Jodrell Bank Observatory in Cheshire has been selected as UK’s next candidate for UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) World Heritage status. A successful bid will allow this observatory to join the elite club of over 1000 other famous landmarks — including the Grand Canyon in the US, the Taj Mahal in India, and Machu Pichu in Peru—that currently enjoy the UNESCO World Heritage Site status. The staff at the observatory is now giving the final touch to nomination papers that will be submitted to UNESCO in January 2018.

World Heritage Site

A World Heritage Site is a place (area or a landmark) that has been recognized by the UNESCO as an important site for collective interests of humanity. Such sites usually hold some historical, scientific, cultural, or other significance and are legally protected by international treaties. Currently, there are 31 sites in the UK (including those in overseas territories) that have been listed as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.

The observatory is home to the renowned Lovell Telescope

Jodrell Bank Observatory is located in Cheshire and is home to the famous, Grade I-listed Lovell Telescope. Construction of this telescope was completed in 1957, and at that time, it was the world’s largest telescope of its kind.

Last week, this 76m (250ft) radio telescope celebrated its 60th anniversary. Sir Bernard Lovell and his colleges were the first to use this site in 1945 for their radio astronomy research. Sir Lovell was a radio astronomer and was keen to probe cosmic rays after completion of his work on radar during the WWII. During later years, several other astronomers, as well as scientific institutions, have used this observatory to probe the universe and make some interesting observations.

This observatory also tracked the launch of world’s first satellite Sputnik into space in 1957.

A popular attraction

Every year, around 185,000 people, including thousands of students, visit the Discovery Center of this observatory. Officials are currently working to improve the visitors’ facilities at the Center. A project to make a gallery narrating the story of radio astronomy is also in progress.

Prof Teresa Anderson, director of the Discovery Centre, said that Jodrell Bank Observatory holds a "rich scientific heritage" and it is wonderful to reach the new milestone. Prof Anderson also described the Lovell Telescope as "an icon for science."