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The 43rd Session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, Baku

We arrived in Baku (capital of Azerbaijan) on Thursday and spent a lot of Friday finding our feet. The World Heritage Committee meeting is being held in the Baku Congress Centre, one of the city’s many dramatic and flamboyant buildings.

The region has been a large oil producer for many years and Baku is the only metropolis in Azerbaijan.

The World Heritage Committee is made up of representatives of the ‘state parties’ (countries) that are signatories to the World Heritage Treaty. This is the 43rd session of the World Heritage Committee (it meets every year) and, as usual, the session agenda was agreed many months in advance.

Alongside the main Committee meeting, there is also a huge number of side sessions and exhibitions, most of which run in the middle of the day. We were speaking at one of these today (Saturday), on how to balance the needs of research with the protection of science heritage (and providing opportunities for people to engage with both research and heritage).

There is also a very tempting selection of ‘cultural programme’ visits in the area. (Unfortunately we weren’t able to take one of the ‘cultural programme’ trips to see the Baku Mud volcanoes. However, it turned out that tourists are only allowed to get close to the less exuberant ones, rather than the ones that explode columns of fire high above the landscape – so we didn’t really mind).

Now, we are in the main congress hall for the World Heritage Committee session (right)

We’re waiting for them to reach the point on the Agenda where they discuss the nomination of Jodrell Bank Observatory. It’s quite nerve-wracking, to be honest, after almost 10 years’ work on the process!

We think that it will happen tomorrow (Sunday) so are crossing fingers and toes in hope!

If you’d like to watch the World Heritage Committee session live, there is a link here.

Watch this space!

Teresa Anderson & Tim O’Brien

Read more…

Travelling to Baku – what about the carbon?
Journey to Baku… and the World Heritage Committee

Travelling to Baku – what about the carbon?

As we start gathering our papers and presentations and think about packing for our journey to Baku for the World Heritage Committee meeting later this week, we thought we’d share some of our wrestling with our conscience prior to our decision to go…

Ideally, of course, we’d have preferred not to fly to Baku (neither of us has flown for years).

As we all now know, air travel makes a significant contribution to greenhouse gas emissions, and there are several alternative ways to travel that have lower environmental impacts.

Coincidentally, lots of football fans were in Baku recently, so there were lots of articles around on how to travel on a budget (and not fly) to Baku, which we researched exhaustively.

Eventually, however, it became apparent that a no-fly trip would take weeks and we couldn’t get there and back in time to meet other commitments (bluedot, graduation ceremonies and more).

So – we wanted to think about how we could do something to make up for the carbon emissions related to our flight (bearing in mind that many people are not completely convinced by the idea of carbon offsetting).

One thing that we have to make clear is that this is a personal decision, and not something that has been made by our institution, the University of Manchester. The University has some great sustainability initiatives, not only across its research, but also as part of the way that it carries out its day-to-day work. That said, there are also struggles with many climate issues, including the environmental impact of academic travel facing everyone in the Higher Education Sector.

In terms of our personal ‘balancing’ of the carbon impact of our journey, we decided we have to do something significant and long-term in our own lives. We already buy both our domestic electricity and gas from a renewable energy supplier. Tim has a fully electric car and I have a plug-in hybrid car (which I plug in – and try to run on electricity as much as possible). We charge both of them at home when we can, from our ‘green’ electricity supply.

We’ve both significantly reduced our meat consumption, and have started growing our own fruit & veg (although there is a battle with slugs, snails, birds, rabbits and squirrels in terms of getting any of it into the kitchen…).

So – our new initiatives include:

Retiring our fuel-burning fires

Even though we have, to date, used ‘sustainable’ logs in both our wood fires here at home, we have decided that they still produce too much particulate air pollution and don’t burn the fuel in a ‘clean’ way. They’re lovely in the winter, but we need to find another way to provide the local warmth.

New windows

This is an obvious one. Our house has double glazing, but it’s very old with a smaller gap than now recommended – so we have decided to pull forward the replacement programme. We should have the new windows installed within the next month.

New heating system

This is another obvious one – except that, instead of installing a new, more efficient, gas boiler, we’re working out whether to install a domestic air-source heat pump. This one is going to take us a bit longer to implement. We’ll try to do it within the next 18 months. In the meantime, we’ve reduced the temperature on the thermostat by a few degrees.

Raising awareness

Another thing that we will do is work to raise awareness of the Climate Emergency facing us all. We do this a lot already, via our social media posts, talks that we give and (mostly) via our bluedot festival – but there is a lot more to do, so we will keep working at it.

We’ll keep you posted….

Teresa Anderson and Tim O’Brien

Journey to Baku (……& the World Heritage Committee)

Early in July this year, we are off to Baku to attend the 2019 World Heritage Committee meeting – because this year, in July, in Baku, the World Heritage Committee will formally consider the nomination of Jodrell Bank for inscription on the World Heritage list.

Photo credit: Ant Holloway

It’s a journey of 2, 500 miles, but will seem short to us, given that we have spent almost 10 years working towards this point.

The first step on the journey was the application, in 2010, for Jodrell Bank Observatory to be included on the UK’s national shortlist for World Heritage site nomination (known as the ‘Tentative List’).

To our delight, in 2011 the application was successful, despite the fact that it was our first engagement with the World Heritage themes and processes.

In the UK, the government (via the Department of Culture, Media, Sport and Digital – DCMS) regularly assesses whether any of the sites on the shortlist are ready to go forward for ‘Nomination’ to UNESCO. In order to be considered, sites have to submit a ‘Technical Assessment’ to the UK’s Assessment Panel. We have done this three times since 2010, and as we went through the process, we learned more and more, not only about the application process, but also about the history and heritage of Jodrell Bank. New images and stories appeared, as well as more and more information about the site itself.

Finally, we were very pleased to hear, in the summer of 2017, that we had been successful and that Jodrell Bank had been selected by the Assessment Panel as the UK’s next candidate for nomination to UNESCO.

The more challenging thing to hear, at this point, was that DCMS and Historic England had decided that the application should be submitted in January 2018, so that the case could be considered in July 2019.

That meant that we had less than 6 months to prepare the huge Nomination Dossier that is required, which includes Comparative Studies of similar sites worldwide, the development of a full Management Plan in collaboration with everyone connected to the site, and the writing of the main nomination document itself.

Six months of very hard work followed. We spent every weekend and evening working on it (thankfully we are married to each other, so were both in the same house). We let ourselves take a day off on Christmas Day and on New Year’s day, but otherwise just worked solidly, (around our dining table…) until we got it done.

We had help from a few lovely people on the way (thank you Henry, Christopher, Karl and Enid) and managed to get our Nomination Dossier finished and beautifully designed (thank you David) and printed in time for the deadline.

A long process of independent assessment followed – including academic reviews of all the documents we prepared by ICOMOS (the International Council on Monuments and Sites), a site visit by an ICOMOS inspector and an interview with an ICOMOS Expert Panel.

And now we are off to Baku in July to find out what they all thought!

Wish us luck!

Teresa Anderson & Tim O’Brien

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.

bluedot Celebrates the Moon Landing

This summer’s bluedot festival falls on the 50th anniversary of the historic 1969 Moon Landing and we’re thrilled to announce the first phase of our mind-blowing Moon-themed line-up!

Taking place 18-21 July 2019 our multi award-winning festival will bring a summer of celebrations honouring the moment humankind stepped foot on another celestial body and celebrating Jodrell Bank’s unique role in tracking the Eagle Lander onto the surface of the Moon.

There’s plenty to look forward to with a stellar science line-up including Dr Helen Sharman the UK’s first astronaut and the first woman on the Mir space station; veteran broadcaster and science historian James Burke the BBC’s anchor for the live coverage of the Apollo 11 Moon Landings in 1969; and the UK Space Agency’s human spaceflight expert Libby JacksonPlus, look out for Dr Katherine Joy, Dr Simeon Barber and broadcaster Dallas Campbell discussing Moon missions and space travel including an in-depth examination of establishing a permanent human presence on the Moon’s surface.

Meanwhile, using audio ‘loops’ created between mission control and the lunar module, fused with signals and recordings generated by Jodrell Bank as it tracked the moon landings, celebrated light artists Illuminos will transform the Lovell Telescope with Lunar Loops Telescope Projection. The festival’s arts and culture programme will also be enriched with bespoke lunar content including Luke Jerram’s Museum of the Moon.

And don’t miss the Moon-dwelling Clangers celebrating their 50th anniversary with a series of talks, and the award-winning Aardman Animations are also marking a milestone birthday with the 30th anniversary of the first Wallace and Gromit film, A Grand Day Out. There will be a special screening of the popular Moon-shot short and an in-conversation with the Aardman team.

Click here to see more of our Moon celebrations and book your festival tickets

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.