News & Events

The Sun comes to Jodrell Bank

16th March 2005

In somewhat cool and blustery weather on Friday 11th March the opening took place of two new significant features to add to the attractions of the University of Manchester's Jodrell Bank Visitor Centre.

The first opening, carried out by the well known broadcaster, Fred Talbot, was that of a new pathway that allows visitors to walk around the Lovell Telescope to a viewing platform on the south side. Every few metres along the path, illustrated display boards give details about the Lovell Telescope and its work along with information about other instruments operated by the Observatory such as the 217 km MERLIN array. The telescope is often observing towards the south and prior to the new pathway, visitors were often only able to see the back of its impressive structure; the pathway will thus often materially add to their visitor experience.

Fred Talbot
Fred Talbot, well known TV personality and keen astronomer opening the Visitor Pathway.
Fred Talbot and plaque
Fred Talbot with the Plaque that commemorates the opening.

The second opening, this time carried out by Sir Francis Graham Smith, 13th Astronomer Royal, was of the "Sun", the centre piece of the "Spaced Out" Project - an innovative project to create the world's largest scale model of the Solar System. Jodrell Bank has been chosen to host the Sun at the centre of the Solar System. The planets, Hally's comet and some minor planets, some nineteen in number will span the British Isles. Many of them will reside in the north-west with the nearest planet, Mercury, at the Hermitage Primary School in Holmes Chapel. On the scale chosen, 1 to 15 million, the Sun would be about 100 m across - about the overall size of the Lovell Telescope. This scale reduces the distance from the Earth to the Sun to about 10km (6 miles) whilst Saturn is in Lancaster, Uranus in Bath and Pluto in Aberdeen!

At each site a 1 m diameter sculpture portrays the solar system object, with the Sun represented here by a series of translucent vertical plastic discs making up the spherical shape. By a trick of the light they appear to be illuminated from within and in dull lighting it even appears to be glowing. The "Sun" is based on concepts and models made by children at the Sacred Heart Primary School in Oldham. Many attended the opening, two of whom assisted Sir Frances with the opening.

Sun sculpture
The sculpture of the Sun made by the children of the Sacred Hearts Primary School, Oldham.
Opening the Sun
Sir Frances Graham-Smith, assisted by two Sacred Heart school children, opening the centrepiece of the "Spaced Out" Project.

Ian Morison of Jodrell Bank commented "We are delighted to be part of this project and proud to be at the centre of the Solar System. It is very had for us to grasp the immense scale of the Solar System and "Spaced Out" will play a real part in helping us to appreciate it. We hope that it will inspire young people and lift their interest in science and astronomy."

Dr Nigel Marshall, director of the project, was present and pointed out that "there will be an impressive and eclectic mix of learning, science and art at the sites around the country and this is backed up by a website which will become a major resource about the Solar System aimed at both Primary and Secondary schools. The aim of the project is to demystify science and make it fun"

The "Spaced Out" Website:

Click the above images for high resolution copies.

Further Information:
Ian Morison
Telephone: 0044 (0)1477 571321.