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British Science Week: Meet Barnes the ExoMars Rover

British Science Week is a national celebration of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths which takes place from 8th – 17th March.

Here’s four great ways to get involved at Jodrell Bank:

1. Visit us on either Saturday 9th or Sunday 10th March to meet Barnes, Aberystwyth University’s full-scale model of the ExoMars Rover!

A European space rover is due to land on Mars in 2020…but what will it look like? How tall is it? What will the instruments do? How will it search for life? Find out the answers to all these questions when you see and explore Barnes on display at Jodrell Bank.

Find out more…

2. Stick around on 9th or 10th March and enjoy a live Science Show as we journey through the history and achievements of scientists at Jodrell Bank. From the Apollo Moon missions to exploding stars and black holes, our fun and interactive, family-friendly science shows are perfect for all the family.

Find out more…

3. Join in with one of our popular Telescope Walking Tours. They’re running at 3:15pm every day during British Science Week with an extra tour at 11:45am from Saturday 9th – Friday 15th March. Follow one our friendly Explainers on gentle stroll around the base of the mighty Lovell Telescope as they tell you all about the incredible science of Jodrell Bank.

Find out more…

4. Get set to blast off on Saturday 9th and Sunday 10th December as we present another of our ever-popular under 7s sessions. Join us on a fun-filled rocket trip into space, exploring the Solar System and playing lots of games along the way.

Find out more…

See you soon!

A giant interstellar bubble is being blown in the Andromeda Galaxy!

An international team of astrophysicists, including researchers from Jodrell Bank, have discovered that a remarkable star has been continuously erupting, on an annual basis, for millions of years.

The star is part of a nova system two and a half million light years away in the Andromeda Galaxy, our nearest large galactic neighbour, and is called M31N 2008-12a (or simply 12a for short).

The two stars that make up the nova system are a red giant star, which is larger and more evolved than our Sun, orbiting a white dwarf. A white dwarf is a dead star, about the size of the Earth but with a mass almost one and a half times that of the Sun. It is the fact that these two stars orbit in such close proximity that is the cause of the stellar explosions.

Based on new observations, and by using state-of-the-art hydrodynamic simulations carried out at Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) and Jodrell Bank, the astrophysicists also revealed that these constant eruptions are blowing an enormous, interstellar bubble around the nova!

The eruptions are essentially Earth-sized hydrogen bombs, ejecting material equivalent approximately to the mass of the Moon in all directions at thousands of kilometres per second.

A composite image of Liverpool Telescope data (bottom left) and Hubble Space Telescope data (top right) of the nova super-remnant. M31N 2008-12a is in the middle of the image.

Professor Tim O’Brien, one of the authors of the study and Professor of Astrophysics and Associate Director of Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics, explains “The two stars orbit so closely that matter from the red giant falls onto the surface of the white dwarf. Over the course of a year, this accreted material builds up to the point where it exceeds a critical pressure and explodes. Some material is ejected but the white dwarf is not destroyed and the cycle of accretion and explosion continues.

“These new observations suggest the explosions have been continuing for millions of years, ejecting material and blowing a gigantic glowing bubble that we see surrounding the central stellar system.

“But this nova remnant is one hundred times larger than any seen before. In order to convince ourselves that this was even possible, we conducted computer simulations of up to a hundred thousand eruptions. These demonstrate that exactly this sort of gigantic bubble can be constructed gradually, outburst by outburst, over millions of years.”

Despite its uniqueness and staggering scale, the discovery of this super-remnant may have further significance.

Dr Matt Darnley, lead author on the study and Reader in Time Domain Astrophysics at LJMU’s Astrophysics Research Institute, added: “Studying 12a and its super-remnant could help us to understand how some white dwarfs grow to their critical upper mass and how they actually explode once they gets there as a ‘Type Ia Supernova’. Type Ia supernovae are critical tools used to work out how the universe expands and grows.”

Dr Rebekah Hounsell, second author on the study and a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, was at the Space Telescope Science Institute when she took part in the research, also explains: “Type Ia supernovae are some of the largest explosions in the Universe and our most mature cosmological probes. The recurrent novae M31N 2008-12a is the most likely SN Ia progenitor to date, and provides us with the unique opportunity to study such a system before its final demise.”

Professor Tim O’Brien continues: “Every so often a new star appears in the night sky. Although these have been seen for thousands of years, it is only recently that astronomers have realised they are not always new stars being born, but explosions on very old stars.

“A small number of these novae have been seen to explode more than once. But this phenomenon is rare and typically the explosions repeat only every decade or more. What makes this discovery so unique is the fact the eruptions recur so often.”

Top Awards for University of Manchester Astronomers

Two University of Manchester astronomers have been awarded some of the Royal Astronomical Society’s (RAS) most prestigious prizes for their research and work in the field.

Professor Anna Scaife, Professor of Radio Astronomy at the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics, will be the 2019 recipient of the Jackson-Gwilt Medal, one of the highest honours the RAS can bestow on a researcher, whilst Dr Sarah Crowther has won the Annie Maunder Medal for her outreach work.

The Jackson-Gwilt medal has been awarded by the RAS since 1897 and won by other astronomical luminaries, such as the late Sir Patrick Moore. What makes Prof Scaife’s award even more extraordinary is she is just the second female winner of the coveted prize in its 122 year history.

Despite her achievement, Prof Scaife, is also keen to recognise her international collaborators for their contributions to her work. She said: “It’s an honour to be recognised by the RAS with this award. Modern radio astronomy is a collaborative international effort and I would like to thank all of the colleagues I have worked with in these projects, and to dedicate this medal to them.”

Prof Scaife will receive the prize for being ‘a world leader’ in radio astronomy and leading on numerous international projects for the new generation of large radio telescopes, such as the Low-Frequency Array (LOFAR) and Square Kilometre Array (SKA).

Dr Crowther, a Research Fellow in the University’s School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, will receive her award for ‘her phenomenal commitment, leadership and work in promoting Earth and Solar System Planetary Science over many years’. This work includes a huge range of imaginative engagement activities and setting up a blog which takes meteorite and planetary science knowledge to a global audience.

But whilst also “delighted” with her prize, Dr Crowther says it is her responsibility as an academic to inspire the next generation of stargazers and scientists, she said: “I feel we have a duty to share our research and make it interesting, accessible and exciting to everyone, and to enable people of all ages and backgrounds to engage with the latest research. If we can inspire even just a few children and young people to go on and become the next generation of scientists and engineers then we’ve achieved something worthwhile. I’m delighted to receive this award for the work I, and my fellow colleagues, do trying to share our work with a wider audience.”

The awards will be presented at the National Astronomy Meeting in Lancaster in July.

Top: Professor Anna Scaife inspires young women and girls with her fascinating work in a talk at one our Girls Night Out events.
Bottom: Dr. Sarah Crowther engages children and young families at our annual festival of discovery, bluedot.

Get Set, Blast Off this half term!

Visit Jodrell Bank this February Half Term and get set to blast off with our out-of-this-world shows, sessions, tours and activities.

From Saturday 16th – Friday 22nd February, we’ll be launching our fun-filled ‘rocket trips’ into space, perfect for any budding astronaut under 7! Look out for our new live science show too, great for all family, we’ll be challenging kids and parents in a head to head on all things space. Plus, our popular Meet the Expert sessions are back and there’s always our informative Telescope Walking Tours to enjoy.

See you here soon!

What’s On at Jodrell Bank

Get Set, Blast Off!
Saturday 16th – Friday 22nd February
1pm (weekend) 11am and 1pm (weekdays)

Science Show: Out of this World
Saturday 16th – Friday 22nd February
11am, 12pm and 2.30pm

Telescope Walking Tours
Saturday 16th – Friday 22nd February
11:45am and 3:15pm

Meet the Expert
Monday 18th – Friday 22nd February , 1pm

Book Admission Tickets

We expect Half Term to be popular again and so encourage visitors to plan ahead and book their tickets online and in advance:




Its ‘Black Hole’ Friday!

Amidst the frenzy of Black Friday, don’t forget to support the gift shop at Jodrell Bank. All profits raised from purchases in our shop are reinvested into supporting our mission to inspire the scientists of the future.

So, for our own pre-Christmas sale, which we’re calling ‘Black Hole’ Friday (of course), here’s a selection of our favourite items, all unique and exclusive to Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre.

Jodrell Bank Constellations Umbrella

Sale Price: £20.00

Jodrell Bank hoody – Adult

Sale Price: £19.50

Jodrell Bank hoody – Child

Sale Price: £14.50

Jodrell Bank DIY Light-up Tote Bag Kit

Sale Price: £7.50

Gift Annual Pass

From: £16.50

Lovell Telescope Pin

New! £8.00

Lovell-y Christmas Cards

£2.90 / £5.85

Don’t forget, every purchase supports Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre.

Thank you.

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!

HLF logo


Watching the skies at our Family Stargazing night…

We love this time of year. As the clocks go back and the nights draw in, it gives us more opportunities to look up and explore the wonders of the night sky! To celebrate the changing of the seasons, we held our first Family Stargazing Night of the year last Saturday.

The evening was a huge hit -the skies were clear, the weather was fine, and we welcomed over 200 families, all eager to get started in stargazing here at Jodrell Bank.

Our friends at Macclesfield Astronomical Society were on hand to help us navigate the stars with telescopes and binoculars. Meanwhile our engagement team put on a range of activities including a fantastic live science show, a host of drop-in hands-on crafts, and a series of planetarium sessions.

We’d like to say a big thank you to Macclesfield Astronomical Society who helped us put on such a great event. Watch out for more events like this listed here on our what’s on pages, and don’t forget to pop in and visit our Gift Shop for planispheres, telescopes and star guides -perfect for any budding young astronomer!

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Photography by Howard Barlow

Girls Night Out at Jodrell Bank

Last Thursday we hosted another popular Girls Night Out event here at Jodrell Bank. This is our twice-yearly celebration of women and girls in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths). It takes place every spring and autumn, and was created by us to support women and girls who study or work in STEM or who are interested in pursuing a career in a STEM subject.

Our guest speaker for this edition was The University of Manchester’s Professor Alice Larkin. Alice is Head of the School of Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil Engineering and a researcher in the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. She gave a fascinating talk and kindly stayed around afterwards to answer questions about her research and career.

After the talk, attendees toured the site, taking in a range of activities:

A host of expert Environmental Scientists from the University of Manchester made up our mini-researcher fair and provided plenty of engaging and hands-on experiments and activities for everyone to get involved with. Our inflatable planetarium was set up for the evening too, and visitors enjoyed a guided tour of the planets, looking for signs of habitability. We also introduced a special trail for participants to follow and discover some of the world’s greatest female scientists. -Take a look at some of the incredible women we featured in the Reach for the Stars trail below. And, of course, our traditional Girls Night Out chocolate brownies were enjoyed by all in the Planet Pavilion Cafe!

We’d like to offer our warmest thanks to everyone who took part in the event, helping us to organise another successful evening and inspiring even more women and girls to pursue their interests in STEM.

“Just had one of the best Girls Night Out at Jodrell Bank discussing the historical and current effects of climate change” Donna Butcher

You can view a collection of images from the event here:

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The next Girls Night Out will take place on Friday 8th March 2019, this time with a focus on the red planet and featuring Dr Natasha Stephen from the University of Plymouth. You can find out more and book your tickets online here.

We hope to see you there!

Photography by Howard Barlow

Operation Earth at Jodrell Bank

This summer, we partnered up with the Association for Science and Discovery Centres and the Natural Environment Research Council to engage our visitors with a host of fun and fact-packed shows and activities exploring the world of environmental science.

Part of a two-year nationwide project, Operation Earth highlights the relevance of contemporary environmental science issues to everyone’s daily lives and to society’s future. We found it to be a wonderful way to celebrate our home planet alongside our friends and peers at great UK science centres including Eden Project, Natural History Museum, National Space Centre and many others.

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We’re proud to have contributed to this fantastic project by:

  • Delivering Operation Earth science shows to a total audience of over 7,000 children and young families, including at our award-winning festival of discovery, bluedot and in a dedicated autism-friendly show in partnership with New Leaf.
  • Providing 229 hours of hands-on Operation Earth activities for visitors to Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre
  • Helping a host of children and young families create over 200 environmentally friendly plant pots to plant and grow their own wildflowers (with thanks to the Jodrell Bank garden volunteers!)
  • Presenting 5 special Meet the Expert sessions with environmental scientists.
  • Engaging a further 300 people with Operation Earth via outreach activities including at the University of Manchester’s Community Festival.
  • Giving out 70 Bee Backpack trails to visiting children to explore our gardens via fun bee-related games and activities
  • Inspiring over 2,500 Jodrell Bank visitors to make their own planet pledge! You can see a few of them, including some of ours, below.

A huge thanks to everyone that took part!