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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”

We were there that night!: Watching the Moon landing at Jodrell Bank

We know a lot about what was happening in the Control Room here on 20th and 21st July 1969, when the Apollo 11 astronauts landed on the Moon. And we know there were visitors here too – the first visitor centre had opened in 1967 and was a hub for local people to watch the moon landing. But we didn’t know the details: Who were they? What did they see? What was it like to witness this historic moment in the shadow of the Lovell Telescope?

Our #CaptureTheMoon challenge, which celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing, called for people to share both photos of the moon and their memories of watching the Moon landing at Jodrell Bank. This prompted many to get in touch to tell us that they were indeed here on that momentous day. John Lill and Dave Edwards have been kind enough to share more about what they remember of that night with our Heritage Officer, Hannah Niblett.

In July 1969 Dave Edwards was a nine year-old space enthusiast who had followed the Apollo mission closely. He and his family travelled from Crewe to Jodrell Bank to watch the moon landing. Even at this young age Dave was very aware of the momentous event he, and the world, was about to witness:

‘Apollo 11 could have exploded on take-off, they could have mis-timed the insertion into moon orbit and carried on into space, they could have damaged the fragile craft irreparably in the numerous docking manoeuvres. No one was sure of how strong the moon’s surface was or if the moon dust would hold the lander’s weight. If they’d have landed unevenly and broken a strut they’d have never taken off and the whole world would have seen them die. When we drove to Jodrell Bank all these thoughts were in my mind.’

At Jodrell Bank, a large screen had been set up on the grass outside showing the BBC’s live coverage of the moon landing. Approximately 300 chairs were out on the grass for visitors, underneath the telescope which became illuminated as darkness fell.

John Lill, a sixth form student studying for his science A-Levels, was here on a school trip from Rothwell Grammar School near Leeds:

‘So there was this TV area, this massive screen, and over on the other side was this huge radio telescope … The impression was that everything at Jodrell Bank was gigantic, you know, the scale and the technology was an order of magnitude greater than anything that I had seen.’

John particularly remembers the descent of the Eagle lander:

‘You could feel the tension in the crowd as you could listen to communication between mission control and the astronauts, and from my perspective it just seemed to take forever. You know, they were nearly down, but they weren’t down, and you think, they’re going to run out of fuel… time just seemed to go so slow! But then eventually they landed it and then everybody clapped and cheered!’

Dave remembers watching that first small step:

‘Watching Neil come down the ladder, it was tricky at first to interpret the images. The lighting was strange and the angles too. We realised we were watching the ladder, and then the spacesuit appeared, and then Neil was on the moon leaving footprints in the dust … All the world watched that moment and could look up at the sky and know that men were on the moon. Being at Jodrell Bank just made it so much more real’.

And indeed there were clear skies over Cheshire that night, as John explains:

‘What struck me was that you could look up in the sky and see this crescent moon, and then down at Jodrell Bank was this enormous telescope and this large screen … We were seeing pictures on this screen of people actually on the moon! I mean, it was surreal.’

There was a special post box set up at Jodrell Bank, so Dave and his mother posted a card to themselves, that Dave still has today.

That first human landing on the moon is still an awe-inspiring achievement. Although in the intervening years we have sent unmanned probes to the farthest reaches of the solar system, no human has been to the moon since 1972. It still feels like a very giant leap. Both John and Dave talked about their expectations at the time, that although significant this was just the next step in the Apollo programme, and that soon there would be a permanent base on the moon, there would be moon hotels, that you’d be able to catch a train to the moon…

‘What was clear is this was an achievement of humanity. The fact that they were American seemed to be irrelevant, we were all part of it. But I think that I just expected this was going to be the start of always having people on the moon.’ (John Lill)

Jodrell Bank had a significant technological role in the space race, but it seems Bernard Lovell and his team were keen to have a role in developing public interest and engagement with science, providing a gathering place for people to share in the experience of the moon landing. This is our first glimpse into the early days of public engagement here at Jodrell, we’re hoping to learn more about this story in the coming months.

Many thanks to John and Dave for sharing their stories with us.

Drama of the highest order: Tracking the Moon landing at Jodrell Bank

As the world celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing, we’ve been looking back at what was happening at Jodrell Bank on 20th and 21st of July 1969.

Jodrell Bank was deeply involved in monitoring the early space race. The instruments here were the best in the world for picking up signals from spacecraft and Jodrell was formally involved in tracking, and independently verifying both US and Soviet missions.  Today, Professor Tim O’Brien has been explaining the story on the Lovell Stage at our annual festival of discovery, bluedot. You can also watch Tim talk in more detail about this at his recent Lovell Lecture here.

By 1969 the US space programme had built their own network of tracking instruments around the world, so Jodrell was not formally involved in tracking the Apollo 11 mission. But, because they could, Lovell and his team listened in to the mission using Jodrell’s 50ft telescope.

This is the trace from the chart recorder as the telescope tracked the Eagle lander on its descent to the surface of the Moon. The smooth peaks are the computer-controlled descent, the bumpy section towards the end is the point at which Armstrong took manual control, when they realised the planned landing site was in fact a boulder field and they needed to come down elsewhere.

Copyright University of Manchester

Simultaneously, and in a more formal capacity, the team at Jodrell were using the Lovell telescope to track the Soviet’s Luna 15 mission. This unmanned mission, little known by the public at the time, aimed to collect lunar soil samples. The timing was no coincidence: the Soviet’s, although unable to send astronauts to the Moon, hoped to beat the Americans by being the first to return lunar rock samples to Earth.

Our archive contains an astonishing audio recording made in the Control Room here at Jodrell on the 21st July, as the team tracked Luna 15 orbiting and, ultimately, crash-landing on the Moon whilst the Apollo astronauts were still on the Moon’s surface. In the audio we can hear the voices of the Apollo astronauts, the voices of the Jodrell team in the Control Room, the various bleeps and static of the Luna 15 telemetry and the calm narration of Bernard Lovell.

We released this audio in 2009, you can listen to it here

The scientists can be heard identifying Luna 15’s change in orbit, with Lovell stating that according to ‘a well-informed source in Moscow’ the Soviet’s planned to land earlier than scheduled and nearer to the Apollo landing site. In the final moments before the probe is lost voices in the Control Room can be heard saying ‘it’s landing’ and ‘it’s going down much too fast!’

This time in history is known as the space race, and for the team at Jodrell Bank the 20th and 21st of July 1969 truly lived up to this name. As Lovell can be heard saying at the end of the recording ‘I say, this has really been drama of the highest order’.

Explore our Moon landing celebrations taking place this weekend at bluedot…

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.