Jodrell Bank to become biggest silver screen evah

By Phil Plait | September 15, 2007 2:36 pm

Note: Due to a hack either on this site or on Digg, the "Digg This" button above does not link correctly (I checked with other pages here and it does seem to work, so I think this is on Digg’s end). I hate to say this, but please don’t Digg this entry. I have sent a bug report to Digg. Thanks!

I can’t seem to decide if this is a good idea or not, but it certainly tickles me: the Jodrell Bank’s 76 meter Lovell radio telescope will be used as a giant movie screen to celebrate its 50th birthday in October.

This is such a cool idea! And it’s a great way to get the public interested in astronomy; a dish that big makes a big impact on you when you see it up close. I’ve seen a few, and they are very, very impressive. Jodrell Bank has a long and rich history, too, and that can only help spur interest in the observatory, astronomy, and space travel.

So, happy Birthday Jodrell Bank! What better time to catch a flick?


Comments (37)

  1. ABR

    Perhaps this would be a good way to infuse life (and funds) into both drive-in theaters and radio telescopes?

  2. Shawn S.

    They should play 2001, of course!

    …or Aliens.

  3. Navneeth

    Or Contact…showing the Arecibo and VLA in all its glory! ūüėÄ

  4. Roy Batty

    Yes they should play 2001, 2010, The Thing, Aliens & Contact!!!
    Oh I so want to go to this! Not sure time/distance/money will allow it though. But thanks for the telescopes up! :)

  5. Willo the Wisp

    As a Brit, and a reader of this site, I feel honour-bound to attend this stupendous event on everyone’s behalf. I shall do my utmost to attend!

  6. Sorry to be pedantic (but that’s at the heart of good science) but Jodrell Bank has been used for radar and radio telescopy since the 1940’s. It is the Lovell telescope that is 50 years old this year.

    Of course, that won’t make as good a headline in the papers.

    Presumably they will have a mechanism to ensure that whatever they show isn’t distorted by the curvature of the disk?

  7. tacitus

    Or Contact√Ę‚ā¨¬¶showing the Arecibo and VLA in all its glory!

    Not sure that’s a good idea. Might give poor old Jodrell Bank a major inferiority complex. :)

  8. Hmm! that’s gonna call for quite a projector. I remember doubting that they could build that thing when it was proposed.

  9. spacenaut

    What better movie to show on a “Dish” than “The Dish.” The movie about the day Apollo 11 landed on the moon, featuring Australia’s Parkes Radio Telescope & its roll in the landing.

  10. spacenaut

    Here is a photo I took of the Parkes “Dish” in August 2006.

    Note the LEM like object in the bottom right hand corner of the photo.

  11. KaiYeves

    If they show Contact, I will try to come for sure as it is one of my favorite movies ever.

  12. Grand Lunar

    I also vote for ‘2001’ to be shown on the dish too. And maybe “Apollo 13”.

  13. Peter

    How about some of the Dr. Who episodes that were filmed there? Tom Baker ended his run as the Doctor beneath the Lovell Telescope.

  14. Grumpy

    They should show a double feature: Armageddon and The Core!

  15. Pseudolus

    I wonder what NRAO in Green Bank, WV is doing with the Robert Byrd telescope next weekend? That’s one mother honkin’ large screen!

  16. Michelle

    Holy smokes, that thing is HUGE. It will be a great event for sure. Only thing I wonder is: what movie?

    And grumpy, if it’s these two movies I will make sure to go over there in a ninja costume and switch the movie reels for something good.

  17. Richard B. Drumm

    The GBT has just undergone a renovation of it’s circular track. The dish rolls on this track as it rotates in azimuth. They’re doing a revised pointing model even as we speak, should be done any day now. Then it’s back to science, there must be a ton of observations backed up, the renovation project took all summer!

    This sounds like an OK EPO event. It won’t damage the dish in any way, and it’ll get the public interested nicely. If you blokes over there will PLEASE bring your optical telescopes to the event and show folks the real thing up in the sky it’d help, I’m sure. Ya might even get free admission. Have your club president contact the EPO division of the observatory to make arrangements.

  18. In the sad modern fashion of dumbing down, the disease has finally hit this wonderful icon of British technology!!!

    What next? Vomit-inducing laser and fractal shows in the new Greenwich Planetarium – shame on Jodrell Bank (I was taught Radio Astronomy there).

  19. Stephen

    When I was on holiday in Germany, shortly after I was married, I insisted on visiting the Effelsberg radio telescope. It was obvious from my wife’s expression that she thought I had found the most boring holiday activity in history. But when we got there she was extremely impressed.

  20. I am a new owner of the internet and loving it.

    I adore the site.

    I hope everyone finds this as funny as I do, I needed to share it.

  21. Gary Ansorge

    Movies? On a parabolic reflector? What are they trying to do, send the movie to Tau Ceti four? If so, then Contact should be the ONLY movie shown,,,
    ,,,or possibly 2010, my personal fav of that Arthur Clark series.

    Gee, could it be used to focus solar energy and burn down,,,something spectacular,,,(can’t think clearly,,,05:30,,,caffein depletion emminent,,,must,,,restock,,,sooooon,,,).

    Sounds like a fun way to spend an afternoon.

    GAry 7

  22. Thomas Siefert

    Darn, finally something happens in my neck of the woods and had to be on the very same day I’m going overseas for a few weeks.

    Chemistryad: “I am a new owner of the internet and loving it.”

    Uh-oh, we’re under new management :-)

  23. Phil

    Haha, sounds like it could be awesome. I might see if I can get down there to see it.

  24. Would love to see CONTACT on the dish — never got to see it on a real movie screen.

    PS. Was at Westerbork radio dishes in Holland a year ago and heard mention of another film similar to Contact (it involved radio astronomy). I think ‘heaven’ was in the title, would anyone know what the name of that film was (it may have been a foreign film — one of the astronomers during my interview suggested it, but I’ve forgotten it).

  25. Stuart

    Peter, I like the idea of showing the Dr Who episode where Tom Baker fell from the telescope but I think the rights issues may be too difficult to sort out. The film that will be shown is specially created and will show the construction of the telescope, early space exploration and the future of radio astronomy amongst other things.

    Without wanting to be accused of “dumbing down” I’ll add that you can follow what the Lovell Telescope is doing via Twitter (and the observatory for that matter).

  26. KaiYeves

    You can borrow my sai, Michelle. I know where to get some katanas, too.

  27. Now that would be COOL. What movie? I vote for Contact!

  28. tzt

    The article seems to imply that the movie is a montage of early space exploration footage. I’m just glad Ben Stiller won’t be on it. It’s difficult enough to watch his gross-out humor on a TV-sized screen.

  29. Dan

    I don’t think I like this idea. Should a prominent astronomical observatory be involving itself in producing light-pollution?

  30. llewelly

    I am a new owner of the internet and loving it.

    I guess the USA wasted too much money in Iraq and was forced to auction it off on eBay. Eventually the Japanese will observe that the USA didn’t own most of it, and all hell will break loose.

  31. Rob

    Coincidentally we are holding an Open Weekend at the Parkes radio telescope in western NSW this weekend (22-23 Sep). This is the only time that the telescope itself is open for public tours.

    One of the planned highlights will be an open air showing of the film “The Dish” by the Dish itself. We are not projecting the film onto the telescope though as it will be observing as usual throughout the weekend.

    For more details go to:

    (Sorry for the shameless promotional plug!) We’d love to see lots of people there. If not, try the Parkes webcam to view the open day.

  32. Crux Australis

    I, too, wonder how they will correct for the curvature of the dish.

  33. David Hall

    Please show anything but DRAGON WARS . . .

  34. Bruce Almighty

    Anything in OMNIMAX format should work – it’s meant to be shown on a concave screen (like a planetarium dome but inclined). It’s related to IMAX so the large screen area should not present a problem.
    Some of the space films were shot in that format, IIRC.

  35. g

    This is a terrible idea! They’ll only be able to fit maybe one or two people into the prime focus to watch the movie.


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