Thai princess visits Jodrell Bank Observatory

Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand yesterday (5 July), visited Jodrell Bank Observatory to celebrate the close links between her country and The University of Manchester in astronomy.

On her visit, Her Royal Highness – who is a keen astronomer – met scientists from the University’s School of Physics & Astronomy who are working closely with Thai researchers on joint projects and heard about historic links between the University and the Royal Family which stretch back to an 1875 expedition to observe a solar eclipse.

She toured the observatory, including the iconic Lovell Telescope and the Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre, which welcomes 185,000 visitors each year, including 26,000 school pupils on educational visits.

She also visited the headquarters of the Square Kilometre Array, an international effort to build the world’s largest radio telescope over two sites in South Africa and Australia.

Her Royal Highness toured the interactive exhibits of the Jodrell Bank Discovery. Photo by Howard Barlow.

One of the current collaborations Her Royal Highness heard about was with The National Astronomical Research Institute of Thailand (NARIT). The Capacity Building for Thai Radio Astronomy NARIT-STFC Newton Fund Collaboration is led by the University of Hertfordshire with extensive involvement from Jodrell Bank and funding from the Science and Technologies Funding Council. It aims to provide training and technical support for the Thai National Radio Observatory Astronomy.

This latest link is not the first between astronomers in Manchester and Thailand. In 1875 King Rama V invited foreign scientists to observe a total solar eclipse in Thailand.

Among them was Sir Arthur Schuster, an alumnus of Owens college – one of the University’s predecessor institutions – who later became a professor of mathematical physics at the University.

This event was marked during the visit as Her Royal Highness presented plaques of appreciation to several current and former scientists for their support of astronomy in Thailand.

Back row left-to-right:
H.E. Mr. Pisanu Suvanajata, Ambassador of Thailand. Prof Simon Garrington, e-MERLIN National Facility Director. Prof Andrew Lyne, Emeritus Professor. Dr Peter Thomasson, Honorary Fellow. Prof Luke Georghiou, Deputy President & Deputy Vice Chancellor, University of Manchester. Prof Sean Freeman, Head of School of Physics & Astronomy. Dr Saran Poshyachinda, Executive Director, NARIT.
Middle row left-to-right:
Lorna Harper, Deputy Director, Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre. HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand.
Front row left-ro-right:
Dr Busaba Kramer, Science Advisor, NARIT. Mrs Patricia Cohen. Prof Michael Garrett, Sir Bernard Lovell Chair in Astrophysics. Assoc Prof Boonrucksar Soonthornthum, Research Advisor, NARIT. Prof Michael Bode, Special Representative of the EAS to the EU. Dr Anthony Holloway, Head of Computing, JBCA.

Photo by Howard Barlow.

Professor Luke Georghiou, Deputy President and Deputy Vice-Chancellor, escorted her Royal Highness on the visit. He said: “The University of Manchester has a strong relationship with Thailand and this is exemplified by the links between Jodrell Bank and astronomers working at NARIT.

“It was an honour to welcome Her Royal Highness to Jodrell Bank and to introduce her to many of the researchers who are working together with Thai colleagues on this area of great mutual interest.”

Her Royal Highness was joined for a group photo in front of the iconic Lovell Telescope by representatives of the National Astronomical Research Institute of Thailand, Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics, Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre and Square Kilometre Array Organisation. Photo by Howard Barlow.

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