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Lovell Telescope back in Action!

After a long period of maintenance work, the Lovell Telescope is back in action!

Since the spring of 2018, a number of tasks have been undertaken on the Telescope including painting, steelwork repairs, and a major project to fully replace the original 1957 Telescope surface.

The first major upgrade to the Telescope took place in 1970-71 when a new reflecting surface with a shallower curve was added above the original. The original surface was left in place underneath as an integral part of the structure. It is this original surface that you can see from beneath the Telescope and which has been recently replaced.

The work involved to replace the original surface was significant and took place over the last two consecutive summers -when the days are longer and the weather is (usually!) better. Throughout the work, the Telescope has been out of action and parked in the zenith, pointing directly upward.

While the project is not quite complete, last Friday, the giant Lovell Telescope was nevertheless back in action and staff and visitors all came out to watch it move again. The last ring of panels are still to be replaced however, and if you look closely, you’ll be able to spot a slight gap between the original surface underneath and the 1970-71 surface on top.

Parts of the original surface have been carefully kept for use in our National Lottery Heritage Funded project, First Light, celebrating the history of the Observatory. At the heart of the project will be a new exhibition using these carefully preserved sections of the surface.

What’s the Lovell Telescope doing right now?

Read live observing information here

See a live stream of the Lovell Telescope here

Vote for Jodrell Bank

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summer interns at Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre

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

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

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

Here is a little bit more about them…

James Conboy

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

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

Diyar Othman

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

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

Tom Ward

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

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


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

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

Revealed: Site Map and Stages for bluedot 2019

bluedot is evolving…

We’re introducing brand new areas at this year’s festival, including Tranquillity Base, the new home to Mission Control and Contact, both now three times bigger!

Plus, discover new stages Deep Space Disco, Extinction Rebellion’s Rebel Rebel Stage, and Time Machine Disco. And, for the first time, you can experience the Lovell Telescope projections in complete 360º as we open up around the entire telescope.

Old favourites are back too, including the Star Fields, featuring Star and Space Pavilion -home to DotTalks and hands-on workshops, along with our ever-popular Science Fields with a host of exhibitors and science engagement activities.

Meanwhile, the Outer Space pushes deeper in to the Jodrell Bank gardens for award-winning art installations and the Roots Stage. View the full stage lineups here…

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There are just a handful of tickets left, so if you haven’t already, book yours now at

Jodrell Bank observes CP1919 on 40th anniversary of Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures.

On 15th June, 1979, Joy Division released their debut studio album Unknown Pleasures. The iconic cover art, designed by Peter Saville, featured signals from the first pulsar CP1919.

On 15th June, 2019, to mark the 40th anniversary of the release, the team at Jodrell Bank made this observation of that same pulsar.

Professor Tim O’Brien, Associate Director of Jodrell Bank, with Olly King, one of the Jodrell Bank Controllers working on the project:


Bring all the family to bluedot…

The countdown to bluedot has already begun and with suspense building, there’s now only 8 weeks to go till the return of our award-winning festival (18-21 July), so it’s the perfect time for families to start planning their trip.

bluedot continues to provide a scientific and cultural experience centred around family-friendliness so that parents and kids can have the best festival fun,  with lots of provision for young families including free tickets for under 5s, dedicated parent and baby spaces, early morning activities and quiet camping, along with a mind-boggling array of fan activities.

Family festival-goers can immerse themselves in amazing science shows, interactive workshops, hands-on activities, and extraordinary experiments. Explore the latest discoveries with our very own family-friendly festival scientists and learn all about the awe-inspiring science of Jodrell Bank.

Discover a world of wonder in our intergalactic family areas…

The Science Fields

The place to be to discuss the latest discoveries with scientists and researchers with tents and stalls packed with scientific displays, games and interactive experiments. Look out for the University of Manchester’s Physics Outreach Team, Lightsabre Training Sessions, Science Grrls’ Women of Science, The Square Kilometre Array, Chester Zoo’s Conservation Scientists,  Practical Action, and lots, lots more.

Space Pavilion

Explore the interactive displays on the workings of the Lovell Telescope, its ground-breaking discoveries and world-leading research. The Space Pavilion is also our workshop base during the festival, where you can get hands-on with a wealth of interactive activities. Look our for Wallace and Gromit modelling workshops with Aardman Animations and lots more.

Big Bang Stage

The spot for fun and fact-packed science shows. With live experiments and interactive demonstrations, be ready to be inspired by StrongWomen Science, Physics in the Freezer, Fossil Frontiers, Read your DNA live, and plenty more… Warning: may include loud bangs!

See you there!


Weekend camping available from £169.
Discounts for children and teens, under 5s go free. Get your tickets here

Be Amazed by Science during May Half Term

Visit Jodrell Bank this half term and prepare to be Amazed by Science as we take part in the annual Cheshire-wide festival with another packed programme of tours, shows and interactive activities.

This half term, we’ll be launching our brand new Rocket Lab, a hands-on and interactive activity zone exploring the science of rockets. Our Under 7s sessions are back too and ready to take you on a mission to the moon, perfect to inspire a whole new generation of astronauts! And don’t miss our explosive live science show, fun-filled and fact-packed, including interactive demonstrations and live experiments, its perfect for all the family!

Our friends at Siemens will be joining us again too, testing your science and engineering skills with their fun and interactive games, as well as hosting their amazing Gadget Factory Workshops. And if you’re interested in earth science and the natural world, we’ve got that covered as well! The Cheshire Beekeepers will be here to teach you about the honeybee in a live demonstration in Jodrell Bank’s very own buzzing beehives… Come along and bee happy!

What’s on at Jodrell Bank

Rocket Lab!
Saturday 25th – Monday 27th May
11am – 4pm (drop-in)

Siemens Gadget Factory Workshops
Tuesday 28th and Wednesday 29th May
10:15am, 11:30am, 1:15pm, 2:30pm, 3:45pm

Telescope Walking Tours
Saturday 25th – Friday 31st May
11.45am and 3.15pm

The Cheshire Beekeepers
Monday 27th – Friday 31st May
10am – 4pm (drop-in)

Meet The Expert
Tuesday 28th – Friday 31st May, 1pm

Science Show: Lift Off!
Tuesday 28th – Friday 31st May
Various times

Siemens Interactive Games
Tuesday 28th – Friday 31st May
10am – 5pm (drop-in)

Tiny Astronauts (Under 7s)
Tuesday 28th – Friday 31st May
Various Times

Book Admission Tickets

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

Book Admission Here