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A visit to Jodrell April 19, 2011

Posted by Marie in Jodrell Bank, Neutron star, The Jodcast.
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A short while ago, I mentioned that the new visitor centre at Jodrell Bank was about to open (post is here).  As I had a day with nothing specific planned, I decided to take myself off for a visit.

The designers have done nice things with the space available – it’s surrounded by the Cheshire countryside, and the new buildings housing the displays are not too intrusive.  The pathway leads visitors through the different exhibition

Lovell Telescope at Jodrell Bank. Image: Reesiepie

spaces and out towards the largest of the radio telescopes on site.  On such a lovely day it was glorious, and as I sat in a quiet corner, the telescope slewed round gracefully.  She moves quite quickly for a large bird!

The entry/exit building (named The Planet Pavilion) contains the cafe and a (currently very small) shop on one side, and the beginning of the exhibition on the other.  There’s an image of the cosmic microwave background around all of the walls, an orrery, and some interactive computer installations where you can explore the planets, comets and asteroids further.

The Space Pavilion is the next building, which has a large room for lectures

Jodrell Bank. Image: Reesiepie

and a smaller meeting room, as well as the exhibition space itself.  I hope I’m right in thinking that eventually the displays will be added to, as there are a lot of empty walls which have the potential to be used.

The Space Pavilion contains small exhibitions on black holes, gravitational lensing, the big bang, and the opportunity to touch a meteorite.  There’s also a ‘Film Pod’ with some cute short films about the role Jodrell Bank played in the space race, and video journals from people who work in different capacities at Jodrell Bank.

The most interesting part for me was the section on collecting sounds from space.  Put the headphones on, and you’re taken through a symphony from space – what material sounds like when it’s falling into a black hole, or landing on Saturn’s moon Titan, or what noise a pulsar makes (you can listen here to an example I mentioned in an earlier post on the Crab Nebula).  Although, I do think it was either a bit mean or a bit of an oversight not to credit The Jodcast, seeing as the interview being used (between Stuart Lowe and Tim O’Brien) was taken from the August 2008 Extra episode!

You can also see realtime what the Lovell telescope is doing and take home your own printout, as well as listen to the sound of the first million years of the universe compressed into 10 seconds.

The biggest disappointment was the absence of a planetarium – I really feel that it is an opportunity missed by such a prestigious centre.  I suppose it all comes down to funding, but I can’t help thinking it is a big omission.

After a lovely lunch in the cafe, I left still mulling over a statement which I read whilst listening to the sounds of the beginning of the universe:

0.0000000000000000000000000000000000000000001 seconds = the Planck time – before this we don’t understand physics.

We don’t understand physics.   Wow – I have no chance, then!

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Crab Nebula March 23, 2011

Posted by Marie in NASA, Nebula, Neutron star, Wonders of the Universe.
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I was watching the third episode of Wonders of the Universe on BBC 2 on Sunday evening, and adored the images of the Crab Nebula, and of the neutron star rotating at its centre.

Image Credit: NASA, ESA, J. Hester, A. Loll (ASU)

The Crab Nebula is the result of a supernova (a star exploding), which was seen on Earth in the year 1054.  It is around 10 light-years across.  In its centre is a pulsar: a neutron star as massive as the Sun but only the size of a small town.  The Crab Pulsar rotates about 30 times each second, and if you’re interested in what that actually sounds like, well here it is.

The television programme also contained images of the pulsar itself – although these are not exactly the same images as used in the programme, this video shows it just as well.  The blue images are in X-ray light, taken by the Chandra X-ray Observatory, and the red images are in optical light from the Hubble Space Telescope (credit: NASA/HST/CXC/SAO).

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