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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.

 

 

A Summer of Science: Celebrating 60 years of the Lovell Telescope

Bring all the family to Jodrell Bank this summer and join us as we celebrate 60 years of the giant Lovell Telescope.

Standing tall on the Cheshire landscape since 1957, the impressive near 90m high radio telescope has become a familiar sight for many of us. But it’s not just a local landmark -The Lovell Telescope has international significance and is known across the globe for the part it has played in many ground-breaking and world-leading scientific discoveries.

This summer, from 31st July – 3rd September, we’ll be celebrating the telescope’s rich and diverse heritage along with its incredible scientific achievements, in a series of family friendly shows, talks, tours, and activities. Perfect for the school holidays!

All events and activities are FREE with general admission and you can book  your admission tickets online here.

You can view a full list of our events here. We’ve also created a handy guide for you below so you can see what’s on each day.

Monday 31st July – Sunday 3rd September:

Mondays Telescope Walking Tours
(11:30, 12:30, 14:30 and 15:30)
Jodrell Jubilee Activities
(11:00 – 16:00)
Science Shows
(11:30, 14:30)
Tuesdays Telescope Walking Tours
(11:30, 12:30, 14:30 and 15:30)
Jodrell Jubilee Activities
(11:00 – 16:00)
Science Shows
(11:30, 14:30)
Meet the Expert
(13:00)
Wednesdays Telescope Walking Tours
(11:30, 12:30, 14:30 and 15:30)
Jodrell Jubilee Activities
(11:00 – 16:00)
Science Shows
(11:30, 14:30)
Thursdays Telescope Walking Tours
(11:30, 12:30, 14:30 and 15:30)
Jodrell Jubilee Activities
(11:00 – 16:00)
Science Shows
(11:30, 14:30)
Garden Tours
(10:30, 13:30)
Fridays Telescope Walking Tours
(11:30, 12:30, 14:30 and 15:30)
Jodrell Jubilee Activities
(11:00 – 16:00)
Science Shows
(11:30, 14:30)
Saturdays Telescope Walking Tours
(11:30, 12:30, 14:30 and 15:30)
Jodrell Jubilee Activities
(11:00 – 16:00)
Sundays Telescope Walking Tours
(11:30, 12:30, 14:30 and 15:30)
Jodrell Jubilee Activities
(11:00 – 16:00)

Garden volunteering update

Our new gardens volunteering scheme is now in full swing and this month the team had a fantastic session creating a willow tunnel in the spring sunshine.

There are 35 acres of gardens and arboretum at Jodrell Bank and the monthly volunteering days involve gardening, wildlife and woodland management. The scheme helps to maintain and enhance the biodiversity of the site as well as developing it as a resource for learning and recreation.

For April’s session, our volunteers enjoyed an informative tour through the arboretum with Jodrell Bank’s senior gardener, before taking advantage of the warm sunshine and getting stuck in to crafting a willow tunnel. The willow was supple to work with and the team were able to transform two rows of willow into a beautiful living tunnel around one of the garden ponds.

The willow tunnel is already proving to be a hit with our visitors and it’s a wonderful way for children to interact with nature and wildlife.

A big thank you again to our amazing group of volunteers!

Would you like to join our volunteering scheme?

We are always looking for new volunteers – no special knowledge required, you just need enthusiasm and a willingness to work outside. We meet from 10:30am – 3pm on the last Wednesday of the month. -The next session with be Wednesday, 24 May.

E-mail jodrell.visitor.centre@manchester.ac.uk to register your interest.

Northern Powerhouse Minister Visits Jodrell Bank

We were delighted to welcome the Minister for the Northern Powerhouse, Andrew Percy MP (Member for Brigg and Goole) to Jodrell Bank last week. Welcomed by the University of Manchester’s Deputy President and Deputy Vice Chancellor Professor Colin Bailey and David Rutley MP (Member for Macclesfield), Percy was accompanied by senior Jodrell Bank staff members.

The Minister took the opportunity to speak with Professor Teresa Anderson, Director of Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre, on the key developments at Jodrell Bank, including the Heritage Lottery Fund supported First Light Project and its positive impact on the region’s tourist economy. He was also able to enjoy a tour of the Jodrell Bank Observatory Control Room and the group was treated to clear views out over the Cheshire plains from the iconic Lovell Telescope.

Professor Teresa Anderson said: “The Minister kindly complimented us on our science engagement programme and the impact this has made on cultural regeneration in the area. We were delighted he and our local MP David Rutley joined us to discuss plans for our exciting projects”

Left to Right: Prof. Tim O’Brien, Prof. Colin Bailey, Andrew Percy MP, Prof. Simon Garrington, Prof. Teresa Anderson, Prof. Mike Garrett, David Rutley MP

Jodrell Bank visit to Sir Bernard Lovell Academy, Oldland Common

In early October 2016, three members of the Jodrell Bank Discovery team – education team leaders Julia and Jamie and Heritage Officer Liz – travelled down to Oldland Common, near Bristol, to assist with preparations for a blue plaque on the childhood home of founder and first director of Jodrell Bank observatory, Bernard Lovell.

We had a tour around Oldland Common with the members of the Bitton Parish Council leading the Blue Plaque project, where they showed us local landmarks connected with Bernard Lovell’s early life at Oldland Common including his childhood home (where the Blue Plaque will go up) as well as the Methodist Chapel where Bernard’s father was a preacher.

Rose Cottage - Bernard Lovell's childhood home, October 2016.
Rose Cottage – Bernard Lovell’s childhood home, October 2016.

The following day we delivered an education event and demonstration to local primary and secondary school students at Sir Bernard Lovell Academy and assisted with the students’ exhibition displays, which form part of the wider Blue Plaque project.

Bernard Lovell was born on 31 August 1913 to Gilbert Lovell and Emily Laura Adams. His childhood home in Oldland Common was Rose Cottage where his parents moved when they married in 1901. This will be the site of the new Blue Plaque which is scheduled to be officially opened in November 2016.

The Methodist Chapel where Bernard Lovell played the organ and his father preached, Oldland Common, October 2016.
The Methodist Chapel where Bernard Lovell played the organ and his father preached, Oldland Common, October 2016.

Bernard’s father was a Methodist minister and his mother was a keen cricketer and a member of one of the first all-female cricket teams in Britain. Both parents were keen musicians and the young Bernard (known to his family as ‘Lovell junior’) inherited his parents’ interests, in particular cricket and music. Bernard learned to play the piano and later the organ and by 13 years of age he was playing the organ in the Methodist chapel in Oldland Common where his father preached and where Bernard attended church.

The following day we delivered a multi-part education event and demonstration to nearly 200 primary and secondary school students from local schools at Sir Bernard Lovell Academy. In the first morning session, Julia and Jamie delivered “Bernard Lovell & the story of Jodrell Bank”, a presentation which used demonstrations and audience participation to tell the story of Bernard Lovell and Jodrell Bank, beginning with Bernard Lovell’s early life in Oldland Common through to his wartime radar work and early work at Jodrell Bank and finishing up with his legacy at Jodrell Bank in the present day.

Julia and Sir Bernard Lovell Academy headmaster Rupert Maule in the morning session, October 2016.
Julia and Sir Bernard Lovell Academy headmaster Rupert Maule in the morning session, October 2016.

After a break, Liz delivered a short 15-minute presentation on historical research skills – explaining how we learned / researched the content we’d delivered in the first morning session and how these skills could be applied to the students’ exhibition displays. After this, we went around the different pupil groups, assisting them with their exhibition content and answering any questions they had. The morning session was filmed, along with interviews with some of the pupils and Bernard Lovell’s daughter Judy Spence, by a team from ‘BBC Points West’ and was featured on the show later that evening.

Julia and Jamie deliver the afternoon session in one of the science laboratories, Sir Bernard Lovell Academy, October 2016.
Julia and Jamie deliver the afternoon session in one of the science laboratories, Sir Bernard Lovell Academy, October 2016.

In the afternoon, Julia and Jamie delivered a more in-depth and science-focussed session to 30 secondary school pupils in their science laboratory. We began with an interactive recap of the history of Bernard Lovell and Jodrell Bank as about half the pupils had attended the morning session as chaperones for the younger pupils.

After this, we went into further detail about scientific research and discoveries – past and present – which have taken place at Jodrell Bank including early radar astronomy at Jodrell Bank including cosmic rays and meteors; early contributions to radio astronomy; early research into quasars and pulsars; the understanding of the universe; and, last and most definitely not least, Jodrell Bank and the Space Race including the tracking of the Sputnik 1 carrier rocket and the interception by fax machine of the first photographs taken on the lunar surface by the Soviet Luna 9 space module. These topics tied in closely with what these secondary school pupils are studying as well as the KS3 science curriculum.

Julia, Jamie, Liz, Judy Spence, and members of Bitton Parish Council, Sir Bernard Lovell Academy, October 2016.
Julia, Jamie, Liz, Judy Spence, and members of Bitton Parish Council, Sir Bernard Lovell Academy, October 2016.

We very much enjoyed our trip to Oldland Common and meeting some of the people continuing the legacy of Sir Bernard Lovell, as we do at the Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre. We wish Bitton Parish Council, all the school pupils and teachers, and all involved the very best of luck with the unveiling of the Blue Plaque, and the creation of the pupils’ exhibition on Sir Bernard’s life. If you’re in the area – make sure you pop along to see it! The exhibition will open at St Anne’s Church Hall in Oldland Common, before moving to the Sir Bernard Lovell Academy.

August is Heritage Month at Jodrell Bank!

1966-LovellLuna9PhotoHeritage Month: Celebrating 70 years at Jodrell Bank

As part of a major heritage project, and with support from the Heritage lottery Fund, Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre is marking 70 years at Jodrell Bank with a month-long celebration of  exhibitions, shows and events.

Discover the stories behind this unique site through walking tours, heritage trails, bicycle rides, reminiscence days, planetarium sessions, heritage science shows and a special exhibition.

Click here to see what’s on

Daily express photoSave 50%!*

As part of our ongoing celebrations, we’re delighted to offer a special 50% discount to our local community* for the month of August.

*This exclusive discount is available to residents living within a 2.5 mile radius of Jodrell Bank. Includes Lower Withington, Goostrey, and surrounding areas. Simply bring proof of address with you when you visit Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre any time this August.

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