The Audlem branch of Probus heard this morning a fascinating talk by Rod Davies, who has been a physicist at Jodrell Bank for the past 53 years and was very much involved in its original construction.
The observatory is part of the School of Physics and Astronomy at The University of Manchester and home, of course, to the Lovell Radio Telescope. There is also a network of devices across England that enable small angles in space to be measured accurately, giving all sorts of clues to the origins of the Universe and other galaxies.
Rod told how Jodrell Bank scientists are involved in the European Space Agency's (ESA) Planck mission, the space probe which is to study the conditions present in our Universe shortly after the Big Bang. Observatory scientists and engineers have contributed some of the key receivers that are now being incorporated in to the satellite.
Probus leant that 'space' can be dated to 13.5 billion years old – older even than the combined ages of the audience, it was observed afterwards – although that did attract the deeply searching question of what was there 14 billion years ago. One mystery that has been solved, however, was related to Einstein. Three years of observations have proved that Einstein's theory of general relativity is correct to within a staggering 0.05%.
Rod had started his talk with his photographs of last Saturday night's total Lunar Eclipse. This enabled, in the 'Vote of Thanks', one Probus member to explain how parochial some Audlem conversations on space can be. A group leaving the Public Hall after the Caberet in the Village glanced up on Saturday and saw the pink planet glowing brightly. "Is that the moon up there?" asked one, totally unaware of the lunar eclipse, to be answered immediately by another: "I don't know. I don't live round here!"
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