We’re saddened to announce that we’ll be making 21-24 July 2022 the next date for bluedot, our festival of music, culture and discovery here at Jodrell Bank. This means that plans for the festival in 2021 will no longer be going ahead.
We work closely with our talented and passionate partners to bring bluedot to tens of thousands of festival-goers every summer. However, as we’re sure you can imagine, there are many challenges in putting on an event like this at what remains a difficult time for the country. After much deliberation we felt that making compromises to what has become such a unique and much-loved experience, would not be acceptable for the festival’s many communities.
But do not worry. In the coming months we will be sharing our exciting plans for bluedot’s return in 2022, exploring the hundreds of reasons you have joined us since our first festival 5 years ago, and curating a series of very special events exploring our universe deeper than ever before.
So, rest assured this doesn’t mean bluedot is on hold; with the certainty of moving the next edition to 2022 we’re able to kick-start our plans and put more than ever before into delivering a truly out-of-this-world event.
If you have a ticket, we hope you will hold on to it and join us for a joyous celebration in 2022. If you would like to request a refund, your ticket outlet will be in touch with details on how to do this shortly.
Thank you so much for your continue support,
The Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre Team
From stargazing and climate science to the inspirational stories of Jodrell Bank, here are 10 great ways to celebrate with a new activity for every day…
Friday 5th March:
Check out coverage of NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi undertaking a 6.5-hour spacewalk outside the International Space Station today. See them in action here…
Above: NASA astronaut Christina Koch works while tethered near the Port 6 truss segment of the International Space Station to replace older hydrogen-nickel batteries with newer, more powerful lithium-ion batteries. Fellow NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan (out of frame) assisted Koch during the six-hour and 45-minute spacewalk. (Image credit: NASA)
Above: In training – Astronaut Jeanette Epps, left, Soyuz MS-09 commander Sergey Prokopyev, centre, and European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst during space station flight training at Star City near Moscow. (Image credit: NASA)
See the smallest planet, Mercury and largest planet, Jupiter very close together in the sky, an hour before dawn. Planets appear close every now and again as they move in their orbits – this is known as a ‘conjunction’ which for these two planets actually occurs on the morning of 5th March.
6th March is the best opportunity to spot Mercury, as this is the day it appears furthest from the Sun. Be especially careful when you’re trying to see it and don’t look for it once the Sun is up – looking directly at the Sun can seriously damage your eyes. Jupiter is the largest planet in the Solar System and will appear the brighter of the two.
Above: Looking South- South East at sunrise, between 6.20 am and 6.30 am (image from Stellarium)
Above: The planet Mercury. (Image credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington – NASA/JPL.)
Above: The planet Jupiter (Image credit: NASA / JPL / Björn Jónsson) During a conjunction two planets look close together in the sky but in reality are millions of miles apart.
Above:Women computers at the Harvard College Observatory, USA circa 1890. Image credit: Harvard College Observatory, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Tuesday 9th March:
The red planet Mars has always held a fascination for astronomers – easily visible when it’s in our night sky, we have sent numerous spacecraft to explore it and look for signs of life. Find out about the latest Mars missions by following the links below:
The first experiments led to the building of telescopes that could see radio waves – energetic radiation from the same ‘family’ as visible light, but invisible to our eyes. Telescopes at Jodrell Bank continue to probe the invisible universe today.
Today’s new Moon means it’s a perfect time for stargazing as there’s less light to ruin your night vision. The Moon takes around 28 days to orbit the Earth and as it moves we see different amounts of its lit up side -the “phases” of the Moon. At new Moon we can’t see the Moon at all, its lit up side is facing away from us and it appears in the daytime sky. A moonless night means it’s easier to pick out the fainter stars so great for astronomers!
Above: The Moon as a thin crescent, just past ‘new’. Image credit: W.carter, CC BY-SA 4.0
As British Science Week comes to a close for another year, we look forward to the beginning of spring (astronomically speaking!) on the Vernal Equinox which falls on 20th March this year. This is one of two days of the year when the lengths of day and night are equal. After the Spring Equinox and for the next six months, there will be more hours of daylight than darkness.
But why does the equinox happen? The Earth is tilted, and keeps the same tilt as it moves in its orbit around the Sun. We get an Equinox when the Earth is in a position where it is not tilted towards the Sun or away from it. This is what gives us days and nights of the same length.
We’re thrilled to announce today that we have received £125,600 from the Culture Recovery Fund for heritage to support us through the impact of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The grant will help us to develop our online offer and engage with visitors unable to attend the site during this time. It will also enable us to install essential safety measures when visitors can return.
Teresa Anderson, Director, Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre said:“Along with many of our fellow heritage and culture sites, the COVID19 crisis opened a huge chasm beneath our feet. This funding will bridge that gap, supporting us as we move through the current challenges towards the opening of our new gallery later in 2021. We’re incredibly grateful to the Culture Recovery Fund for Heritage for being there for us at this difficult time.”
Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre is one of 80 heritage organisations in England that are benefitting from this wave of funding. The investment is allocated by the National Lottery Heritage Fund on behalf of DCMS and forms part of the government’s £1.57billion Culture Recovery Fund.
Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden, said: “These grants will help the organisations that shape our skylines and preserve our history, from the dome of St Paul’s to railway lines that can help us experience a time gone by. We are protecting our rich heritage across the country and the jobs they support.
Jodrell Bank is the UK’s latest UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to the famous Grade 1 listed Lovell Telescope. Its popular Discovery Centre welcomes hundreds of thousands of visitors each year, including 25,000 school children engaged in an award-winning education programme, and over 32,000 festival-goers at its annual celebration of science, music and culture, bluedot. Its National Lottery Heritage Fund supported First Light Project, which will open up heritage engagement with the site, will open in late 2021.
A major construction milestone was reached last week as our new First Light Pavilion saw its impressive concrete dome roof installed.
The installation was a unique accomplishment of construction and engineering as 381m3 of concrete was poured into a mould spanning 50m to create the single structure domed roof. The continuous concrete pour was the first of its kind in over 25 years and took 10 hours and 15 minutes to complete, assisted by 59 covid-compliant operatives on site.
Ryan Southern, of Kier Construction who are leading the ambitious build, said of the moment: ‘The concrete pour for the dome structure represented a big moment in the project and took a lot of careful planning to ensure its success. It involved a complex methodology, so we’re delighted to see this important stage of the construction come together so well. We must also thank our supply chain, Mayo Civil’s, for their efforts.’
Once fully complete, the new building will house an exhibition and immersive auditorium dedicated to telling the stories of Jodrell Bank. A new gallery will innovatively re-use sections of the original 1957 observation dish from the Lovell Telescope as a backdrop for displays and projections covering periods in the site’s rich history from its early beginnings, through the Space Race and the Cold War, to the present day. Meanwhile, an auditorium will provide space for planetarium shows, evening lectures, film projections and cultural events.
Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre Director, Professor Teresa Anderson has said “We’re thrilled to have reached this milestone and are delighted to be able to see the new building take shape. The progress symbolises a new hope for the future and we can’t wait to be able to welcome visitors to this beautiful new building, and share with them the stories of Jodrell Bank and its pioneering scientists”
The round, dome-like structure of the building cleverly mirrors the circumference of the iconic Lovell Telescope. Within the dome are a number of cutaways including the Pavilion’s entrance built into a curved concrete wall designed to reflect the arc of the sun. Two separate walls then guide visitors in, with a single glass slot cut out at the centre, illuminating a meridian line cast onto the floor at the entrance, echoing a history of astronomy in architecture.
Diana Hampson, Director of Estates at The University of Manchestersaid “It is testament to the teamwork of all of those involved on the project that we have achieved this significant milestone in the delivery of the Pavillion. The team have faced many challenges and adopted new ways of working owing to the pandemic and it is wonderful to see major progress when many other projects have been paused across the UK.”
The £20.5m project has been made possible with £12.1m of funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund and a further £4m from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport.
David Renwick, Director, England, North at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “At its core, First Light is about connecting the widest range of people with the science and heritage of this important site by providing new opportunities to engage through activities, involvement and learning. We’re delighted to see that the project has reached a major milestone in its construction and is a step closer to opening its doors, and that we are able to support the project thanks to money raised by National Lottery players. We’re excited to see the project progress and how it will enrich the stories of the site and invoke a greater sense of curiosity and empowerment in Jodrell Bank’s many visitors and communities.”
Meteor showers, and in particular the August Perseids, have a special place in the history of Jodrell Bank. The 1946 shower marked the start of Jodrell Bank becoming an astronomical observatory, and Bernard Lovell becoming an astronomer.
Right: Meteor radar echoes from Jodrell Bank, c. 1950. Copyright University of Manchester.
When Lovell first set up his radar equipment at Jodrell Bank in December 1945 he was hoping to observe cosmic ray showers (cascades of ionised particles entering the earth’s atmosphere). However, by spring 1946, and having shared his preliminary observations with others, he suspected that some of the echoes he saw on the cathode ray tube attached to his radar aerials were from meteor trails. But Lovell wasn’t an astronomer, he was a physicist and knew nothing about meteors.
And so he was introduced to J P Manning Prentice; a solicitor by day, but by night a highly accomplished amateur astronomer, with a passion for meteors. He was director of the Meteor Section of the British Astronomical Association – the UK’s amateur astronomy body. He offered to come to Jodrell in August for a combined radar and visual observation of the Perseid meteor shower.
Lovell was astonished that when Prentice arrived in Cheshire at the end of July, rather than unloading high tech observing equipment from his car he brought out a deckchair, a flying suit, a large celestial globe, a flash light, notebook and some string. Prentice had developed a unique and highly effective observation technique: lying almost flat in the deckchair, wearing the flying suit if it was cold, he would watch the skies and when a meteor appeared he would align a piece of string along the trail. The trail would vanish in a fraction of a second, but he could use the string to read off the start and end points in relation to the nearest stars. He’d jot the observation down in a notebook strapped to his knee, using a dimmed flashlight so as not to impact his night vision.
So they observed the shower; Prentice watching the skies, Lovell and his colleagues John Clegg and C J Banwell watching the cathode ray tube inside one their army trailers.
Lovell recalls in his autobiography Astronomer By Chance:
‘If we saw an echo we would shout, if he saw a visible meteor so would he. In this fashion we were able to establish immediately and without any ambiguity whether there was a connection between the radar echoes and visible trail’
This was the beginnings of astronomy, or rather, radio astronomy, at Jodrell Bank. And although Jodrell scientists quickly began using these new techniques to look deep into the universe, meteor radar research continued to be an important stream of work throughout the 1950s and into the 1960s.
Manning Prentice and the Perseids also has a profound impact on Lovell himself:
‘Soon I found myself another chair and stayed by [Prentice’s] side through those warm summer nights. He knew every star down to the fifth magnitude, which was the limit of our vision during those nights. I learned to recognise, as midnight approached, the stars of the Perseus constellation rising in the east, marvelled that it was the rotation of the earth that moved the stars across the heavens, and suffered nostalgia as dawn broke and the stars slowly disappeared in the light of the morning sky. Prentice had learned his astronomy the hard way – by watching the skies – and that is how I learned mine during those August nights.’
You can listen to Bernard Lovell talking about meeting Manning Prentice and the importance of meteor research here, on Web of Stories:
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.