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Work on meteors at Jodrell Bank: Manning Prentice


Work on meteors at Jodrell Bank: Getting started
Bernard Lovell Astronomer
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Well, I've been concentrating on the building of the telescope and what happened immediately afterwards with Sputnik and the debt we'd incurred. Now, throughout the whole of that time of course, scientific research was going on at Jodrell, and I'd like to say a bit about that. I think I spoke about the work of Hanbury Brown and Hazard on the transit telescope when they had discovered the radio emission from M31 and certainly one of the first definite proofs that the radio waves were not confined to the galaxy as we had thought for a very long time. I did, also, myself, as a student, a few measurements on the transit telescope on the low... low frequency spectrum of signals but my... my main concentration in those days continued to be on meteors and I had particularly Clegg, John Davis, JG Davis and a New Zealander, CD Elliot... Elliot.

Now, Blakett had said to me, 'Now you must read up. If you're going to study meteors, you... you must find out about them'. Well, remarkably compared with the situation today, there are almost no astronomical books published in England. There's one by the Astronomer Royal, Spencer Jones, on spherical astronomy and... and there's almost... almost nothing about meteors. The... the flood of books from America had not yet then arrived and Blackett, he had contact with a lot of people various parts of the world and one day he said he had a young man who had escaped from Norway during the war, Herlofson, and Herlofson was a meteorologist.

Now, whether Blackett was so confused that he thought a meteorologist would know about meteors, I know not. Anyhow, he said he thought Herlofson might be useful to me, so Herlofson appeared. He... he was... he had then been useful during the war I think somewhere, as a meteorologist, and I think he was then going as a student to... in Oxford University, but he was a tremendous help and the first thing he did was to tell me about the people who really knew about meteors in this country and they were not the professionals. They belonged to the British Astronomical Association, the amateur body, and he put me in touch with the... the director of the meteor section of the Astronomical Association and this was Manning Prentice.

Bernard Lovell (1913-2012), British radio astronomer and founder of the Jodrell Bank Observatory, received an OBE in 1946 for his work on radar, and was knighted in 1961 for his contribution to the development of radio astronomy. He obtained a PhD in 1936 at the University of Bristol. His steerable radio telescope, which tracked Sputnik across the sky, is now named the Lovell telescope.

Listeners: Megan Argo Alastair Gunn

Megan Argo is an astronomer at the University of Manchester's Jodrell Bank Observatory researching supernovae and star formation in nearby starburst galaxies. As well as research, she is involved with events in the Observatory's Visitor Centre explaining both astronomy and the history of the Observatory to the public.

Alastair Gunn is an astrophysicist at Jodrell Bank Observatory, University of Manchester. He is responsible for the coordination and execution of international radio astronomical observations at the institute and his professional research concerns the extended atmospheres of highly active binary stars. Alastair has a deep interest and knowledge of the history of radio astronomy in general and of Jodrell Bank in particular. He has written extensively about Jodrell Bank's history.

Tags: Jodrell Bank, Sputnik 1, England, Astronomer Royal, USA, Norway, Oxford University, British Astronomical Association, Robert Hanbury Brown, J A Clegg, Cyril Hazard, John Davis, J G Davis, C D Elliot, Patrick Blackett

Duration: 3 minutes, 6 seconds

Date story recorded: January 2007

Date story went live: 05 September 2008