The Mark 1 radio telescope, later Lovell Radio Telescope, part of Jodrell Bank Observatory went into use in 1957 and in 2007 celebrates its 50th birthday.
The telescope is one of the most famous landmarks of the UK and can be seen for around 50 miles around its location in the middle of Cheshire, North West England. In a BBC survey it was selected by readers as Britain's greatest unsung landmark. It is owned and operated by Manchester University and is located around 25 miles (40km) south of Manchester.
The name Jodrell Bank has become synonymous with space research, but why Jodrell and why Bank? The land is named after the Jodrell or Jauderell family of landowners, and it is called bank because it is on a raised section of ground. Land at Jodrell Bank was bought in 1939 by Manchester University by their horticulture botany department. Sir Bernard Lovell took his early experiments to the site to get away from the interference caused by trams on Oxford Rd. Later more land was acquired expanding the size and scope of the site. Though more famous for astronomy, the site remains an important centre of horticultural research and contains a 35 acre arboretum or botanical garden.
The telescope was ready just in time to track Sputnik 1, the first satellite, launched by the Soviets in 1957. Scientists at Jodrell Bank helped to discover the gravitational lens, confirming Einstein's Theory of General Relativity. They also did pioneering work in the discovery of pulsars and quasars. In 1987, the Mark 1 telescope was renamed the Lovell Telescope, to celebrate 30 years of operation.
According to founder Sir Bernard Lovell, it was thought it might only be in operation for around 10 years. It has stood the test of time, but around 2000, an MEN news headline suggested the Lovell Telescope might have to be taken down as it urgent repairs. Luckily, funding was secured and the refurbishment was completed in early 2003.
As a child growing up in Stockport in the 1960s I found Jodrell Bank radio telescope an incredibly exciting place, which brought the world of space exploration to our doorstep. I will never forget a school trip there in the mid-sixties as a pupil at Our Lady's Primary School, and took some early black and white photographs of oscilloscopes, rockets and other displays at the visitors centre on my Kodak Instamatic camera.
Though knowledge of astronomy remains sketchy, I find the telescope an inspiring symbol of UK-based space research and a fascinating photographic subject.
It is a striking feature on the landscape whether seen from just across the fields near Goostrey, on the horizon directly south of Manchester Airport, from the hills above Macclesfield, or straight ahead over 30 miles away as you drive down Oldham Rd the A62 into Manchester. It can also be seen in the North West England landscapes of MS Flight Simulator.
Long may the Lovell telescope - and its founder Sir Bernard Lovell, born 31 August 1913 - continue to research and inspire.
The Jodrell Bank Radio Telescope is located at SK 11 9DL
In 2007 a series of events will take place to celebrate the 50th anniversary. For more information visit:
The Jodrell Bank Observatory Visitors Centre
BBC News Website
This article took 1 hour and 20 minutes to research, write and post on the Aidan O'Rourke photo and media portfolio site. The introduction and main article are 560 words in length. I researched using Wikipedia, and the Manchester Evening News article 16 January 2006 page 3. Text copyright Aidan O'Rourke and may not be reproduced on any other website, or in print. Photos are selected from the Aidan O'Rourke photo portfolio and are copyright.