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How to watch the Partial Solar Eclipse on Thursday 10th June

On Thursday this week (10th June) we’re treated to a special celestial event – an eclipse. Eclipses are a regular if infrequent occurrence – a natural result of the movement of the Moon around the Earth.

As the Moon orbits the Earth the three bodies line up every now and again. Because the Moon is 1/400th the Sun’s diameter and 1/400th the distance away the two objects look about the same size on the sky – by sheer fluke! This makes it possible for one to block out the other. Thursday’s eclipse is solar – the Moon is in between the Sun and the Earth, casting a shadow on the Earth’s surface.

As the Moon orbits the Earth, Earth Sun and Moon regularly line up as in the image below.

The Moon completes an orbit of the Earth around every 28 days – however the Moon’s orbit is inclined at an angle of about 5⁰ to the Earth’s orbit around the Sun, which is why eclipses do not occur every month.

Above: Geometry of a solar eclipse – image from ESA

From the UK, this solar eclipse will be partial – as the Moon passes in between the Earth and Sun the three bodies won’t be lined up exactly from our viewpoint, so the Moon will cover just a small section of the Sun. Weather permitting, from the UK it will appear as below (timings are for the location of Jodrell Bank):

10.06 BST

First contact – the Moon grazes the edge of the Sun

11.13 BST

Maximum eclipse

12.25 BST

Last contact

Precise timings vary depending on your location – check out this page Solar & Lunar Eclipses Worldwide (timeanddate.com) to find the exact timings for where you are (you may see timings in the media for ‘UTC’ which is Coordinated Universal Time and can be considered as the same as GMT).

From some other parts of the world the eclipse will be ‘annular’ – this is where the Moon’s disk doesn’t entirely cover the disk of the Sun (that would be a total eclipse) but leaves a bright ring visible at the moment of maximum coverage. This happens because neither the Earth’s orbit around the Sun nor the Moon’s orbit around the Earth is exactly circular, so that the apparent sizes of the Sun and Moon vary somewhat – this means that sometimes, as in this case, the Moon can look a bit smaller in the sky and so unable to cover the Sun’s disk completely.

For more info about this week’s eclipse check out Annular Solar Eclipse on 10 June 2021 (timeanddate.com) and for a comprehensive guide plus predictions for future eclipses check out MrEclipse.com

Safe observing

Never look at the Sun directly as it can severely damage your eyes. To view the eclipse safely you can either use a pinhole viewer which is super simple to make How to View a Solar Eclipse: Make a Pinhole Projector (timeanddate.com) or – even easier – you can experiment with using things that already have holes in them such as a colander. Just line the colander up with the Sun so that it casts a shadow on the ground and move it towards or away from you until the lines are sharp – during the eclipse you will see lots of crescents as in the picture below.

Above: Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons : Steve Elliott from UK, CC BY-SA 2.0

These are fun DIY ways to observe but you can also buy special eclipse glasses which allow you to look at the Sun safely – otherwise observation should never be direct as looking at the Sun can severely damage your eyes. In previous years there have been rumours suggesting that you can look at the Sun’s reflection safely in a pool of water – this is untrue and risks eye damage.

In case of cloudy skies there will also be a live stream available here

Solar Eclipse Live Stream – June 10, 2021 (timeanddate.com)

And if you’re free on Thursday morning and fancy a bit of astronomy with your morning coffee, book a ticket to visit us at Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre where, weather permitting, we will have safe observing by projecting the Sun’s image. As ever, our friendly and knowledgeable engagement team will be on hand to answer your astronomy questions.

Fingers crossed for clear skies!

10 Days of Science: British Science Week 2021

5th – 14th March is British Science Week and we’re celebrating with 10 days of Science!

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)

Fancy becoming an astronaut? Find out what it takes here…..

Saturday 6th March:

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.

Sunday 7th March:

From the building of the iconic Lovell Telescope to the construction of our new First Light Pavilion; engineering innovation has always played a critical role in advancements on the Jodrell Bank site.

Find out more about the world of engineering in Kier Construction’s Virtual Interactive Built Environment…

Monday 8th March:

Today is International Women’s day so we’ve adapted a special quiz about the inspiring women of Jodrell Bank, first created for our biannnual Girls Night Out events.

Take part here and be in with a chance of winning a copy of Libby Jackson’s A Galaxy of Her Own!

You can also explore this fantastic citizen science project helping to transcribe the ground breaking work of early women astronomers.

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:

Above: Take a look for yourself if the sky is clear. Mars will be visible in the south western sky after 7.30pm (don’t forget, stars twinkle but planets don’t!)

Wednesday 10th March: 

Download your British science week activity pack and have a go at some fun and interesting activities.

Suitable for a variety of ages and all can be done from home.

Thursday 11th March:

Understanding how human activities can impact our environment has never been more important.

Try these climate science activities and learn what you can do to look after our planet.

Friday 12th March:

Find out how innovation at Jodrell Bank since the 1940s brought a new science – ‘radio astronomy’ –  into existence, revealing a universe that until then was completely invisible: A most extraordinary coincidence: The first experiment at Jodrell Bank – Jodrell Bank

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.

Learn about the history of the Jodrell Bank Observatory from Professor of Astrophysics Tim O’Brien in this talk about how the telescopes of Jodrell Bank work and the things that they are used to study, from massive blackholes to flashing pulsars.

What can we learn from invisible light? Find out more in this article here: Science Concepts: Multiwavelength Astronomy – Jodrell Bank

Saturday 13th March:

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

Check out our monthly stargazing guide to find out what you can see this month and take a look at our Guide to Stargazing Apps to help get you started.

Sunday 14th March:

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.

You can explore more activities, stories and film in our Science Learning at Home online resource hub here…

A most extraordinary coincidence: The first experiment at Jodrell Bank

The first scientific experiment at Jodrell Bank took place 75 years ago; from an army radar trailer, on a damp and icy Friday afternoon on the 14th December 1945.

Although crude by today’s standards, it is the foundation on which the ground-breaking research at Jodrell Bank has been built. However, the story is not as simple as it sounds. The outcome of this first experiment was something of a happy accident; a coincidence of timing and human error.

Above: Setting up the first radar experiment at the University of Manchester’s Experimental Botany Grounds Jodrell Bank, 14th December 1945. Copyright University of Manchester

In 1945 Bernard Lovell was a physicist at the University of Manchester and he was looking for cosmic ray showers – high-energy particles entering the earth’s atmosphere. Whilst developing wartime radar systems Lovell had speculated about this new technology; if radar could be used to detect aircraft at night, could it be used to detect other invisible things, like the cosmic rays he had been studying before the war?

When the war ended Lovell acquired some surplus equipment from the army and drove it out to the University of Manchester’s experimental botany grounds at Jodrell Bank in Cheshire. It was isolated with no electricity, but this was perfect for his purposes. No electricity meant no interference to confuse his readings.

Above: Jodrell Bank farmland, c.1945. Copyright University of Manchester

But he had more terrestrial issues to deal with first. His trailers got stuck in the mud, the diesel generator kept icing up, and it was only with the help of the two friendly gardeners and a local farmer that Lovell got the equipment working at all. Late in the day on the 14th December he switched on the transmitter and the receiver and directed the aerial to the sky. It was a success! But, as he describes in his oral history interview for Web of Stories…

‘I switched on in mid-December in a most extraordinary coincidence. I anxiously looked at the cathode ray tube. It was free of this interference, but full of transient echoes, and I thought, marvellous. These must be the radar echoes from huge cosmic ray air showers. Then I had a few moments of doubt and I thought, no it can’t be. There can’t be as many huge air showers as that…’

The coincidence he refers to is the date: 14th December. Lovell knew nothing of astronomy at this time, so was not aware that he did his first observations at the peak of the annual Geminids meteor shower. The large number of transient echoes he detected were in fact from meteor trails.

Meteor. Source: Alan Newman (CC BY-NC 2.0) Artist’s conception of a cosmic ray shower. Source: Chantelauze / Staffi / Bret (CC BY-NC 4.0)

What followed were months of recalculation, adjustment and correspondence with fellow scientists as Lovell tried to make sense of his results. It turned out that he hadn’t considered the effects of damping in his calculations (i.e., that the electrons from cosmic ray showers would collide with other atmospheric particles, decreasing the amount of energy scattered back to earth); a critical oversight that meant it would have been almost impossible for his equipment to detect energy from cosmic ray showers. But he had found something more interesting; Lovell quickly realised the potential of meteor research and was drawn into the world of astronomy.

History shows that many of the great leaps forward in science have come about through mistake and serendipity: Newton’s apple, and Fleming’s discovery of penicillin in some unwashed petri dishes. If Lovell had arrived at Jodrell Bank in January he would have missed the spectacular echoes from the Geminids, or if he had checked his calculations he may never have attempted the observations in the first place. The happy accident of Lovell’s first experiment is just one of the many twists and turns in the story of Jodrell Bank and we are uncovering many more of these stories and telling them as part of the First Light at Jodrell Bank project.

You can read more about the important role that meteors have in the early history of Jodrell Bank Observatory here. And listen to Bernard Lovell explaining his first days at Jodrell Bank here.

Meteors, deckchairs and the beginnings of astronomy at Jodrell Bank

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:

Comet NEOWISE

Look out for comet NEOWISE in the northwest sky after dusk. The comet will reach its closest point to Earth this week, 23rd July when it will be 64 million miles (103 million km) away. It appears low above the north-western horizon as the sky darkens and could be visible to the naked eye around midnight, although it is much easier to spot with binoculars. The comet will remain in the  sky all night but its position will change as the Earth rotates so that by early morning it will be in the north eastern sky.

To find the comet around 11pm, first find the Plough, then look down and to the right (towards the horizon and round to the north). The comet will appear as a fuzzy patch of light with its tail pointing almost straight up, away from the horizon.

Don’t be disheartened if you don’t spot the comet straight away – it takes a while for your eyes to become adapted to the dark so give yourself about 20 minutes away from bright lights to have the best chance of seeing it. You can also try ‘averted vision’ – that is, looking just to one side of the object you’re trying to see, which can often be effective for spotting faint objects.

The comet was discovered by the NASA space telescope NEOWISE in March this year. Comets are balls of ice and rock, so called ‘dirty snowballs’, that come from the far reaches of the solar system. Comet NEOWISE has a nucleus around 5km (3 miles) in diameter with a tail that has two parts as is typical for comets – a white tail made of fragments of the comet itself and a blue tail, made of ionised gas blown back by the solar wind.

Check out this timelapse captured by Jodrell Bank’s Anthony Holloway, featuring the comet NEOWISE amongst a sky of stunning noctilucent clouds above the Lovell Telescope.

Ant also took some fantastic image of the Telescopes at Jodrell Bank with the comet overhead (pictured here). Why not try and capture it with a camera yourself from where you are? Share your images with us on twitter, facebook and instagram.

Telescopes re-awakening at Jodrell Bank Observatory

The iconic Jodrell Bank Observatory is taking its first major steps to resume scientific operations after lockdown as part of what is probably the biggest ‘reboot’ in astrophysics!

After the longest shut-down in their history, the first set of telescopes at the observatory are being switched on so they can once again contribute new and exciting data to the international science community.

Big projects that Jodrell Bank is planning to re-join this summer include a programme to determine the mystery of how planets are formed – and testing the theory that dust and gases create pebble-sized matter that somehow bond together to create a single planetary rock.

The Mark II radio telescope has already successfully re-joined the European VLBI Network (EVN), a partnership of radio telescopes located in Europe but also Asia and additional antennas in South Africa and Puerto Rico. The EVN performs very high angular resolution observations of cosmic radio sources – and the only network of its kind capable of real-time observations.

To the great relief of observatory staff, data from the Mark II telescope was transferred to the Netherlands, where they were successfully correlated against the other European telescopes, including the Yebes 40-metre telescope in Spain. “The data looks great – so this is a real milestone in getting Jodrell re-connected to our international community,” said Professor Mike Garrett, Director of the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics

Also up-and-running, explained Professor Garrett, is the 42-foot dish that sits atop Jodrell Bank’s main building and is busy monitoring the activities of pulsars.

“Getting Jodrell Bank back into operation after such a long shutdown is a really positive signal to our team at Jodrell, the rest of the University and the international science community as a whole,” said Professor Garrett.

Professor Garett explained that getting the observatory back to pre-lockdown status will be a complex and phased process, ensuring that staff and students are fully safeguarded all along the way. During the height of lockdown a community of 60 staff was reduced to a skeleton crew who were keeping an eye on the shuttered site.

“Safety is our number one consideration, so nothing can be rushed. We must be sure that research, technical staff and students are all safe – thankfully, much of our work can be done remotely,” explained Professor Garrett. He said that Jodrell scientists have continued much of their research at home accessing and analysing a swathe of legacy data using their laptops and linking up to Jodrell’s huge digital databases.

The next phase in Jodrell Bank’s post-lockdown strategy is restarting the e-MERLIN programme, an array of seven radio telescopes spanning 217 km across the UK connected by a superfast optical fibre network with its headquarters at Jodrell Bank – e-MERLIN has a unique position in the world with an angular resolution comparable to that of the Hubble Space Telescope.

Telescopes in the e-MERLIN array will be carefully activated one-by-one, with the nearest dishes to Jodrell Bank switched on first.

As the summer progresses, work to complete the final stage of resurfacing on the giant Lovell telescope will resume and this should be done by the end of July. Work can then begin to make the Lovell telescope operational again and incorporated into e-MERLIN to work on the major legacy observing programmes.

Perhaps the biggest challenge to getting Jodrell Bank fully operational has been restarting the ‘supercomputer at the heart’ of Jodrell’s scientific programmes because its amazing number-crunching capabilities make sense and correlate the vast amounts of data that the Manchester telescopes gather from the cosmos.

“This has now been turned on – we had all our fingers and toes crossed and so far it looks good. Of course, it still needs to be exercised with some real data but that will come,” added Professor Garrett.

The Discovery Centre at Jodrell Bank remains closed for public visits but you can start planning a trip by purchasing ‘vouchers for the future’ here. You’ll also find more information about the Discovery Centre’s response to the lockdown 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.

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.

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…

Space Sapling from Isaac Newton’s apple tree arrives at Jodrell Bank

Saplings grown from apple pips from Isaac Newton’s tree and taken into space by astronaut Tim Peake have been given new homes to inspire the next generation.

8 young trees were grown from seeds taken from the ‘Flower of Kent’ tree at Woolsthorpe Manor, National Trust, in Lincolnshire, the home of iconic scientist Sir Isaac Newton who drew out the principles of gravity after seeing an apple fall.

Tim Peake took the seeds with him when he went to the International Space Station on the British European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut’s Principia mission in 2015.

The seeds then spent 6 months floating in microgravity as part of the ‘Pips in Space’ project before landing back on Earth in 2016 and nurtured into young trees. The UK Space Agency, the National Trust and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, worked together on the project.

Jodrell Bank is among the winners of a competition to become home to one of these special saplings and this Monday, Discovery Centre director Teresa Anderson accepted the tree at the special event at Woolsthorpe Manor. Our expert Gardeners are now looking after it and preparing it for planting here in the grounds of Jodrell Bank where it can inspire future generations of scientists.

Tim Peake said: “These trees are truly unique. They come from the iconic apple tree that inspired Sir Isaac Newton to ponder the forces of gravitation and continues to inspire to this day.
My mission to space was named Principia in homage to Newton’s defining work that included his world-changing ideas about gravity. I wanted my Principia mission to inspire others, particularly young people, with the adventure of space and the excitement of science.
Now, thanks to the careful nurturing at Kew, the apple pips that flew with me into space have grown into fine young trees which I hope will continue to inspire potential Isaac Newtons.”

Ian Cooper, General Manager for the National Trust, said: “Isaac Newton’s time back home at Woolsthorpe in his Year of Wonders in 1665 to 1666 transformed scientific thinking, the impact of which is still felt today. As the trees grow and mature at their new homes, the partnerships we’ve formed in this project will enable us to share Newton’s fascinating story with new people, hopefully inspiring curiosity and a passion for scientific endeavour.
The successful applications for the space saplings had to demonstrate a commitment to inspiring people through sharing stories of science, space exploration, physics, horticulture and conservation.”

Dr Anne Visscher, Career Development Fellow, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, said:
“We are delighted to have been part of such an exciting project. Apple seeds can lose viability if not stored properly, so we made sure they were kept at low humidity during their time in space.
After their return to Earth, we germinated them in our seed bank laboratories before handing them over to the nursery team, who have gone out of their way to keep the young trees healthy. We are hopeful that they will continue to mature in their new homes around the country whilst engaging visitors with their history of Newton, space travel and plant science.”