Moore web chat
always expect the unexpected..."
Sir Patrick Moore
Moore with presenter Jacey Normand
Out celebrates 50 years of listening to outer space with the Lovell Telescope
at Jodrell Bank.
We also meet Sir Patrick Moore and ask if there's life
Read the answers to the web chat 'question and answer
session' with with Sir Patrick Moore below...
Secrets of the
Is there life on Mars? And are we really alone in the Universe?
These are questions people have been asking since time and immemorial.
But if anyone knows the answer it is the astronomers at Jodrell Bank Observatory
The Lovell Telescope is celebrating its 50th anniversary this
Bank - an iconic symbol on the Cheshire landscape|
a century it has been probing the heavens, listening and searching to discover
more about the Universe and its origins.
It's also been probing the question
we all want to know the answer to - are we alone?
Spanning 5,000 square
metres and weighing 3,500 tonnes, the Lovell Telescope is still the third largest
in the world.
This massive dish receives radio waves from the furthest
reaches of Space.
These waves strike the surface of this bowl and point
them up to the Focus Tower from where the signals are gathered and transmitted
for analysis in the observatory.
But the radio waves the Lovell Telescope
picks up are so weak that were you to harness the energy from all the signals
it has ever received, there still wouldn't be enough power to boil an egg!
What radio waves may lack in power they more than make up for in the information
they are capable of transmitting.
The radio signals being deciphered
at Jodrell Bank could unlock some of the Universe's greatest secrets - including
the possibility of life on other planets.
stars and beyond
It's a far cry from the original radar equipment
that was erected in a field at Jodrell Bank by the telescope's creator Sir Bernard
Lovell in 1945.
Sir Bernard describes the early days of creating Jodrell
Bernard Lovell - creator of the telescope at Jodrell Bank |
borrowed an army gun laying radar from a friend and set it up in Manchester in
the old physics building on Coupland Street.
"There was massive interference.
"The electric trams were then running up and down Oxford Street.
I eventually got permission to come to this place, Jodrell Bank, where it was
sufficiently remote then from Manchester to be free of interference."
In the early days Sir Bernard used the radar in an attempt to search for cosmic
rays but he quickly released he needed a larger telescope:
turned out to be almost beyond the limits of what was technologically possible
to build in those days.
"And there were no enormous cranes, one had
to build a crane to move another crane to command the structure, but eventually
in 1957 it was then surrounded by 19 miles of scaffolding tubing.
were gradually diminished and the telescope became usable.
tested it in August 1957 but I was in great difficulty.
for various reasons that are not relevant at the moment and had been investigated
by the public accounts committee, so the initial operations of this telescope
in 1957 were not particularly happy ones."
- the final frontier
The telescope's saviour came out of the
The Soviet Union launched Sputnik I - the very first space satellite,
and the Lovell Telescope was the only instrument in the world at that time capable
of tracking its carrier rocket.
on the moon - Buzz Aldrin in July 1969. Photo - PA Images.|
Bernard Lovell recalls that historic moment:
being accused of wasting the country's money, we became front page news."
the Apollo 11 spacecraft was launched into space in July 1969, the telescope at
Jodrell Bank tracked the historic mission every step of the way.
Lovell Telescope has been used to track space missions ever since - including
the ill-fated Beagle 2 mission to Mars four years ago.
Sky at Night
The Lovell Telescope isn't alone in celebrating
its 50th anniversary.
The Sky at Night was first broadcast in 1957 and
the show's famous presenter Sir Patrick Moore has taken a very keen interest in
Jodrell Bank over the years.
We asked Sir Patrick Moore what he thinks
makes Jodrell Bank so remarkable:
"It was the first really big radio
telescope in the world, and when it was planned radio astronomy as a science didn't
really exist, at least not properly...
Bank - led the way for the world's radio telescopes|
not only the optics, it's the engineering too, and that had to be thought out.
"When it was first mooted, most were very dubious - could this be
"Well, Bernard showed that it could, and that set the pattern
for all those who followed it.
"All the world's big radio
telescopes now are descendants from Jodrell Bank - and Bernard Lovell is himself
personally responsible. I always regard him as the Isaac Newton of radio astronomy.
forget, radio waves can penetrate clouds of gas and dust - particularly dust,
and they can show us things that we couldn't find out otherwise - and certainly
radio astronomy is now a fundamental part of research.
"It's not fair
to say it's taken the place of optical astronomy, it hasn't, the two are complementary.
Therefore, Jodrell Bank is of fundamental importance."
on other planets?
So is it feasible that one day Jodrell Bank
might be the telescope that gets the first message from outer-space?
Moore believes that we cannot rule out life beyond planet Earth:
might well be because, after all, I am sure there are other civilisations up there.
"Look at it this way, our sun is part of a hundred thousand million
stars in our galaxy. We know a thousand million galaxies.
there must be thousands of millions of Earths and therefore it's absurd to see
us as the only ones.
"Therefore there must be other civilisations
and they could contact us. Whether they will, I don't know, but it could happen.
might happen tomorrow, it might happen in 100 years, 1,000 years - it might never
happen, but I think it will.
"And if there really IS life on Mars
the astronomers at Jodrell Bank should be the first to know about it."
to the Universe
Jodrell Bank is now part of a nationwide network
of radio telescopes called Merlin which together provide an even more sophisticated
way of listening to the Universe.
Ian Morison says, "The future is
for larger and more sophisticated telescopes, but not looking like the Lovell
to the future - Jodrell Bank continues to play a key role|
the third largest in the world; I don't think any more big telescopes like that
will be built.
"What you can do now is to build an array of very small
dishes, perhaps only 10 metres across and you can combine the data from all these
small telescopes to make the effect of one giant telescope."
that enable us to probe deeper into Space and determine whether or not we're alone
in the Universe?
Ian thinks that it might:
telescope will be so sensitive that if anyone exists anywhere in our Galaxy, we
would have some chance of picking up some signals from them.
we've only really looked in our own little backyard of our Galaxy..."
is still much we have yet to learn about the Universe.
the Lovell Telescope has made a tremendous contribution to our current understanding
Sir Bernard Lovell's dream lives on and is set to play an increasingly
important role in tracking our universe and beyond:
of the universe under the telescope.|
Photo - PA Images
think we know very little. Every discovery in science nearly always leads to,
not to final answers, but to others...
"Now I'm old enough to have
lived through nearly every cosmology since scientific cosmology existed, and I
therefore doubt if the current wisdom is the correct one.
are involved there.
"With these techniques we've probed back into
what must be the very early history of the Universe, 13 or 14 billion years ago,
but there are many mysteries which have arisen even in the last 15 or 20 years.
"It turns out at the moment for example that the amount for dark energy
and dark matter in the universe, of which we have very little idea and no certainty
as to what it is, occupies more than 90 per cent of the total mass and energy
of the Universe.
"And these sort of problems are right in the front
line, and I hope I shall live long enough to see some answers to them."