back to article Reg man goes time travelling at iconic observatory

There are two ways to approach Jodrell Bank. From the north you fly through the WAGish end of Cheshire, with towns like Wilmslow and Alderley Edge housing Manchester and Liverpool’s finest and their harems. I prefer coming from the south, under the Twemlow Viaduct, a 105ft high, 500 yard long symphony of red brick, completed …


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  1. John Ruddy
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    Doctor Who

    Of course it looks like a well funded episode of Doctor Who - it was in the last Tom Baker story, Logopolis!

    1. Anonymous Coward
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      Re: Doctor Who

      Precisely - for my entrance fee I'd at least expect to view a slightly scorched Tom Baker sized dent in the ground.

      ...and perhaps a nearby patch of celery.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    North-West not North Midlands

    Sorry to be picky but Cheshire is classified as being in the 'North-West' not the 'Midlands'.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: North-West not North Midlands

      Depends where you come from .... my parents lived in Westmorland when I grew up and I've always considered that when travelling down the M6 "the North" ended somewhere between Lancaster and Preston and anything past Birmingham was "the South"

      1. Phil W

        Re: North-West not North Midlands

        As a lifetime resident of Cheshire, I will say with certainty it is in the North West not the Midlands.

        Also see the following pictures/pages...

        Cheshire is the North West. The Midlands begins at the the borders of Shropshire, Staffordshire and Derbyshire.

        Also, while Lancashire and Cumbria and also technically in the North West, anything North of Preston or Blackpool may safely be classified as 'The Deep North'.

        1. Code Monkey

          Re: North-West not North Midlands

          There are no hard and fast rules, but my opinion is that the north west begins at Crewe - so Jodrell Bank is definitely just over the border.

        2. breakfast Silver badge

          Re: North-West not North Midlands

          Its a well known fact that Cheshire is in the Midlands and this will continue to be the case until people from Cheshire stop getting angry about everyone saying they're in the Midlands, at which point it will no longer be funny and it will have to move to East Anglia or somewhere.

    2. Primus Secundus Tertius

      Re: North-West not North Midlands

      Somebody has to say it: it's norf of Wa'ford, innit.

  3. Huw D

    If you're going to visit...

    ..try and avoid the 10/11 of May this year, unless you like being stuck in traffic behind loads of people going to an event at Astle Park (next door to Jodrell Bank).

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is there a physicist in the house?

    Okay MERLIN is a whacking great long line of radio telescopes which thanks to maths way beyond my level lets you pretend you have a dish a couple of hundred kilometres across. So what's better about a virtual dish one square kilometre in size?

    Please try to be gentle.

    1. Chemist

      Re: Is there a physicist in the house?

      "pretend you have a dish a couple of hundred kilometres across"

      That's for angular resolution, but it has a small collecting area so weak signal. The SKA has that and much more AND an actual collecting area of 1 square kilometre.

      That's a very rough summary of my knowledge but then I'm a chemist ( Einstein said that the trouble with chemistry was that it was too difficult for chemists"

    2. R W Rodway

      Re: Is there a physicist in the house?

      Light (or radio) gathering ability I think. With an actual square KM of dish you can gather a lot of RF energy, which lets you see fainter things. What the long baseline does is let you resolve smaller things, but if you want to see fainter things, you need the disk area.

      At least thats what this amateur physicist thinks, I'm quite ready to be corrected by a real physiscist :)

      1. The last doughnut

        Re: Is there a physicist in the house?

        Yes that's right. Angular resolution is fundamentally limited by the ratio of aperture to wavelength, as any O-level qualified physicist will recall the diffraction law. Signal gathering ability (or gain) is a function of the actual collecting area.

  5. taxman

    Must be lunch time

    'On one wall of the room is one of the most impressive arrays of wrenches we’ve seen outside of a KwikFit Centre.'

    Three times read before I stopped seeing the word wenches!

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "I prefer coming from the south, under the Twemlow Viaduct, a 105ft high, 500 yard long symphony of red brick, completed in 1842."

    Surely the choice depends more on which direction you are coming from or would someone from the North drive further South first to avoid driving through Wilmslow?

  7. AndrueC Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    I went there a couple of times as a young nipper - we lived at Congleton for a while. I remember eating in the cafe and playing with a control that allowed you to steer something. I don't know if it was a real dish or not. My memory says it was a small dish outside the but surely they didn't let kids steer anything real?

    1. Andy Hall

      Ha, yes! I remember the same and I don't think you are mistaken about the small dish. I think ticker tape was involved at some point as well.

      1. ChrisC Silver badge

        Yep, I remember that too - if I dug around in the various boxes of childhood memories currently occupying the loft, I'm pretty sure my bit of Jodrell Bank tickertape would be in there somewhere...

      2. Joe Harrison

        set the controls for the heart of the sun

        I went there as a child too. The smaller dish (still looked big to me) was designed to pick up radio signals from the sun. They displayed the sun's position and if you steered the dish right (using the joysticks) then you were rewarded by an oscilloscope display of solar noise.

        I remember feeling smug when I did it but was immediately told off by some other kid's dad for hogging the controls. The other kid then proceeded to drive it around some random and very unsolar directions :(

        1. AndrueC Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: set the controls for the heart of the sun

          The other kid then proceeded to drive it around some random and very unsolar directions :(

          That was probably me. Back when I was young and daft. I'm not young any more though :D

    2. M Gale


      A "small" (if several metres across can be categorised as 'small') dish, with joysticks and knobs and needles flicking up and down. Who cares what they meant? When you're knee high to a grasshopper, just being able to move the thing around makes you feel like a rocket scientist.

  8. Matthew 3

    Brian Cox?

    I seem to recall a comment from him clarifying that he was inviting someone "...TO Jodrell Bank, not for A Jodrell Bank"

  9. cdilla
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    As a young kid Patrick Moore was who inspired my interest in astronomy, but it was visiting Jodrell Bank that inspired me to take up astrophysics. I first saw the dish from afar the top of Mow Cop when I was 10. Pure Science Fiction. I asked to see it up close and recall, as did AndrewC, controlling a small dish.

    I revisited several time through my university years too and was further inspired by briefly meeting Sir Bernard there shortly before he retired as director.

    It is a rare thing that bestows such nostalgia and is also so prominent in current science.

    Definitely more of this sort of thing from El Reg.

    A pleasant change to the increasingly poor items posted elsewhere.

    1. rh587 Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      "I first saw the dish from afar the top of Mow Cop when I was 10."

      A brisk walk up Bosley Cloud also offers a rather fine view over Jodrell and out across the Cheshire Plains.

      I remember being taken to Jodrell for my 11th birthday and a rather excellent day out it was too, will have to go again sometime and have a look at the refurbed visitor centre :)

      1. AndrueC Silver badge
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        A brisk walk up Bosley Cloud also offers a rather fine view over Jodrell and out across the Cheshire Plains.

        We used to visit relatives in Leek and I always loved the view of Congleton at night as you came over The Cloud. It wasn't all that big a town back then (1960s/early 70s) but I loved the way it seemed to stretch out in front of you as you crested the top.

        Quite, quite lovely. Sniff.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Patrick - astronomy - astrophysics

      Like cdilla I was also inspired by Patrick, and studied Physics and Astrophysics at University.

      I now work in Oxford (in IT, of course). Last week as part of Oxfordshire Science Festival there was an event 'Stargazing Oxfordshire' described as 'an evening of space science, with astronomers from the University Physics Department'. So I went along, and at one point found myself standing next to Jocelyn Bell Burnell. Of course I should have asked some erudite question about her current work as a Visiting Professor Of Astrophysics at the University of Oxford.......but I just sort of stood there thinking, gosh, that's Jocelyn Bell Burnell. Then Chris Linott walked past.....

      OK, if you've got as far as reading the article then these letters you really ought to know who they are!

  10. Mike Tree
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    A great day out.

    We've been a few times. it's a great day out.

    The Bacon Butties are Fantastic!

    Pity the planetarium is no more :(

  11. Steven Pemberton


    "it will be generating a bracing 960,000,000GB of data a day"

    So that'll be 960 petabytes a day then, or did you think we wouldn't know anything above giga?

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Units

      "960,000,000GB of data a day."

      Hmm that is like filling ummmm (uses fingers) 400,000 x 3 terror bite drives a day......


      I have just blown a brain cell.

      I'd assume that the data is processed (screened for relevancy) rather quickly and all the fluff is dumped...

      But what about archival records...

      The stories of odd little things picked up in photographic plates from 1935, in 1975, that show some little abberation, that defines the quantum flux expansion of the universe quasar thingy....

      The red shift of a blue spot, over some 1/10 trillionth of an arc second, in some galaxy some 9 billion light years away.... - yes that totally irrelevant and nearly invisible speck...


      My brain hurts.

  12. Evan Essence


    Note they say the postcode for satnav users is SK11 9DW, which is different from their postal address. Check out the Directions PDF on their Web site.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Tim's a legend, the visitors centre is wonderful and the Live at Jodrell Bank events were a masterstroke. Well worth a visit.

  14. This post has been deleted by its author

  15. Mike Richardson


    I was once told a story about the big disk. It might be apocryphal but IIRC it did come from one of the astronomers there. One day during maintenance the dish was point horizontally and there were engineers working on the receptor at the focus. They were a little surprised to clearly hear the sound of children playing and able to make out voices. They realised that the telescope must be pointing at a school some distance away and picking up the kids in the playground.

    Unable to resist temptation they started talking to the kids in a 'voice of God' sort of way and the playground went very quiet.

    I hope it's a true story.

    1. Gordon 10
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      Re: Mike

      Interestingly enough I saw this phenomenum just yesterday at a fantastic council run place called the discovery Outlook Center - which has 2 things that I assumed were just satellite dishes masquerading as art work but turned out to be whispering dishes doing exactly what Mike said but on a smaller scale.

      Well recommended for a visit with the Little'uns if you are in Berks.

      1. Evan Essence

        Whispering dishes

        @Gordon 10 - yep, there are whispering dishes at Jodrell Bank, too. Didn't try them out, though.

        1. M Gale

          Re: Whispering dishes

          Yep, they work incredibly well.

          That, pointing the "small" radio dish horizontally and zoning in on terrestrial broadcasts, and the "hunt the microwave signal" indoor dish were about the most memorable parts I can think of. Awesome for a science-interested kid.

          To be honest, awesome for pretty much any kid that likes to tinker.

          1. Anonymous Coward

            Re: Whispering dishes

            I have built scanning equipment that feeds a reflected signal from a dish into an amplified mike, and signal processor....

            A small dish of about 60cm, in perfect windless conditions, in a remote country area, I can pick up AND record a dig barking at over 5Km, and the sound of cars and trucks on a highway out to about 11Km.

            By using bigger dishes, better microphones and better signal processing or clean amplification, I think under perfect windless conditions, from a hill top with a clean line of sight, I could push this to 30Km, maybe 40KM....

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Mike

      Whilst they could probably hear things a long way off by placing an ear near the dish focus, it's highly unlikey to have worked in reverse without an aligned parabolic wall back at the school.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge


        Well, we have this: LOUD SEX at XKCD

        Anyway, nice article. Have some electronica by Geir Jennsen to listen to while reading.

        Still not Friday? Pity.

  16. Scrads

    Don't judge a book by it's cover

    "There are two ways to approach Jodrell Bank. From the north you fly through the WAGish end of Cheshire, with towns like Wilmslow and Alderley Edge housing Manchester and Liverpool’s finest and their harems.".

    And what bastion of this blessed isle does this reporter hail from?

    I live in Wilmslow and have yet to see a single harem - yes there are a few "WAGS" about but that doesn't make it an unsightly place (spend some time in the place and you'll realise they're in the minority and instead is full of rather sensible people).

    Also by coming from that direction you are treated with an arugable better view of the Telescope from the A535 as it pops in to view and remains on your right as the road bends around the whole site.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Being pedantic I know, but..

    The UK internet is a lot bigger than "1 terabit". Just the LINX rings peak at more than 1.4Tb. And I could name one DC for my employer that approaches 200Gb in internal and external traffic levels. And I don't work for Google :-)

  18. Stoneshop

    "There are two ways to approach Jodrell Bank"

    For non-Vogons. that is.

    Mine's the one with the towel.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: "There are two ways to approach Jodrell Bank"

      Yep, forward from the past or backward from the future.

  19. Christian Berger

    You don't "split" between GPS and atomic clock

    The problem with GPS is that it's quite jittery. It's long term stable, but can have an error of up to 100ns in the short run...

    What you typically do is to have a Hydrogen MASER combined with GPS, you use the time from GPS to slowly tune the MASER.

    Alternatively if you can live with the jitter of an atomic clock, you can also tune that very slowly via GPS. Of course GPS receivers for time start at 100 Euros, while rubidium atomic clocks start at about 60 Euros. So just saying GPS and atomic clock doesn't say much. :)

    For example my setup at home is fairly simple. It's a budget GPS time receiver connected via serial port. It's not very precise but it gives the correct time to about a microsecond. I know you probably wonder how can live with such an uncertainty, but people in Germany aren't particularly punctual. As long as you are here within the right second everything is alright.

  20. Fuzz


    Last time I was at Jodrell bank the siren sounded indicating the dish was about to move and then, nothing.

    After a couple of minutes of nothing a man came running out of the control building he disappeared into a shed next to the telescope and came out a few seconds later with a large hammer. After a few sharp taps on the metal structure he turned and waved to the control room, the siren sounded and the dish began to move.

  21. peter_dtm

    GPS Postion ?

    No - that stuff with N & E or W in it is Latitude and Longtitude nothing to do with GPS - although the acurate timing inside the GPS system does allow one to work out one's Lat & Long.

    And PLEASE can you include the OFFICIAL UK way of identifying where something is and include the NGR (National Grid Reference) - foir places like Jodrell Bank you normally give the NGR for the entrance to the (main) car park.

    Post codes should NEVER EVER be used to give directions - firstly because the postal address != the geographical address

    2ndly even when it does; a psot code can be a mile or so wide and a mile or so long. Not far from Joderal Bank over the border in Wales; is a factory; if you go to the post code; you are only some 200 yards away from the entrance; however to get up the %^&* mountain you go about 1 1/2 miles - post codes are bloody useless for destinations !

    Lat & Long and NGR is all you need

    (Coat pocet has the whole of Cheshire Ordnance survey maps in electronic form and in paper; sextant doesn't fit :-( )

  22. Rukario


    "A few years back there were rumours that the site was up for the chop."


  23. John 62

    Cheshire SKA Scene

    Cool! I wouldn't have thought Jodrell Bank would be the headquarters of the UK ska scene! Any recommendations of clubs in the area that get good bands in?

  24. Rick Brasche

    time for the nuclear hotfoot?

    the tasteful wall to keep the spaced out youth from breaking in before they're harvested?

  25. Tegne

    Comforting to know that during the cold war.

    I lived a few miles away from Ground Zero... and probably still do.

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