In Search of Atmosphere
This year it is the 50th anniversary since the Lovell Telescope has stood proudly over the Cheshire plain. As this panorama shows it is an icon of British science and technology.
During II World War Dr Lovell, as he was known then, was working on the development of radar. On his return to Manchester University he continue his research into cosmic rays - highly energetic particles that enter the Earth's atmosphere from outer space. Central Manchester radar observation was not very practical so he took his ex-army radar system out to the University's Botanical Grounds at Jodrell Bank, some 20 miles to the south.
Dr. Lovell soon realised that he needed a more sensitive radio telescope to detect cosmic rays, and so, in 1947, the researchers at the Jodrell Bank Experimental station built a large parabolic reflector 66 metres (218 ft) across, pointing upwards to observe the sky passing directly overhead. By angling the mast that carried the receiving aerials high above the wire mesh reflecting surface it was possible to swing the beam slightly. Thus over a period of time, the strip of sky carried overhead by the rotation of the Earth was observed.
Echoes of cosmic rays were never detected, but instead they began to use the giant telescope to search for astronomical objects that emit radio waves. The telescope made the first detection of radio waves from the Andromeda Galaxy
, proving that some of these objects were outside our own galaxy, the Milky Way.
The 66-metre transit telescope had proved a success, but its barely steerable beam limited the observations that could be made with it. Dr Lovell thus laid plans for an even larger telescope that would be "fully steerable" and so capable of observing the whole sky visible at Jodrell's latitude. Charles Husband, a consulting engineer from Sheffield with expertise in bridge building, joined Dr. Lovell and so the 76 metre (250 ft) know as the "Mark I" was born and came into use in the late summer of 1957.
Facts and Figures, Construction, Anatomy, The Future and Milestones on the Lovell Radio Telescope can be found at http://www.jb.man.ac.uk/tech/lovell/
On the occasion of its thirtieth anniversary in 1987 it was renamed the Lovell Telescope
in honour of its creator. Both Bernard Lovell and Charles Husband were knighted for their role in creating such a wonderful piece of engineering.
The Lovell Telescope has joined with the 305-metre Arecibo Telescope in Puerto Rico to take part in what is the most sensitive and comprehensive search yet undertaken for possible radio signals from extraterrestrial civilisations beyond our solar system. The 5 year research programme, Project Phoenix, is led by the privately funded SETI Institute. The aim is to observe 1000 of the nearest Sun-like star systems. It is hoped that an advanced civilisation might exist on a planet with it own ATMOSPHERE
within one of these systems. Observations are scheduled for 40 nights each year.
The sound accompanying this panorama is the sound of a Pulsar PSR B0329+54
discovered with this Radio Telescope.
Also at Jodrell Bank, a scale model of our solar system has been created. A representation of our Sun stands at the side of the Radio Telescope, the orange ball in the middle of the grass. To give you an idea of its scale, if the sun is there, the marker for Pluto is to be found in Aberdeen, Scotland and a trans-Neptunian object TL66 is to be found in the Shetland Isles. A more detailed description, their locations and actual photos of the markers on a map of the British Isles can be seen at: http://www.spacedout-uk.com/solar_system/index.asp
The above information was taken from the Jodrell Bank Observatory visitor’s booklet guide. Many thanks to Manchester University, Ian Morison and Anthony Holloway for allowing me to create this panorama.