Heritage protection honour for Jodrell Bank observatory astronomy site

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Buildings and structures at Jodrell Bank that played a pioneering role in the early days of radio astronomy have been given heritage protection.

They include the 38-metre (124.6ft) Mark II radio telescope, the smaller of two large steerable dishes on the Cheshire observatory site, which now has Grade I listed status.

It joins its big brother, the 76.2 metre (250 ft) Lovell telescope - originally known as the “Mark I” - which was awarded the highest listing grade in 1988.

The new listings were announced on the 60th anniversary of the Lovell telescope’s “first light”, when the dish collected its first radio signals from the universe.

Jodrell Bank Observatory dates from the start of radio astronomy soon after the Second World War.

It was pivotal to developing the new science, which involves capturing light at invisible radio wavelengths to “see” celestial objects that would otherwise be hidden.

The site was bought by the University of Manchester in 1939 and first used for radio astronomy in 1945 by Sir Bernard Lovell and his team. A ramshackle collection of ex-army radar equipment was subsequently replaced with permanent buildings, aerials and sophisticated telescopes.

When construction of the Mark I telescope was completed in 1957 it was the largest steerable dish telescope in the world.

The Mark II telescope was built in 1962-64 to the specifications of a design developed jointly by Sir Bernard and structural engineer Charles Husband.

Having two telescopes that could work together tracking the same object in space improved the accuracy of observations.

Crispin Edwards, listing adviser at Historic England, said: “Jodrell Bank is a remarkable place where globally important discoveries were made that transformed radio astronomy and our understanding of the universe.

“We are celebrating the history of the site and its impact on the world by increasing its recognition on the National Heritage List for England.”

Four buildings and part of a converted ex-army radar antenna known as the Searchlight Aerial have all been listed Grade II.

They include the Park Royal building, the Electrical Workshop, the Link Hut and the Control Building.

All that remains of the Searchlight Aerial, which was used to track meteors, is the army searchlight mount to which it was attached.

Professor Teresa Anderson, director of the Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre, said: “Jodrell Bank has welcomed millions of visitors, drawn by its landmark scientific structures.

“Science is a hugely important part of our cultural heritage and we are very pleased to see that recognised and protected with these new designations.”