moon and meteorites.

And finally, groups are also encouraged to take part in the celebrations by booking a special visit to Jodrell Bank to enjoy the brand new groups talk, One Giant Leap. Using archive audio-visual footage, the talk tells the inspirational story of Jodrell Bank and its role in the race to the Moon.

Moon Landing 50th – What’s on at a glance:

Stargazing Night: Moon Watch
Friday 15 February, 7pm – 10pm
£9.50/£8.50 (10% discount for Annual Pass holders)

One Giant Leap talk for groups
Available for group bookings from 1 March 2019
Talk and Tour: £10.50pp
Talk, Tour and Picnic: £18.50pp

Live Science Show: Lift Off!
Tuesday 28 – Friday 31 May, 11am, 12pm, 2:30pm
Free with general admission

Tiny Astronauts (Under 7s sessions)
Tuesday 18 – Friday 21 May, 11am and 1pm
and Monday 29 July – Friday 30 August (weekdays only)
Free with general admission

Rocket Lab! (Drop-in activities)
Saturday 25 – Monday 27 May, 11am – 4pm
and Monday 29 July – Friday 30 August, 11am – 4pm
Free with general admission

Live Science Show: Mission to the Moon
Monday 29 July – Friday 30 August (weekdays only), 11am, 12pm and 2:30pm
Free with general admission

Moon rock and meteorites (Drop-in)
Monday 29 July – Friday 30 August, 11am – 4pm
Free with general admission

Girls Night Out Moon Special
Friday 25 October, 7pm – 10pm
£14.50/£12.50 (10% off for Annual Pass holders)

More events still to be announced! Click here for full what’s on listings.

Audio archive of Soviet Zond 6 lunar mission released by Jodrell Bank

As part of our Heritage Lottery funded project, First Light at Jodrell Bank, Professor Tim O’Brien, Associate Director for the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics, has been exploring the Observatory’s archives.

Now, on its 50th anniversary, we’ve been able to release the audio recordings from a Soviet space mission from November 1968, just as the race to the Moon was approaching the finish line.

“Amongst the many interesting documents in the archive, there are a number of audio recordings of the spacecraft signals picked up by the Lovell Telescope during this crucial period of human history.”

On 10th November 1968, the Soviet Union launched Zond 6. Its mission was to loop around the Moon and return to Earth safely. Although there was nobody on board, it was planned as a precursor to a crewed flight around the Moon, racing to beat the American’s Apollo 8 whose launch was scheduled for December 1968.

Throughout the space race, the astronomers at Jodrell Bank, led by Sir Bernard Lovell, had tracked both American and Russian spacecraft. Zond 6 was no different.

In the audio file, which you can listen to below, Sir Bernard narrates the flight of Zond 6, from 13th Nov to 17th November 1968, when the spacecraft returned to Earth.

The recording opens with the beeps of the telemetry being received from the spacecraft followed by Lovell’s unmistakeable voice:

“This is Zond 6. This is the Russian probe Zond 6. November the fourteenth 1968. The time is 01:52 UT. The probe is about one hour’s travel away from the Moon.”

The file also includes a human voice speaking in Russian. A similar voice had been picked up by Jodrell Bank during the flight of Zond 5 in September 1968. It is thought to have been either a recorded message on the spacecraft, broadcast in order to test communications, or personnel on the ground relaying their voices via the spacecraft in training for a future crewed mission.

Tim explained “I’d read about these voices but I’d never actually heard a recording or seen a transcript. I don’t speak Russian, so I asked Kostya, one of my colleagues here in the School of Physics & Astronomy, if he would translate.”

Professor Sir Kostya Novoselov, who shared the Nobel Prize in 2010 with Professor Sir Andre Geim for their work on graphene, was very happy to help. He provided this detailed transcript of what is thought to be simulated instrument readings: “It was definitely a great fun and honour simultaneously to transcribe and translate these records. Touching this great piece of history is thrilling. You almost travel back in time to the era of great space exploration.”

Zond 6 flew around the Moon on 14 November 1968, reaching a closest approach of 2420 km. Unfortunately, during the return to Earth, the spacecraft depressurised, killing the biological specimens on board (thought to be similar to those carried on Zond 5, a payload including tortoises, worms and seeds). Then the parachutes failed and it crash landed, although photographs of the Moon were retrieved from the wreckage.

This and other failures meant the Soviet Union were forced to delay a crewed flight. When Apollo 8 became the first piloted circumlunar mission in December of 1968, that signalled the end of their ambition to send cosmonauts to the Moon.

Tim will be speaking about Jodrell Bank’s role in the race to the moon in his upcoming Lovell Lecture, find out more here. 

FREE Admission from 3 – 9 December with a National Lottery Ticket!

Thank You Week is back! From 3 – 9 December, we will be taking part in the Heritage Lottery Fund’s #ThanksToYou campaign by offering FREE ADMISSION* to all our visitors who play the National Lottery.

We were recently awarded £12.2m from the Heritage Lottery Fund to develop our ambitious new First Light Project and so this is our chance to say thank you to the National Lottery players that helped to raise those funds.

To claim your free admission ticket

Visit Jodrell Bank any day between Monday 3rd – Sunday 9th December and bring along proof of having played the National Lottery -this can include a recent lottery ticket or a scratch card and it can be either a digital or paper copy, the date of purchase is not relevant. You can bring as many people as you like with one lottery ticket.

You can turn up on the day but we advise booking your free tickets in advance (remember, you still need to bring your lottery ticket with you). To book, simply click here and choose your visiting date. *Please note that car parking charges still apply.

Book your FREE admission tickets here.
Click here for terms and conditions.

Events and Activities

To continue the celebrations, we’ll also be running some of our most popular activities during the week including:

Telescope Walking Tours
Monday 3rd – Friday 7th December, 2pm
Saturday 8th – Sunday 9th December, 1pm
Included in your free admission

Live Science Shows
Saturday 8th – Sunday 9th December, 11am, 12noon, 2:30pm
Included in your free admission

We also have a number of paid ticketed events that week, including:

Introduction to Astrophotography
Wednesday 5th December, 7.30pm
£32.50/£29.50 (10% discount for Annual Pass holders)

Lovell Lecture: Professor Tim O’Brien
Thursday 6th December, 7.30pm
£10/£8 (10% discount for Annual Pass holders)

Stargazing Night (SOLD OUT)
Friday 7th December, 7pm
£9.50/£8.50 (10% discount for Annual Pass holders)

See you soon!


Maintenance work on the Lovell Telescope

Visitors to the Discovery Centre will notice that the Lovell Telescope is currently undergoing some maintenance work. A number of significant tasks are being undertaken: painting, steelwork repairs at the top of one of the supporting towers, and replacement of the original 1957 surface.

The impressive 76-metre diameter Radio Telescope, named after Sir Bernard Lovell, was a pioneering development in the science of radio astronomy when it was first built over 60 years ago. At the time of its completion in 1957, it was the world’s largest radio telescope and its still the third largest of its kind in the world today. It continues to operate as a cutting-edge research instrument but is also Grade I listed by Historic England as a building of exceptional scientific, cultural and historic interest.

In order to remain in good operational order, the telescope must be continuously maintained. Large jobs, like those being undertaken at the moment, are conducted during the summer, when days are longer and the weather is usually better.

In the first major upgrade to the telescope in 1970-71, a new reflecting surface with a shallower curve was added above the original, together with a large new wheel girder system to help support the weight of the bowl. In the early 2000’s, this additional surface was itself replaced with a new galvanised steel surface with a more accurate paraboloidal shape significantly improving the efficiency of the telescope (pictured below).

Throughout these upgrades, the original 1957 surface was left in place as an integral part of the structure providing significant protection from wind and rain to the reverse of the reflecting bowl. It is this surface which is visible from below when the telescope is parked pointing towards the zenith, as it is at the moment.

Despite continual care, the condition of this surface has now deteriorated to the extent that it needs replacement. The work required is significant and is planned to take place over two consecutive summers. It is being conducted by Taziker Industrial who have extensive experience of refurbishment of large steelwork structures, including the Iron Bridge in Shropshire, the Tay Rail Bridge and the Royal Albert Bridge over the River Tamar.

Sections of the original surface will be carefully kept for use in our Heritage Lottery Fund project, First Light, celebrating the history of the Observatory. At the heart of First Light will be a new exhibition featuring these carefully preserved sections of the surface.

Continual maintenance and major tasks like those currently underway are a key part of ensuring the telescope will continue to make fundamental contributions to radio astronomy research over the coming decades.

Volunteers Week at Jodrell Bank

This week marks Volunteers Week and we want to send a huge thank you to all the volunteers here at Jodrell Bank.

From Astronomers, Beekeepers and Birdwatchers to Fern and Fungi experts, Gardeners, Gooseberry Growers and Wildlife Explorers, we have an army of supporters who give us their time, hard work and enthusiasm to help protect and celebrate this important site.

We’ve been working hard to develop volunteering opportunities at Jodrell Bank as part of our Heritage Lottery funded First Light Project. Here’s some of the wonderful work our volunteers get up to:

Our monthly Garden Volunteer days involve 12 regular gardeners who come to help us look after the 35 acres of beautiful arboretum here at Jodrell Bank, as well as helping to build homes for wildlife.

The brilliantly enthusiastic RSPB Wildlife Explorers join us several times a year for work party days, bringing with them a wealth of experience and oodles of energy.

The North West Fungi Group visit once a year for National Fungi Day, bringing over 100 different varieties of fungi found in the North West for a spectacular display, as well as forays into our own arboretum to spot the 120 or so fungi we have here.

Keen amateur astronomers Macclesfield Astronomical Society join our Engagement teams at several of our Stargazing evenings throughout the year, offering attendees the chance of glimpsing the stars and moon through a telescope or binoculars alongside learning about how to navigate the night sky.

The Goostrey Gooseberry Society are just around the corner from us and we’re forging a new friendship with them to explore the heritage of our site. A former gardener here and local resident Frank Carter bred 18 cultivars of Gooseberry, several of which were grown on site here, including Jodrell White and Blackden Gem. A handful of the growers know the best way to grow prize winning berries and have been sharing their wisdom with some of our garden volunteers in a bid to carry on the tradition of showing Gooseberries at the local show in July.

The Cheshire Beekeepers Association join us for the May half term with Master Beekeepers carrying out live beekeeping demonstrations at our Apiary. With over 200 years experience between them all we know we’re learning from the right people! They also help us at bluedot  as well as throughout the year as mentors for our own beekeepers in the gardening team.

Members of the British Fern Society returned to help renovate our Fern Collection in November 2017 with our gardening team and helped identify some fronds that our regular volunteers brought in from home. We spent the day planting over 100 new ferns, built a new log pile to help them thrive and enjoyed learning more about them from the experts.

RSPB Macclesfield join us several times a year for birdwatching and wildlife activities including the Big Garden Birdwatch. If they’re not wielding loppers and rakes for pond clearance days they’re wielding binoculars and helping our visitors to spot some of our resident wildlife.

Thanks again to everyone who supports us as a volunteer here at Jodrell Bank. Happy Volunteers Week!

Prime Minister delivers major science policy speech at Jodrell Bank

Prime Minister Theresa May visited Jodrell Bank on Monday to deliver a major speech on science technology and to confirm funding for our spectacular new First Light project.

The Prime Minister visited a workshop involving children from the local Goostrey Community Primary School and met University of Manchester postgrad and postdoc researchers, before joining a meeting of the Council for Science and Technology (CST).

In her speech, delivered in front of the iconic Lovell Telescope, Mrs May unveiled four new missions as part of the Government’s Industrial Strategy, tackling subjects such as healthy ageing, zero-carbon vehicles, home energy efficiency and using AI to improve disease detection and prevention.

The speech came as The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) announced that Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre is to receive a total of £16.1million for our transformational £20.5m First Light project. £12.1m of the total is thanks to National Lottery players, with a further £4m coming from the Government.

This ambitious project will create a spectacular new gallery building that will promote and celebrate Jodrell Bank’s world-leading place in the history of astronomy, and a pioneering chapter in British scientific and cultural history.

As well as the Prime Minister, the event was also attended by Greg Clark (Secretary of State for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy), Sam Gyimah (Minister for Higher Education), Jake Berry (Minister for the Northern Powerhouse and Local Growth), Michael Ellis (Heritage Minister) and Sir Peter Luff (Chair of the National Heritage Memorial Fund and Heritage Lottery Fund).