Why bluedot

The reason

People come to Jodrell Bank for many reasons. They may be curious about what we do; interested in science in general; came on a school visit when they were young, aficionados of engineering heritage, drop in for a coffee on a cycling trip or are looking for a great day out with the family.

Visitors to Jodrell Bank are welcomed by our Discovery Centre – which, at the time of writing, has been open only 5 years.

When we opened the Centre, we had, at the core of our many aims and objectives, some key guiding principles.

One of these was that we want to work to inspire the scientists of the future (an aim in which we include engineers, doctors, technologists – in fact, anyone who might be inspired, by a visit to Jodrell Bank, to realise their potential).

The other is that we firmly believe that science is part of culture. It underpins  the development of society, the ways in which we interact, our increasing longevity and the way in which we address current and future challenges for our species and our planet.

Science  runs like a thread, both implicitly and explicitly, through art, music, architecture, literature and both provokes and facilitates great individual and collective endeavour.

In the 5 years since the opening of the Discovery Centre, we have seen a huge change to the number (and type) of visitors who come here – a change that we have worked hard to make, as another guiding principle we have is that science is for everyone.

One of the ways in which we are doing this is via our new bluedot festival.

The Inspiration

In 1994, NASA scientist and broadcaster Carl Sagan gave a speech at Cornell University in which he coined the phrase ‘pale blue dot’ to refer to our home planet, Earth.

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The iconic “Earthrise” image taken by the Apollo 8 crew in orbit around the Moon, 1968 Dec 24. These photos inspired the modern environmental movement. The “Pale Blue Dot”: a photograph of planet Earth taken on Feb 14, 1990, by the Voyager 1 space probe from a distance of about 6 billion kilometres (3.7 billion miles). In 2006, the Cassini spacecraft photographed Saturn backlit by the Sun. In the background, nearly a billion miles away, lies the Blue Dot of Earth.

Since then, these Blue Dot images of planet Earth have come to represent many things (see some links from : The Guardian, 2008; New Humanist Magazine, 2013; NASA, 2006 )

Awe-inspiring realisations of how small our planet is in the vastness of space;

  • Icons for the human desire and capacity to explore new frontiers;
  • Celebrations of our technological capabilities;
  • Expressions of human creativity;
  • Clear reminders that our planet is special and must be cared for.

The Blue Dot festival will take this inspiration to celebrate life on Spaceship Earth: EXPLORATION, DISCOVERY, SCIENCE, CREATIVITY, TECHNOLOGY, ENVIRONMENT and SPACE.

These are big themes – and, from the starting point of Astronomy, give us a perspective that includes a lot of things that are important to humanity ( and certainly many things that are important here at The University of Manchester ).

This year, we have timed the festival to coincide with the opening weekend of the European Science Open Forum (ESOF) 2016 , which is hosted this year in Manchester. Delegates from the festival will be joining us on Saturday 23rd July.

We hope that you will join us at this celebration.

Find out more on the dedicated bluedot website.



Teresa Anderson, Director, Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre

Tim O’Brien, Associate Director, Jodrell Bank Observatory

19th April 2016