Lovell's first day at Jodrell Bank

Lovell's first day at Jodrell Bank

After working on radar during World War II, Bernard Lovell returned to The University of Manchester to continue his research on cosmic rays - high-speed particles from outer space.

He first came to Jodrell Bank in December 1945 to escape the radio interference of the city. Using ex-military radar equipment, Lovell detected echoes from meteor trails rather than from cosmic rays.

Radio astronomy observations have continued at Jodrell Bank ever since.

Image: The Botany Huts at Jodrell Bank and the first radar systems used on the site in the December of 1945.


The Mark I Telescope and the dawn of the space age

The Mark I Telescope and the dawn of the space age

In the October of 1957, the first act of the Mark I Telescope (renamed the Lovell Telescope in 1987) was to use radar to track the rocket that carried Sputnik I into space at the dawn of the space age. With a reflecting bowl 250ft in diameter, this was the world's largest telescope.

Still operational more than 50 years later, various upgrades have made it more capable than ever, and it continues to be used to carry out cutting-edge research.

Image: The Mark I Telescope under construction in the mid-1950s.


Long-baseline interferometry developed at Jodrell Bank

Long-baseline interferometry developed at Jodrell Bank

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, astronomers including Henry Palmer and Hanbury Brown developed the technique of radio-linked interferometry; they took mobile aerials across the country and connected them back to telescopes at Jodrell Bank using a radio link.

This sharpened our view of objects in the radio sky, allowing their positions and structures to be measured with greater accuracy. This was a key development in the identification of radio sources as quasars: distant galaxies powered by supermassive black holes.

Image: A small dish taken to various locations across England and linked back to Jodrell Bank.


Henry Hall builds the first 3He-4He Dilution refrigerator


First picture is sent from the surface of the Moon

First picture is sent from the surface of the Moon

In February 1966, the Soviet Union landed the Luna 9 spacecraft on the Moon and its signal back to Earth was intercepted by the Mark I Telescope at Jodrell Bank.

Noticing that the signal was similar to an early fax machine, one was borrowed from the Daily Express offices in Manchester and plugged in to the telescope receiver.

Out scrolled the first ever picture taken from the surface of the Moon.

Image: The first picture of the lunar surface taken by Luna 9 and received at Jodrell Bank.


Discovery of the first gravitational lens

Discovery of the first gravitational lens

A survey of the radio sky made with the Mark I Telescope in the early 1970s led to the identification of an interesting object which looked like two stars.

A team led by Dennis Walsh showed that the two objects were actually separate images of the same quasar: a gravitational lens. Light from the quasar is bent by the warping of space-time around a foreground massive galaxy cluster.

Image: Double Quasar - the first gravitational lens - made with e-MERLIN and the Hubble Space Telescope.


The Cambridge Telescope extends the range of MERLIN

The Cambridge Telescope extends the range of MERLIN

The MERLIN array of radio telescopes grew out of the work on radio-linked interferometry pioneered at Jodrell Bank in the 50s and 60s. In 1990, a brand new telescope at Cambridge was added to the array, which meant up to seven telescopes were connected across 217km, providing the same sharpness of view as the Hubble Space Telescope but at radio wavelengths.

The array is now connected by optical fibres, giving a huge boost in power. Called e-MERLIN, the new array is a pathfinder for the Square Kilometre Array to be sited in Africa and Australia.

Image: The 32-metre Cambridge Telescope, part of the e-MERLIN array.


Discovery of the Double Pulsar

Discovery of the Double Pulsar

Discovered by astromoners Andrew Lyne, Michael Kramer, and collaborators at Jodrell Bank in 2003, the Double Pulsar contains two neutron stars; ultra-dense remnants of exploding stars circling one another, appearing as two 'cosmic lighthouses' to our telescopes.

This discovery has provided the most stringent strong-field test of Einstein's General Relativity theory, showing that it is correct to better than 99.9%.

Continued observations with the Lovell Telescope and others are continually improving the precision of these measurements.

Image: Artist's impression of the Double Pulsar System.

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