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Work on flare stars with Fred Whipple

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My own work with the telescope: flare stars
Bernard Lovell Astronomer
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I really ought to talk, I suppose a bit about my own work. I, I, I, I could have joined in and, and of course I, at that time I was the director and I, I drove along all of this work. There was a tremendous lot of technical difficulties with the spacing of the interferometer. One had to adjust the speed of the fringes and in Palmer’s group there was much odd mechanisms made out of meccano and so on, which made this possible. Well, I, I didn’t want to get involved in this and I wanted to do, I wanted to use the telescope for something entirely different, and in, shortly after the telescope came into use, I think in 1958, in the spring or early summer of 1958, there was a, a symposium organised in Paris and we, we all gave papers at this symposium and Hoyle, Fred Hoyle, he, he, he gave a paper on, on what became known as flare stars and pointed out that it would be very interesting to find out if the flare stars behaved similarly to the sun in emitting radio emission and this occurred to me to be an interesting subject to study with the telescope so I, I took on that job. Now, the stars in question, which were known as flare stars were the M type dwarfs, stars with small diameter, smaller diameter than the sun and the occasional flaring of these stars was quite well known. They had been observed for some years. The question was were these flares to be identified as being similar to the solar flares, or were they something entirely different. Well, I had the, exactly the right instrument to do this with the super telescope because I could direct it to one of these flare stars and, and observe it continuously. I might remind you that there were no computers in those days and we were recording on, on pen and ink, with pen and ink on, on, on, on a moveable paper chart. The problem was not only to observe the M type dwarfs as a radio emitter, but also to identify if any, if there was any particular radio emission from them, if these were in any way associated with the optical flares.

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: Alastair Gunn Megan Argo

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.

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.

Tags: Paris, H P Palmer, Fred Hoyle

Duration: 3 minutes, 5 seconds

Date story recorded: January 2007

Date story went live: 05 September 2008