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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).

Funding confirmed for First Light at Jodrell Bank

We are absolutely thrilled to be able to announce today our £20.5m transformative First Light at Jodrell Bank project is set to receive a total of £16.1m from The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). £12.1m of the total is thanks to National Lottery players, with a further £4m coming from the Government.

The project will create a spectacular new 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.

Jodrell Bank Observatory, which is part of The University of Manchester, was founded in 1945. It is the earliest radio astronomy observatory in the world still in existence and was a pioneer of the new science of radio astronomy, which revolutionised our understanding of the universe. In recognition of the international significance of its science heritage, Jodrell Bank was nominated by DCMS for UNESCO World Heritage Site inscription in January 2018.

This game-changing support of National Lottery players will preserve and protect the heritage of the site for future generations and result in a must-see national heritage destination to match the site’s national and international importance. The new facilities will house a stunning new exhibition and engagement space, incorporating the original fabric of the 1957 dish of the telescope, an auditorium devoted to displaying immersive digital presentations, an education hub, and a new café.

At its core the First Light Project is all about connecting the widest range of people with the heritage of science and innovation, and will provide opportunities for people to become more involved in Jodrell Bank through education, group activities, volunteering and engagement.

The project will provide a place of inspiration for young people and their families, showcasing not only the emergence of the new science of radio astronomy, but also the stories of resilience, determination, cooperation and the entrepreneurial spirit that brought it into being.

The project, which will be delivered over the next three years, will create 19 new roles, increase visitor numbers and establish a volunteer programme.

Commenting on the award, Prime Minister Theresa May said: “It’s great to be here at this iconic home of British innovation to personally congratulate the team on this funding award, which will enable Jodrell Bank to continue to inspire scientists in Britain for generations to come.

“We are committed to continuing the proud heritage that Jodrell Bank represents, by making the UK the world’s most innovative economy through our Modern Industrial Strategy. As we stand on the threshold of a technological revolution, we will use science to transform our quality of life.”

Professor Teresa Anderson, Director of Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre, said: ‘’We are thrilled that we have received this generous support thanks to National Lottery players and the DCMS. This funding will transform visitor engagement with the heritage of Jodrell Bank. It will enable us to properly relay, reveal, interpret and explain our story, so that a wider range of people, locally, nationally and worldwide, can understand and appreciate the unique turning point that occurred with the emergence of radio astronomy.

“This major investment acknowledges Jodrell Bank’s unique significance and will ensure that the heritage of the site is protected and conserved according to the standards required of a World Heritage Site, ensuring its care and maintenance for future generations.’’

Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, President and Vice-Chancellor of The University of Manchester added: ‘‘I am delighted by the announcement of this major funding.  It will enable us to share Jodrell Bank’s fantastic stories and amazing feats of UK science and engineering with many thousands of visitors.

“I am particularly pleased that this will provide opportunities for young people to pursue their own paths of interest and to develop the skills needed to become the digital technologists, scientists and artists of the future.”

Ros Kerslake, Chief Executive of the Heritage Lottery Fund, said: “The First Light project has been designed to nurture a new generation of scientists and astronomers and is only possible thanks to National Lottery funding.  Jodrell Bank will be a centre for learning, wonder and fun – a place where people of all ages can visit, be inspired and, quite literally, reach for the stars.”

Heritage Minister Michael Ellis said: “Jodrell Bank is a globally important site that has helped to transform our understanding of the Universe. This significant investment from government and National Lottery players will create a world class visitor attraction and help inspire future generations in science and astronomy.” 


UK puts forward Jodrell Bank Observatory as 2019 World Heritage nomination

Jodrell Bank Observatory has been chosen as the UK’s nomination for World Heritage site status in 2019, Heritage Minister Michael Ellis announced today.

The Observatory, part of the University of Manchester, is home to the Grade I Listed Lovell Telescope and is a site of global importance in the history of radio astronomy. Founded in 1945, it is the earliest radio astronomy observatory in the world still in existence and pioneered the exploration of the universe using radio waves.

The UK currently has 31 World Heritage Sites, with The Lake District having been inscribed in 2017. In order to be inscribed as a World Heritage Site, nominations must show that they possess Outstanding Universal Value, which transcends borders.

The nomination will now be formally assessed by the International Council of Sites and Monuments before the World Heritage Committee decides whether it will join the likes of The Great Barrier Reef, the Taj Mahal and the Great Wall of China as a designated World Heritage Site.

Jodrell Bank is the only site in the world that includes evidence of every stage of the post-1945 development of radio astronomy. As well as the Lovell Telescope, it also includes the Grade I Listed Mark II Telescope and the Park Royal building, which was the control room for the Transit Telescope, whose detection of radio waves from the Andromeda Galaxy confirmed that the Universe extends beyond our own galaxy.

Michael Ellis, Minister for Arts, Heritage and Tourism, said: “Jodrell Bank played a central role in transforming our understanding of the Universe and is therefore a site of global importance. The nomination process for UNESCO is rightly thorough but I believe Jodrell Bank deserves to be recognised. The diverse heritage of the UK is world renowned and the observatory would be a worthy addition to our list of World Heritage Sites.”

Professor Teresa Anderson, Director of Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre said: “The Jodrell Bank Observatory, and Lovell Telescope in particular, have become icons of science and engineering around the world and we’re delighted to reach this milestone. We have been preparing the case for nomination for inclusion of Jodrell Bank on the World Heritage list for several years now and we look forward to showcasing its rich scientific heritage on the international stage.”

Professor Tim O’Brien, Associate Director of the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics, said: “Jodrell Bank really is an iconic site and institution, not just here in the northwest of England but to people around the world. It is the one remaining site, worldwide which has been a working observatory from the very first days of radio astronomy to the present day. It’s important that we protect its rich heritage as we celebrate its current and future work.”

Last year the Government announced it will award £4 million to Jodrell Bank to help fund its new interpretation centre project, promoting the historically significant scientific work.

£4m for First Light at Jodrell Bank

We were delighted to hear on Wednesday that the Discovery Centre was awarded £4m in the Autumn Statement to go towards our First Light Project. This fantastic news provides the final piece in the jigsaw that will enable us to move ahead with our exciting and ambitious plans for the development at Jodrell Bank.

Subject to the approval of a business plan, the £4m completes the fundraising for the project and sits alongside our offer of £12M from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and further generous support from the Garfield Weston Foundation, the Wolfson Foundation, the Denise Coates Foundation, the University of Manchester Alumni and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.

The project, which supports Jodrell Bank’s bid for UNESCO World Heritage Site Status, will involve the creation of a stunning new gallery where people will be able to discover the fascinating history and inspiring stories of Jodrell Bank Observatory.

We are very grateful to all our funders for backing this fantastic new project, including to David Rutley MP who has been tireless in his support of our plans. We’re looking forward to creating something very special to celebrate the history of this unique place. 

Find out more..



Free Admission for National Lottery Players! 11th – 17th December

From 11 – 17 December, we will be taking part in the Heritage Lottery Fund’s #ThanksToYou promotion by offering FREE ADMISSION to all visitors who play the National Lottery.

We’ll be joining over 350 other venues in this nation-wide campaign to demonstrate the impact of lottery funding. -Without National Lottery players, the £7.7billion of funding awarded to more than 42,000 heritage projects since 1994, would not be possible.

Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre has recently been awarded a Heritage Lottery Fund grant to support its First Light Project. This project will create a stunning new building in which visitors will be able to engage with the history of the site and the stories of the scientists and engineers who have worked here.

So, if you’ve ever played the National Lottery, then you’ve helped support exciting new projects like First Light, and this is our chance to say Thank You!

Book your free admission Tickets

From Monday 11 – Sunday 17 December, we will be offering free admission to anyone who plays the national lottery. Simply book your tickets online and bring any lottery ticket or scratch card with you when you visit. Proof can be either digital or paper and date of purchase is not relevant. You can bring as many people as you like with one lottery ticket, just be sure to add them to your booking.

To book your free tickets in advance (advised as we may be very busy on the day), simply click here

Click here for terms and conditions

Events and Activities

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


Monday 11 December Garden Tour, 11:30am Telescope Walking Tour, 2:30pm
Tuesday 12 December Garden Tour, 11:30am Telescope Walking Tour, 2:30pm
Wednesday 13 December Garden Tour, 11:30am Telescope Walking Tour, 2:30pm
Thursday 14 December Garden Tour, 11:30am Telescope Walking Tour, 2:30pm
Friday 15 December Garden Tour, 11:30am Telescope Walking Tour, 2:30pm


Saturday 16 December Telescope Walking Tours, 11am and 2pm Stars Science Shows, 12pm and 3pm Craft Activities, 11am – 4pm
Sunday 17 December Telescope Walking Tours, 11am and 2pm Stars Science Shows, 12pm and 3pm Craft Activities, 11am – 4pm

All our extra events and activities are also included in your free admission!

We do hope you can come along, don’t forget to book your free tickets online here.

Fern Collection restoration day with the BPS

Garden Volunteer Day – 27 September
Restoring the Jodrell Bank Fern Collection with the British Pteridological Society

Our monthly Garden Volunteer Day took a ferny turn in September when experts from the British Pteridological Society joined our regular volunteers to help renovate the Jodrell Bank Fern Collection.

Our first task was to uncover some of the Ferns that had been planted in November 2012 and it was exciting to see what had survived with very little maintenance and a bit of accidental strimming in the past. These were hardy ferns indeed!

The now uncovered ferns were then given a top dressing of leaf compost, full of nutrients from our leaf bins, which will help to both feed the ferns, and to keep the grass away from them.

Phil, our Senior Gardener, showed the volunteers some fungi that were also uncovered during the process. This included the poisonous (only if eaten!) Brown Roll Rim and Fly Agaric. We actually have over 120 different fungi in our arboretum and now is the perfect time of year to spot them.

Our next task was to plant the 54 new ferns which had been kindly sponsored by the BPS through their Centenary Fund Grant. We discovered some logs in a corner of the arboretum which made an ideal backdrop for a display of Asplenium and Polypodium.

Yvonne Golding from the BPS gave a demonstration in how to propagate ferns at home using simple equipment such as baking paper and windowsills and our keen volunteers took away some information to have a go themselves at home.

We’d like to take this opportunity to thank the Society and to the BPS volunteers who came to share their expertise with our team, their enthusiasm for Ferns was infectious and our volunteers had a very enjoyable day!

We particularly enjoyed being enlightened about the Fern design on our biscuits! It turns out that ferns were the height of fashion in Victorian times when the biscuit was first invented and has remained the traditional pattern ever since. We shall have to insist on custard creams at every Garden Volunteers Day from now on!

The UK’s next candidate for UNESCO World Heritage Site status.

As we tell everyone the news that Jodrell Bank is going forward for nomination as a World Heritage Site early in 2018, this is a good time to take a step back from it all and reflect on the journey that has brought us to this point.

To be honest, back in 2010, when the first proposal went in for consideration for the UK shortlist (known as the ‘Tentative List’), we had only a vague grasp of what was involved in becoming a World Heritage Site.  Since then it’s been an eye-opener, to say the least!

The process we have gone through in the intervening years has taught us a lot – both about the UNESCO World Heritage Convention and also about Jodrell Bank site itself.

We have uncovered layers of history, some fantastic stories, and the role that Jodrell Bank has played in the emergence and continuing development of the field of radio astronomy.

Although it’s something we have known for decades, it has brought home to us the long-standing contribution that Jodrell Bank has made, and is making, in its field. It’s a privilege to work at the earliest radio astronomy observatory in the world that is still in existence. It’s also inspiring to consider that it is now the one remaining site, worldwide, that includes evidence of every stage of the post-1945 emergence of this new science.

As we have researched, consulted, written (and re-written) documents, pored over maps and plans, a truly remarkable story as emerged. It’s human to its core – a mix of vision and challenges; determination and chance; politics and personal relationships – and, perhaps even more remarkably, it’s a story that is laid down upon a site and its landscape, embodied in its buildings and telescopes, and the traces of former structures that remain.

Of course, to people in the UK, and in the North of England in particular, Jodrell Bank is synonymous with the Lovell Telescope. An icon of human creativity, of science, engineering and pure ‘can do’ spirit, it seems an astonishing and audacious structure even to this day.

We think that it’s probably the only Grade 1 listed structure that’s on wheels. And, until earlier this year, it was the only Grade 1 listed structure that detects radio waves that have travelled for millions or even billions of years at the speed of light from distant objects far off across the Universe.

Now, of course, the Mark II Telescope is also Grade I listed, so the site is bracketed by two world leading scientific instruments that are also protected at the highest level possible within the UK because of their role in the emergence of radio astronomy.

We are looking forward, now, to January 2018, when the full nomination dossier will be submitted to UNESCO for consideration. And hopefully, around 18 months afterwards, the site will be inscribed on the World Heritage List.

We’re already looking forward to it.

Professor Teresa Anderson

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.