The Jodrell Bank Observatory was recently added to the UNESCO World Heritage List. (PHOTO: Mike Peel; Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics, University of Manchester)

The Jodrell Bank Observatory in Cheshire was recently given UNESCO World Heritage status, making it the 32nd site to make the list in the UK.

The observatory is part of the University of Manchester and is most famous for housing the Lovell Telescope – the world’s third largest steerable radio telescope. When it was built in 1957, the dish of the telescope was the world’s largest, and it remained so until 1973. It was first used during the ‘Space Race’ to track the Soviet Union’s Sputnik, and spurred the development of other large-scale satellite dishes around the world.

Throughout its tenure, Jodrell Bank has played a pioneering role in the development of radio astronomy and spacecraft tracking, and is also known for its role in researching quasars, pulsars, and gravitational lenses. Today, Jodrell runs the UK’s national e-MERLIN radio telescope, which links an array of seven radio telescopes from across Britain. It also acts as the global headquarters of the Square Kilometre Array – a radio-telescope project that aims to build the world’s largest telescope by linking instruments across the world, from as far away as South Africa and Australia.

The UNESCO status for the Jodrell Bank Observatory comes after it received increased recognition by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport. In 2017, the Mark II Telescope at the observatory joined the Lovell Telescope in being listed at Grade I status, while five other buildings on the site were given a Grade II listing.

Teresa Anderson, Director of the Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre, said: ‘This is wonderful news and a great day in the history of Jodrell Bank. It honours the pioneering work of Sir Bernard Lovell and the early scientists here, together with the world-leading research that continues to this day. Receiving this recognition will help us tell their story and the story of the communities connected to the site both across the UK and worldwide.’

Jodrell Bank is the first UK site to make the UNESCO list since 2017, when the English Lake District was added.

This article appeared in CA 354.

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