Probably not, but the scientists at Jodrell Bank in Cheshire think there could well be life somewhere out there.
Given my daughter’s growing interest in stars and the solar system we thought we’d pop in to see the massive Lovell telescope up close. The grown-ups in the family had all seen it when taking off from Manchester Airport, but, astoundingly (it is only 6 miles from J18 or the M6!), none of us had ever been.
Never mind the big bang, my mind felt like it might explode within about 10 minutes of arriving. The magnitude of the stats provided is frequently mind-blowing – how many thousand light years? How can a teaspoon of anything weigh 1,000 billion tonnes? (That’s a teaspoon of a pulsar, apparently.)
But, back to the children. They loved the science show. Essentially about our solar system, each planet was introduced and, in most cases there was a successful experiment to illustrate a particular aspect:
- Mercury has no atmosphere – so we were shown the effect of a vacuum – which means falling objects hit Mercury with full force and it has lots of craters.
- Venus has extremely high pressure – so an experiment which involves heating a can and then plunging it into water shows the effect the Venus atmosphere would have on a human body (not pleasant).
- Some frozen carbon dioxide (dry ice) was shown converting straight into a gas to help us remember that’s what the poles of Mars are covered with.
- A tornado in a bottle demonstrated the Earth-sized, 400+ year old storm on Jupiter.
- A tin foil ball demonstrated that Saturn would float (if you could find a bath that was big enough).
The show took place next to a small interactive gallery, which had two highlights for the children:
- A teepee shaped area where you can experience the sound of the big bang;
- A ball based display where you can learn how black holes are orbited.
The café provided some refreshing tea and cakes (very nice and a good choice, despite us arriving quite late and it being quite busy). There was a children’s menu and the other food looked good too. There is some outdoor seating and an outdoor picnic area, though I imagine the café could get rather crowded at a busy lunchtime. Despite the good food, the highlight of the cafe was a display of clocks illustrating time in different parts of the universe. I would say they’re worth a visit in the their own right!