Wallpaper Wednesday

11 05 2011

Construction of Mark I Telescope. Photo credit: Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics, University of Manchester.

Today’s wallpaper is a photo taken during the construction of the 76-meter Mark I (Lovell) Telescope at Jodrell Bank.  Designed by Bernard Lovell and completed in 1957, the Mark I was designed for mobility. Lovell had been using a transit telescope, a 66-meter stationary dish pointed at the overhead sky, in his search for cosmic rays.  While the transit instrument was a suitable beginning, Lovell realized fairly quickly that his work was limited by an inability to re-direct the telescope’s attention to other parts of the sky.

The early construction photos are pretty stunning—the photographer(s) did a good job of capturing the complexity of the steelwork needed to support the dish, not to mention the intricacy of the scaffolding used by the construction workers.  Several alterations have been made to the instrument since its completion:  the railroad tracks on which it rotates have been replaced; the support structure has been shored up numerous times; it was given a new reflector in 1970-71 that significantly increased its functionality.  The dish was resurfaced as recently as 2000-2003.

If you’re interested in viewing the Mark I(a)/Lovell telescope in person, check out the Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre online (there is no public access to the research labs at Jodrell Bank Observatory, but you can take a web tour). If you’re curious as to what the Lovell is observing right this moment, you can see a live update on the Jodrell Bank Telescope Status page.  You can even follow the telescope on twitter (@LovellTelescope).

One last note:  if you want to see a truly impressive grant application, read The Blue Book, Lovell’s research and funding proposal submitted to the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research in 1951. Would that everyone could write such a clear explanation of his or her work and its broader impact.