Jodrell Bank Observatory holds iconic status in the UK. It was established in 1945 by Sir Bernard Lovell as he wanted to continue his research in to cosmic rays following his work on radar during work war II. Since then the facility has researched in to all manner of astronomical phenomena. Various radio telescopes and other related equipment are present and the facility is an integral part of the UK’s space research.
Today it is the astronomical research centre of the University of Manchester and operates something called e-MERLIN which is the United Kingdom’s national radio astronomy facility and considered a world leader in the field.
Despite all the varied and valuable astronomical and scientific research conducted at Joddrell Bank it did face some threat of closure as recently as 2008 due to a funding crisis. A local radio station immediately began a campaign to save the facility even releasing a song with all proceeds going towards keeping the place open. Such was the buzz around this that the Science and Technology Facilities Council would guarantee funding for a few more years.
With funding secured for a while at least, research continues in to various aspects of modern astrophysics such as cosmology, galaxies, clusters and galactic astrophysics to name but a few. A tremendous array of facilities help with this research including e-MERLIN and the Lovell Telescope which is the world’s third biggest steerable telescope at an impressive 76 metre diameter. It is the Lovell Telescope which is the iconic landmark not only in Cheshire but the world of astronomy.
Today there are visitor facilities at Joddrell Bank with the admission fees helping with the facilities funding. You can get up close to the Lovell Telescope along the pathway to learn more about it, check out the planet and space pavilions to brush up on your knowledge of our own solar system and the wider universe or if you prefer wander around the gardens. Various events take place from time to time which you may also find of interest.
School parties can enjoy educational tours of the facilities and to help the children get in to the spirit of things and get the most out of their day various activity and fact sheets are downloadable from the Joddrell Bank web site. The visits even support the national curriculum. A cafe and gift shop are available on site though if you prefer a more traditional affair then a picnic area is located within the gardens.
If you fancy spending some time to see some astronomical history and catch up on what happens today at the facility then make some time to take it in when you visit Cheshire. By car it is about half a dozen miles from junction 18 of the M6 motorway. The nearest train station is Goostrey approximately two miles away. A brisk walk for those who like that sort of thing. A taxi ride for those who do not.
A few hours spent at Joddrell Bank offers the visitor an experience which is just that little bit different and an eye-opener in to a whole different world. In addition there is the beautiful Cheshire countryside to look at and many other tourist attractions to take in whilst you are in the area.