So with the replacement mirror fixed an oil and filter change and most of the last of the bits sorted out on Thebus we settled down for the night ready for an earlyish start, now the days are shortening its not much point travelling too early but on the other hand its nice to travel in less dense traffic. At least early on a Saturday morning the motorway traffic though heavy seems to be without all the overnight delivery lorries, so driving north was not too bad, except roadworks and later the motorway closed for an accident meant it probably took longer a bit longer than I expected.,
We had started out at about 6.30 and although it was windy all night it had stayed dry but just as we were ready to leave it started to rain, and all the way up the M6 was heavy rain and spray from the vehicles making the windows greasy, and driving in the early morning gloom plus rain and spray was not fun. Still I relied on my mantra for a good day later as it was certainly raining before the 7am deadline
When I had been travelling in Wales around Snowdonia the colours of the leaves on the trees were already beginning to change, showing autumn was on its way, and today, driving north in strong winds the autumn was well advanced with most of the trees other than the oaks well into their autumn garb, and piles of leaves blowing about and building up in the sheltered corners.
As a youngster I thought that the leaves just withered and died as the colder weather approached then fell off when they were dead. In fact a deciduous tree senses the changing season and takes action to protect itself against winter damage to its leaves by sealing them off. But first it reabsorbs their valuable elements for use in next year’s growing season. The first to be reabsorbed is the chlorophyll which gives leaves their green colour. As the chlorophyll is withdrawn the lovely autumn colours begin as the underlying caroteins, unsurprisingly responsible for the oranges, and the phycoerythrins which give the reds are unmasked.
With the useful elements withdrawn and the seal complete the leaf withers, browns, and eventually drops off. Of course if the process is partly underway and we have high winds this loosens the weakened bond, the leaves fall and our season of autumn colour is over. Frosts hasten the sealing process. I had a beautiful red colouring creeper on the walls of my house - each year the colour strengthened and strengthened as the season progressed until it was almost dazzling when seen against a clear blue autumn sky. Of course a clear blue autumn sky normally means a frost on the night, and that was the death knell of the leaves. So normally after one short, stunning day the leaves were in a glorious red heap on the floor.
At least now when the autumn starts I have retuned to the joyous feelings of my childhood when to wade through drifts of crisp fallen leaves was a joy, rather than just one more clearing up task to be added to the endless round of gardening toil - which was how I viewed them over my last few years as a chatelaine.
But back to the destination of the morning - Jodrell Bank.
I know it seems stupid, but somehow, never having taken that close an interest and knowing the telescope at Jodrell Bank was one of the world’s largest, and the name Jodrell Bank having an American twang I was surprised to find, no, it was here in England. Okay you can stop laughing now, I know - Jodrall Bank is in Cheshire.
I had arrived early and they didn’t open till ten, but I had checked and there was room to park outside. When the gates did open I just parked up in the carpark to wait for the morning to clear a little more, and I was able to go round in the dry, even though it was a rather cold morning.
The name actually comes from a family who lived in the area - Jauderell - and his descendents the Leighs sold the land to Manchester’s Department of Biology. Sir William Lovell who had been reseaching Cosmic Rays before the outbreak of the Second World War and then worked with radar during the war, wanted to continue his studies but found the electric trams outside Manchester Univeristy produced too much interference so he relocated to the land at the Biology Department. The first use of the site for astrophysics was in 1945, when Bernard Lovell used some equipment left over from World War II, including a gun laying radar to investigate cosmic rays.
As the research unit expanded the big Lovell Telescope was built using 15-inch (38-cm) gun turret bearings - war salvage bought cheaply in 1950 from the battleships HMS Revenge and Royal Sovereign which were being broken up at the time. The bearings became the two main altitude rotator bearings of the telescope, with the appropriate parts of the telescope being designed around them. The Lovell Telescope is the third largest steerable radio telescope in the world, and became famous in the early fifties as the only telescope capable of tracking the Sputnick Satellites being launched by the Russians, and then later on was used during the Cold War and the Space Race .Today, Jodrell Bank is primarily used for investigating radio waves from the pulsars, black holes and dark stars. In February 2005, astronomers using the Lovell Telescope discovered the galaxy VIRGOHI21 that appears to be made almost entirely of dark matter
The new Visitor Centre there contains some good displays for both adult and children, and the big telescope itself is truly impressive. As I approached it the motors began to whirr and almost imperceptibly the giant dish ranged itself, then turning slowing on the rail track round its base it moved almost full circle so the dish was pointed fully in my direction.
Photos don’t really give an impression of how imposing this piece of engineering is, And if you were more technical than I if would be even more inspiring, but all I can say is that I am really pleased I went. Apparently they have live music in front of the dish with effects projected onto its surface. And sometimes film. I think 2001: A Space Odyssey was one, That would be fun, but back a few years ago the Australian Pink Floyd played there, that would have been even better!