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JV Evans leaves for America and measuring the distance of Venus


Communicating via the Moon
Bernard Lovell Astronomer
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The work at Jodrell... I suppose I ought to say a few words about this until I retired in 1981, in the years from effectively 1958, 1960, in the 20-odd years in which we had complete control of the telescope, the extension of the researches, was very great; the work on the quasars and the point sources and the... also the development of the radar work.

I've already mentioned the work of JV Evans on the Moon and his use of the... of the... and the discovery that the Moon was limb... the Moon was limb dark and we thought that this would be an interesting method for conversing across distant parts of the earth. You must remember that in those days, the main possibility of long-distance communication was via the ionosphere and this possibility of converting across the Atlantic, for example, was often made impossible by the great solar flare, which so disturbed the ionosphere, that it was no longer a good reflector of radio waves. And we did interest the firm of Pye in the possibility of using the Moon as a reflector and we thought this might be of great importance and interest to people who were elsewhere in Europe, or other parts of the world who communicate via the Moon, particularly when it was impossible to do so by the normal means of communication by reflection from the ionosphere.

Now, the firm of Pye... they were... I don't know if they still exist, but they were then a very big firm of manufacturers of radio equipment and they became quite interested in this and we did, in fact, build a system with them, which they were prepared to manufacture, which enabled us to communicate via the Moon. We had... we had... we did even succeed on one occasion in communicating by... communicating by voice via the Moon with Australia because remarkably enough, there... there is... a certain part of Australia, a certain... certain periods of time when... when the Moon is visible for short period, both from Jodrell and Australia. Now, of course, that possibility... the possibility, that that would have been of interest commercially, disappeared with the development of, of geostationery satellites and now, there's no longer dependence either on cables across the Atlantic, or... or on the ionosphere, particularly the new system of optical fibre cables and... and the... the use of geostationery satellites for communication have become universal.

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, the Moon, Atlantic Ocean, Australia, JV Evans

Duration: 3 minutes, 31 seconds

Date story recorded: January 2007

Date story went live: 05 September 2008