News & Events

New Visitor Centre Planned for Jodrell Bank

1st November 2002

Following the 2.5 million `facelift' of the giant Lovell Telescope at Jodrell Bank in Cheshire, part of the world's most powerful radio telescope array, the newly-refurbished dish is scanning the skies once again.

Now attention is turning to the facilities for visitors. The University of Manchester has today announced ambitious plans to replace the Jodrell Bank Science Centre which has welcomed the public to the world-famous Observatory for more than 30 years and which today attracts 110,000 visitors each year.

The work, which is scheduled to begin at the end of the 2003 summer season, will include the demolition of old buildings, landscaping works around the telescope and the construction of a new state-of-the-art building. During the transformation, an interim visitor centre will be open to maintain public access to the cafeteria, indoor displays, a 3-D theatre, the arboretum and of course the Telescope.

The University is beginning to raise funds for the new centre and is currently drawing up plans to create an exciting new visitor attraction which will serve visitors to the Observatory well into the 21st century. Although it is early days, it is expected the new centre will offer enhanced facilities and access to the work of the astronomers and the wonders of the Universe.

A spokesperson for The University of Manchester said: "The University recognises the importance of the Visitor Centre to tourism and education in the North West in respect of families, schools and community groups. However, it is conscious that the buildings erected in the 1960s no longer provide for the needs and perceptions of visitors in the 21st century."

"We need to provide a building which enables us to offer wider access and high- quality interpretation which has synergy with the profile of Jodrell Bank as a world-famous astronomical research site and the University's profile as a leader in science teaching and research."

*To date the 2.5 milllion upgrade of the 45-year-old 76-metre (250ft) Lovell Telescope has included a new galvanised steel reflecting surface for the dish, a new pointing control system to increase the precision of the positional control and refurbishment of the dish's track and foundations. The final stage, scheduled for Summer 2003, will involve precision adjustment of the new surface making it more accurate. On completion, this will quadruple the frequency range of the telescope allowing a wide range of new science to be carried out. This project has been funded by the Wellcome Trust and the Government.

The MERLIN National Radio Astronomy Facility operated by the University at Jodrell Bank is also being upgraded with a grant of 7.5 million: funding for part of this is expected from the North West Development Agency.

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For further information contact Lisa McCarthy, Public Relations, The University of Manchester, 0161 275 2111.