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National Value of UNESCO in the UK

Jodrell Bank is the UK’s latest UNESCO World Heritage Site and we’re incredibly proud to have joined this unique and special family.

Set up as a specialised agency of the United Nations in the wake of the Second World War, UNESCO harnesses the power of education, culture, science, communication and information to advance global peace building, sustainable development, intercultural dialogue and the eradication of poverty.

New research published by UNESCO UK this week, shows that UNESCO projects can help build a greener, more equal and more peaceful world, while also creating financial value. -UNESCO projects in the UK generate an estimated £151 million of financial benefit to local communities each year and help bring them together to protect and conserve some of the most important places across the country.

We’ve joined a rich and diverse group of sites, from expansive mountain ranges in the Highlands of Scotland to densely populated urban areas such as Belfast, Bradford and Manchester. Meanwhile, alongside World Heritage Sites like us, UNESCO certified projects include Global Geoparks, Biosphere Reserves and Creative Cities. The projects span 12% of the UK’s land area and comprise of partnerships between 1,300 organisations, charities, and businesses!

Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO Director-General has said of the report:

“At a time when we all look for solutions to build more resilient societies after Covid-19, UNESCO sites offer a wealth of concrete actions to reinvent our relationship with nature, to develop decent jobs and foster social cohesion. This report by the UK National Commission for UNESCO is a blueprint for sustainability, and I believe all Countries can take inspiration from this research.”

UK Government Heritage Minister Nigel Huddleston MP said:

“From Stonehenge to Jodrell Bank, our UNESCO sites tell the story of our shared history and attract visitors from all over the world. This research is testament to the important role these sites play in their local communities and, once it is safe to do so, we will be encouraging people to visit.”

You can find out more about the incredible national value of UNESCO in the UK, by exploring their new report here…

Jodrell and Cambridge: A shared radio astronomical heritage

18th April is World Heritage Day, and as the UK’s newest World Heritage Site, this is a good opportunity for us to reflect on our new status. This year’s theme is Shared Heritage.

Jodrell Bank became a World Heritage Site in July 2019, in part because the site is the only one in the world that retains traces of the development of radio astronomy from its earliest days to the present. This extraordinary story that is written across the landscape of Jodrell Bank, from the remains of the 1946 searchlight aerial; an instrument for the radar detection of meteors, through the majestic Lovell telescope, to the shiny new headquarters of the Square Kilometre Array.

But why is the story of radio astronomy so important? Why does it have the ‘Universal Value’ that UNESCO look for in a site of international importance? The development of radio astronomy marked a revolution in our understanding of the universe; it has been the basis of the 20th and 21st century’s great leaps forward in astronomy and cosmology, such as the cosmic microwave background, the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence and the recent imaging of a black hole. And crucially it also paved the way for astronomy in other wavelengths, such as infrared and x-ray. It is in multiwavelength astronomy that we now get the most colourful and detailed picture of the universe.

These developments have had a profound impact on humanity; on how we understand our own place and our planet’s place in the universe; our ‘pale blue dot’.

But although our site tells this story, the story doesn’t belong exclusively to Jodrell. Radio astronomy emerged as a new science after the second world war. Although two notable individuals, Karl Jansky and Grote Reber, had detected galactic radiowaves earlier than this, it was war time radar research that inspired physicists, such as Lovell, to see whether radar could be used to study the sky. This happened simultaneously and most significantly at four sites: Jodrell Bank, the Cavendish Laboratories in Cambridge, the British Army Operational Research Group and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation in Sydney, Australia. Open a correspondence file from the Jodrell archive of this period and you will find many letters between Lovell and the leaders of these research groups; sharing data, asking questions, reporting new developments, requesting corroboration, outlining hypotheses.

There was a particularly strong relationship between Jodrell and Cambridge. Lovell and Cambridge’s Martin Ryle were similar in many respects. Both had worked for the Telecommunications Research Establishment during the war, developing radar systems, before returning to their respective universities where they applied their wartime expertise to their research.

The 1949 letters below are part of a series between the two men from the exciting early days of radio astronomy. They had turned their radio receivers to the skies and found that the universe was indeed transmitting in radio frequencies; the possibilities of seeing what had previously been invisible was starting to unfold. The areas of interest were in the constellations of Cassiopeia and Cygnus, and Lovell speculates about the cause of fluctuations in the signal and asks his peer ‘Is there any fallacy in this reasoning?’.  Ryle responds three weeks later with his own speculation and encloses their own tracings of Cygnus and Cassiopeia plus their ‘activity charts’ so Lovell can make the comparison for himself.

The ongoing dialogue between scientists was critical in the rapid development of radio astronomy, that went from bouncing radar signals off meteors in 1946 to the first mapping of an extragalactic radio source – the Andromeda Galaxy – just four years later.

Radio astronomers in these early years had no real contact with optical astronomers; the phenomena they were discovering didn’t correspond to anything before seen in optical astronomy, and their processes were entirely different. Each research site had different equipment and approach; Cambridge for instance had a number of small aerials and concentrated on the technique of combining them to obtain a sharper view. Jodrell focused on the use of larger, single dishes, allowing them to detect much fainter and more distant radio sources. Neither could get a complete picture but by working together, along with the team in Sydney and, in the next few years an increasing number of sites around the world, they mapped the entire radio sky and created a revolutionary new window into the universe.

bluedot 2020

It is with incredibly heavy hearts that we are announcing the postponement of bluedot 2020.

The diverse programme of art, science and cosmic culture, that we lovingly put together for this summer’s festival, will largely carry over to next year and all tickets will be transferred to 22-25 July 2021.

Our teams have been working with partners and authorities to assess the impact of the coronavirus outbreak (Covid 19) on the festival.  Although bluedot may seem some time away, the virus and its associated effects are unlikely to ease away for some months and it is important to us that any additional or unnecessary strain on medical services is avoided.

Every year, we work closely with the emergency services and the NHS to assure that everyone is safe while at the event. To do so we rely on those resources to be available. However, in these extraordinarily challenging times, we must all support the ongoing work of the medical services, allowing them to focus on those in need.

This decision has been an essential but difficult one to make, as it affects not only our team and our wonderful festival-goers, but also a large number of artists, performers, speakers, exhibitors, suppliers, traders and freelancers.  Within our limited means, we will continue to do everything we can to support them and the wider sector during these difficult times.

Between now and July 2021, we remain dedicated to our mission and will be reimagining the festival experience online, via bluedot Digital. Despite bluedot’s many challenges ahead, we will strive to innovate and inspire, and to bind together as a festival community.

Over the coming weeks we will use bluedot as a platform that supports performers, researchers and artists, and we hope that you join us as we continue to observe, explore and experiment.

Stay safe for now, we will see you all beneath the telescope again when the time is right.

Ticket Refunds

As a small, independent festival, ticket sales are absolutely vital to the survival of bluedot. Funds raised from sales for the 2020 festival will be used to plan next year’s event and to support the artists and freelancers we work with to produce the festival.

While refunds are available, keeping hold of your ticket until next year will help us through these difficult times. However, we appreciate the widespread effects of the coronavirus on employment and household incomes, and completely understand that not everyone will be in a position to do this. Therefore should you require a refund, we will support and process this request as quickly as possible.

Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us.

We are so excited to announce the first phase of our science line up for bluedot 2020 including some incredible headline speakers for the festival’s popular DotTalks programme and an unmissable opening concert with the Halle orchestra.

European Space Agency astronaut Tim Peake joins us a headliner, sharing stories of his time aboard the International Space Station and his reflections on the future of space travel. We’ll also be welcoming Emmy Award winner Ann Druyan – co-creator of the iconic documentary series Cosmos, writer of the novel and film Contact, and Creative Director behind NASA’s Voyager Interstellar Message Project. It was of course, Voyager 1 that famously turned its cameras back towards Earth to take a series of pictures. Those images showed Earth from a distance of 3.7 billion miles as a small point of bluish light and inspired Druyan’s late partner and original presenter of Cosmos, Carl Sagan, to coin the phrase ‘pale blue dot’ to describe our home planet. From which we, in turn, take inspiration for our festival.

“Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us.”

In this then, the 30th anniversary of that iconic ‘blue dot’ image, we’re thrilled to welcome back the Halle Orchestra for our opening concert, where they will present a bespoke live score that celebrates that literary work which inspired a generation of star gazers. Cosmos with the Halle Orchestra will take place on the Thursday night.

We’re delighted to also welcome back other festival favourites – The UK Space Agency’s Libby Jackson will be exploring the possibility of life on Mars, the BBC’s Sky at Night presenter Chris Lintott will be shocking us with some of space’s most unexpected surprises, and the Open University’s Monica Grady will be returning to tell us just how important one element can be in determining the fate of humanity…

We’ll also be joined by some of our colleagues from the University of Manchester who will be teaching us about everything from gut bacteria to climate change. Katherine Coyte, Chris Jones, Matthew Cobb and Chris Parkes will all be sharing a slice of their work with us over the course of the weekend.

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And don’t miss Ilan Eshkeri’s Space Station Earth, an immersive experience of life in space, in association with European Space Agency.

With even more to be announced over the coming weeks, bluedot’s fifth year is set to be one of the best yet – proving that an interstellar combination of music and science doesn’t occur once every blue moon, but once every bluedot.

bluedot takes place 23-26 July 2020. Weekend tickets are now on sale from just £149, click here to find out more and explore the full lineup.

bluedot 2020 headliners announced…

In just over six months, from 23 – 26 July, we’ll welcome over 30,000 people to Jodrell Bank once again to enjoy our award-winning, star-struck festival of discovery, bluedot. In honour of the festival’s fifth anniversary, we’ve gone to infinity and beyond to find the most inspiring combination of music, cosmic culture and science, and are excited to start sharing the 2020 line up.

The ground-breaking dance duo Groove Armada will headline the main stage on Friday night, followed by indie-electro giants Metronomy on Saturday. Sunday will see the legendary singer-songwriter Björk collaborate with the Hallé Orchestra in an unmissable festival finale featuring bespoke projections on to the Lovell telescope.

Other confirmed music acts include Róisín Murphy, 808 State, Tangerine Dream, Anna Meredith, Henge, Homoelectric, and Spiritualized.

The highly anticipated science line up will follow in the next few weeks, but we couldn’t help but share the news that astronaut Tim Peake will be speaking at the festival! The first British ESA astronaut to visit the International Space Station will entertain with his stories from Mission Principia, where audiences will hear about his spacewalk to fix the station’s power supply and his record-breaking achievement to become the first man to run a marathon in space.

While more details will follow, you can certainly look forward to exploring another packed programme across our themes of Astrophysics, Environmentalism, The Exploration of Space, Futurology and more…

Our ever-popular family programme of science shows, exhibitions, stargazing, and workshops will be back too, bringing the festival experience to life for both the young, and young at heart.

See you there!

Weekend tickets will be on public sale from 10am Friday 14th February. Click here to find out more…

bluedot wins Best Festival at UK Festival Awards!

Last night, Jodrell Bank’s bluedot was awarded ‘Best Medium Festival’ at the UK festival Awards.

Having previously won ‘New Festival on the Block’ and ‘Mind-blowing Spectacle’ at the Association of Independent Festival Awards, this new prize firmly establishes bluedot as a major player on the UK festivals scene. The festival was also shortlisted for Line-up of the Year and Best Marketing Campaign.

Founded by Professors Teresa Anderson and Tim O’Brien in 2016, the 2019 festival was the biggest bluedot yet, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing in style with a four-day line-up of artists, speakers, scientists and performers.

Since its beginnings, the festival has gone from strength to strength, welcoming a diverse audience of tens of thousands of people to Jodrell Bank Observatory and receiving wide critical acclaim for its unique fusion of science and culture.

The 2020 festival looks set to be yet another extraordinary event with a carefully curated programme of screenings, talks, performances, exhibits, installations and hands-on activities. Taking place 23-26 July, tickets are on sale now and line-up announcements can be expected over the next few months.

For more information, to purchase tickets, and to watch highlight videos from previous festivals, visit

25 years of The National Lottery

A new piece of modern art, featuring Jodrell Bank and created by world-renowned artist, David Mach RA, has been unveiled to celebrate the start of six weeks of celebrations for The National Lottery’s 25th birthday.

The artwork features a mix of national treasures including people, places, projects and icons that have been part of extraordinary things made possible by The National Lottery. They have been brought together in one iconic image to represent The National Lottery’s incredible impact on life in the UK over the last 25 years – across sports, film, heritage, the arts, and community projects, and the giant Lovell Telescope at Jodrell Bank has pride of place in the backdrop.

You can view an interactive version of the image here…

We were recently awarded £12.2m from the National Lottery Heritage Fund for our ambitious new First Light Project which will open up Jodrell Bank’s pioneering heritage and engage people with the science and stories of this internationally significant site.

Over the next six-weeks (14 October – 6 December), The National Lottery is hosting a range of activities, including free events for the whole of the UK to enjoy and we’ll be taking part by joining in with their #ThanksToYou campaign. From 25th November – 1st December, visitors to Jodrell Bank will be welcome to enter for FREE with a National Lottery ticket!

Find out more here and plan your free visit…

Vote for Jodrell Bank

We’re up for two national Awards and you can help us win by taking part in the public vote!

Our annual festival of discovery, bluedot has been shortlisted for Best Medium Festival in the UK Festival Awards. Now in its fourth year, bluedot has quickly established itself as a major player on the UK festival scene and has recieved wide acclaim for its unique programme of science, music and cosmic culture.

If you had a great time at bluedot and think it deserves to win, please take the time to vote for us…

Click here to vote for bluedot in the Medium-sized Festival category

Meanwhile, the Discovery Centre has just been shortlisted for Excellence in Learning and Enrichment in the Family Traveller Awards, citing our range of fun and accessible school holiday activities

The fantastic Engagement team at Jodrell Bank deliver a packed programme of family-friendly events every school holiday and half term. Our live Science Shows, Meet the Expert sessions, Under 7s storytelling and drop-in crafts all link back to the fascinating science of Jodrell Bank, connecting and engaging visitors with the live research that takes place here. We’re thrilled to be shortlisted.

If you’ve enjoyed our holiday activities, please vote for Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre…

Click here to vote for Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre in the Learning and Enrichment category

Special Contribution Award for Jodrell Bank

Jodrell Bank was awarded the Special Contribution to Tourism Prize at last night’s Marketing Cheshire Awards, in recognition of its achievement in receiving UNESCO World Heritage Site status.

Mark Livesy, Chief Executive, Marketing Cheshire said of the award “A highlight for everyone in Cheshire this year is Jodrell Bank being a UNESCO World Heritage Site. For this astounding achievement, Jodrell Bank also wins this year’s Special Contribution to Tourism.”

The Annual Awards ceremony celebrates quality and excellence in the Tourism and Hospitality sectors across Cheshire and Warrington.

The Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre team were also Highly Commended for their commitment to Ethical, Responsible and Sustainable Tourism and you can find out more here…

The Special Contribution Award was announced as follows:

“After many years of hard work by the individuals who work here, the winner of this award was recognised this summer for their unique and valuable contribution as a tourism attraction and centre of innovation in our region.

“Their passion for the work they do and the place they do it is something to be admired and for which we should be extremely proud. Gaining UNESCO World Heritage Site status will help to put Cheshire & Warrington on the map and the investment they are making will further solidify the importance of this Iconic attraction.

“We wanted to acknowledge this hard work, commitment and inspirational thinking by awarding this year’s Special Contribution to Tourism award to our first UNESCO World Heritage Site – Jodrell Bank”

Summer interns at Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre

Each year Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre takes part in the University of Manchester’s Department of Physics and Astronomy undergraduate summer placement scheme. This is open to all 2nd year BSc and 3rd year MPhys students. The placements provide students with an opportunity to work with business, industry and in outreach, in order to enhance their CV and public engagement skills, and increase their employability upon graduation.

Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre has been taking part in this scheme since 2015. Each year three or four undergraduate students join us for the summer holidays. After a period of training they help us deliver of our programme of summer events, including the bluedot science and music festival.

This year we had three interns who all did an excellent job: James, Diyar and Tom. They helped deliver telescope walking tours, ran our very popular rocket lab, engaged with visitors in our exhibitions, assisted in science shows, and even turned their hand to working in our shop and café! We were very busy this summer and would not have been able to run our programme of events without them. They all learned very quickly and showed that they were willing to take on a wide range of tasks. If you visited us this summer, you may well have spoken to them!

Here is a little bit more about them…

James Conboy

James is about to start the 4th year of his undergraduate masters degree in Physics. When he is not studying for his degree, he enjoys hiking, swimming, and sailing.  He really enjoyed giving the telescope tours and said some of the best, and most challenging questions from visitors were often asked during his tours.

He says: “I was most surprised by the disparity between my expectations about the public’s understanding of physics and what the average member of the public actually knows. Being immersed in a physics degree, I think that the constant exposure to complex scientific ideas means that knowledge you assume to be elementary may in fact be to the contrary for a visitor to the Discovery Centre. On reflection, talking about physics to these members of the public was one of the most rewarding aspects of my internship.”

Diyar Othman

Diyar has just started his 3rd year of his Physics degree. He was born in Dubai but has spent 19 years living in Cyprus. He is a sports and music enthusiast and loves playing basketball. He never says no to trying new sports and loves listening to any kind of music and playing guitar, piano, and drums. He also likes reading books in his free time.

He says: “The best thing about my internship was talking to people about the topics I love and study and discussing some amazing possibilities in our Universe. The most surprising thing in my internship was the number of people that attended the telescope walking tours, which excited me a lot at first.”

Tom Ward

Tom is just starting his 4th year of his Physics degree. He is originally from Nottingham and is a member of the University of Manchester water polo team. The bluedot festival was definitely the highlight of the internship for him, even though he had to do his first telescope tour to an enormous crowd, which was a bit daunting!

He says: “I actually surprised myself when I managed to give a talk for 45 minutes to over 200 people, as this was something I wouldn’t have been able to do before the internship”


Over the years Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre has seen several of our undergraduate interns return to us as members of staff, including as part of our other internship programme; the Manchester Graduate Internship Scheme. So, we hope that we will see James, Diyar, and Tom again, but if not – we wish them all the best with the remainder of their studies, and we’re glad they chose to spend their summer with us!