Thirty-two Headingley Rotarians and their friends were delighted to witness the adjustment of the Lovell radio telescope on their visit in late May. When it was first built in 1957, this 250 foot diameter radio telescope was the largest in the world. Among its many successes was the interception of signals from Luna 9 in 1966 and publication before the USSR, of photographs of the moon’s surface. Other achievements include measuring the distance between the Moon and Venus, observations of astrophysical masers and star-forming regions, and giant stars, observations of pulsars and quasars and gravitational lenses.
It is also from Joddrell Bank that the project linking seven radio telscopes (from Cambridge to North Wales) is run. MERLIN ‘s longest baseline is 135 miles long and it can operate at frequencies between 151 MHz and 24 GHz.
This mind-blowing stuff takes some getting your head round and we were fortunate enough to have not only the interactive interpretation provided in the Space Pavilion, but a fascinating personal lecture to our group by a member of the academic team. Easier to grasp were the hands-on demonstrations round the ground of such principles as friction and the focussing of sound into a dish projected across a hundred yards.
We were divided into two groups (ably led by Monty Reid and Nick Pinches) with two different lunch times in the small café. In the morning we had the opportunity to wander and view the Planet and Space Pavilions. In the afternoon on group attended the lecture while the other were shown round the arboretum by the Superintendent. He clearly shared Bernard Lovell’s love of trees and was full of facts and stories about the distinctive properties and folk lore of each species. As well as being a great planter of trees both here and at his own home, Sir Bernard was also a keen cricketer and belonged to the local village team.
It was a magical day: full of bemusing science and wonderment both on the ground and in the stars. For this we must thank our tireless organiser and Social Chairman, Drew Dodds.
26 May 2016