I hope you’ve all had a brilliant summer and a massive WELCOME to anyone starting at the University of Manchester this year!
I’ve had a packed summer, including having the privilege of working at the live event held at the Jodrell Bank Observatory- part of the astrophysics department at the university in nearby Cheshire. Having grown up not far away from Manchester, Jodrell Bank’s always something I’ve been aware of (apparently my granddad had a crane and had a hand in building it?!?!) but I can’t remember ever having been and seen the enormous Lovell Telescope up close before; and it’s pretty amazing. It’s the third largest steerable dish radio telescope in the world, and has been used for scientific observations as well as to track a myriad of space probes and satellites since its completion in 1957.
I was lucky enough to be at the event, which saw the Halle Orchestra play in the shadow of the dish, through an email sent through the university advertising volunteers to help out- it really does pay to read uni emails! I worked with a lovely team of people who were all also volunteers, and we were basically there to have a good time and get some people interested in science. There were a lot of other stalls there too, mostly from various departments of the university demonstrating different aspects of science and interesting experiments for kids. We were messing with a tonoscope (and I don’t really know how it works so you may want to search it yourself for a better explanation :P) but basically it was salt on a piece of rubber, stretched over a plantpot. We got people to sing down a tube and it made really beautiful patterns in the salt, with higher pitches making more intricate patterns. It was a really busy and fun day, with plenty of adults as well as kids getting really enthusiastic about the tonoscope! The experiments and talks were followed by a performance from the Halle orchestra, with the dish of the telescope turning round to face us to the music being played! All the pieces were spaced themed, from Star Wars to ET to Doctor Who they all sounded amazing. There was a light show and projections onto the dish, as well as a massive fireworks display at the end of the performance. A fantastic day all round!
I’ve also been to Manchester’s Holi One colour festival in Heaton Park, just outside the city. It was a new event to the city, basically a field full of people listening to music and throwing powder paint at each other all day… It was really good fun, although a lot of my time was spent marvelling at other people’s dancing!
Speaking of festivals, I returned home from Bestival on Monday in need of a long bath, I was covered in mud and glitter. Bestival is on the Isle of Wight right at the other end of the country to where I live, so it was a 5 hour train journey down there on Wednesday, to be picked up by a friend from uni who lives near Portsmouth, for a quick nap to catch the 7am ferry on Thursday.
It was an absolutely brilliant weekend, seeing the likes of Snoop Dog (or is it Snoop Lion now?), Fatboy Slim and Elton John. My personal favourite was James Blake, who was the last act I saw on the last day, and an amazing way to top off an amazing festival!