Spotting the giant Lovell Telescope when approaching Jodrell Bank is rather like the first sight of the Tower when approaching Blackpool… “There it is!” cried one of Prep Five’s more observant members in excitement, as the minibus neared the Discovery Centre. The telescope has been quietly probing space since 1957 and is the third largest of its kind in the world, with a diameter of 76 metres. We watched in awe as it silently rotated on its railway tracks, gathering radio waves.
Our day began with some hands-on experiments. We worked in teams to explore the strength of gravity on different planets, tested the pH of sand like a Mars rover, investigated the brightness of the sun throughout the solar system and conducted a series of tests to identify a meteor. Next we moved on to the Planet Pavilion, where we marvelled at the clockwork Orrery and turned the handle to make the planets orbit the sun; we learned that Mercury’s year is only eighty eight days, whereas on Neptune a year lasts for 60,182 days (which is 164 years.) Wow!
After lunch and a visit to the shop – always highlights of any school trip – we took off our shoes to enter the Inflatable Planetarium. Once inside, we explored the night sky and constellations. We enjoyed imagining the pictures made by groups of stars, and spotted several kites, a house, a sausage dog, a broken spear and a headless dancer. We compared our ideas with the pictures which the Ancient Greeks saw, and it was interesting to see some characters appearing in the sky from stories we studied last term, including Hercules and Perseus.
Finally, we explored the Space Pavilion exhibition, where we investigated mysteries of the universe including black holes, listened to the sound of the big bang and found out about Jodrell Bank’s history in the film pod. On our way back to the minibuses there was just time to look at the outdoor exhibits. We all liked the Whispering Dishes, where we could whisper secret messages to our friends, as the sound was amplified by the curved or parabolic shape of the dishes. Whispering proved a challenge for some of us…!
We had a great day out, and are grateful to the staff of Jodrell Bank, Miss Gill and Miss Gregory for their help and skilful driving, Mr Green for our lunches and our parents for their continued support.