...a blog by Richard Flowers

Friday, March 07, 2008



This news is OUTRAGEOUS!

Jodrell Bank, Great Britain's FOREMOST astronomical research centre – and a NATIONAL INSTITUTION to boot – is under threat of closure because the government and their Science and Technology Facilities Council quango have decreed that it is of "low priority".

"Low Priortity"! This is the telescope that detected the Sputnik, monitored the Moon landings, discovered pulsars and quasars and now observes distant galaxies.

The UNITED NATIONS is considering recognising Jodrell bank as a WORLD HERITAGE SITE, ranking it alongside the TAJ MAHAL and the PYRAMIDS.

And in 1981 Dr Who used it to save the ENTIRE UNIVERSE!

It needs funding of two-and-a-half million pounds a year to keep going. Now that is a LOT of sticky buns, but it is CHICKEN FEED compared to the sort to big bucks that the government spends. You could fund it for a THOUSAND YEARS on the price of one Middle Eastern Invasion for starters.

The Lovell Telescope, that's the big FAMOUS dish telescope, was completed in 1957 just months ahead of the Russian's launch of Sputnik. It is, even today, the third largest steerable radio-telescope in the world, and when linked via the MERLIN network with the smaller Mark II at Jodrell and five other telescopes across England and Wales, it forms part of the most powerful telescope on the FACE OF THE PLANET, the ONLY telescope capable of matching the Hubble Space Telescope, and like Hubble is used to study distant galaxies.

Eight million pounds has ALREADY been invested in upgrading the network using super-fast optical cabling and they are swamped with requests to have a go from researchers from all over the world, more than twice as many as they have time for.

So not only would it be stupid it would waste a whole lot of money that they've already spent.

This is a dumb decision, but worse than that there is real concern that the period for consultation is too short for any serious case to be made.

Don't just take MY word for it, the Royal Society of Astronomers says so too.

For years the government has made excuses for not getting more involved in space programmes by saying that we are committed to astronomy and robot missions. Well it seems we are going to surrender our position as world leaders in science and give up on even LOOKING at the Stars.

It is an OUTRAGE!

Daddy says that I must declare an interest. My Granddaddy Eric works there hosting the Planetarium Show. He is very good and almost as fluffy as me!


Steph Ashley said...

I agree, this is a travesty. It is not only a site of massive historical interest: major discoveries are still being made there all the time.

What worries me even more is a sneaking sense that this is only the very newsworthy tip of the iceberg. I wonder what other major areas of research in the UK are going to be hampered by cuts in funding. We have a proud history of great scientific minds making great discoveries in this country but I have to say, if I were a genius in today's climate I'd be sorely tempted to go somewhere else, where my abilities were valued appropriately.

Nick Campbell said...

I'm surprised there hasn't been more fuss about this in the media. It's one of those things that I read, shake my head and think: well, at least nobody will be able to get away with *that*. Possibly you can spot a tiny indication of my lazy voter apathy...

Why hasn't Professor Xylophone had a nice loud harrumph about it, for example? Or do people not interested in him since his "I saw a woman driving a bus the other day - shouldn't be allowed!" convulsions?