‘You might find aliens’ chan­cel­lor tells stargaz­ers

Macclesfield Express - - VE DAY SPECIAL - JEN­NIFER WIL­LIAMS

GE­ORGE Os­borne has sug­gested Jo­drell Bank’s ground­break­ing new stargaz­ing project might even­tu­ally find ev­i­dence of aliens.

Un­veil­ing the world’s big­gest ever as­tron­omy project, to be based at the Lower Withing­ton ob­ser­va­tory, the Chan­cel­lor ad­mit­ted that was ‘pretty un­likely’ - but said it marked a ‘very ex­cit­ing be­gin­ning of a jour­ney’.

Square Kilo­me­tre Ar­ray (SKA) will be the in­ter­na­tional con­trol cen­tre for two new tele­scopes in South Africa and Australia and will ex­plore the first bil­lion light years’ of space, when the first gal­ax­ies and stars were be­ing formed.

Mr Os­borne said it would han­dle 10 times more data than the in­ter­net ev­ery day, adding that it would most likely fo­cus on how grav­ity works, in­clud­ing the ex­is­tence of black holes and dark mat­ter.

He added: “So that’s the hard science. It’s also said, but let’s not get too ex­cited about this, that if it were the case that there were other life­forms within 50 light years of Jo­drell Bank we would pick up their ra­dio trans­mis­sions if they were ad­vanced life­forms.

“But I think that’s pretty un­likely, so I think we’d bet­ter make clear to ev­ery­one that is not the cen­tral project here.”

The SKA tele­scope, man­aged from Jo­drell Bank, is ca­pa­ble of look­ing all the way back to the af­ter­math of the Big Bang, and are ex­pected to get go­ing in 2020, com­ing fully on­line in 2025.

Manch­ester uni­ver­sity, the science com­mu­nity and the gov­ern­ment fought off stiff com­pe­ti­tion from Italy to head the project. It will be a huge eco­nomic boost Cheshire East.

It is es­ti­mated to be worth £1bil­lion in pri­vate sec­tor in­vest­ment and will help to se­cure an ad­di­tional 200 jobs on the site.

The news comes days af­ter Cheshire East Coun­cil agreed to in­vest £1m in Jo­drell Bank as part of a sup­port pack­age that will fo­cus on con­nec­tiv­ity and as­set en­hance­ment.

Caro­line Simp­son, the Coun­cil’s ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor for eco­nomic growth

for and pros­per­ity, said: “This is a real state­ment of con­fi­dence in sci­en­tific re­search in Bri­tain and also in Cheshire East.

“The Coun­cil be­lieves this will lead to fur­ther op­por­tu­ni­ties in the Cheshire and Manch­ester re­gion and the Coun­cil has set out a clear ac­tion plan to de­velop the tech­nol­ogy and science cor­ri­dor in the area. Jo­drell Bank plays a key part in this plan.”

●● Ge­orge Os­borne dur­ing his visit to Jo­drell Bank

●● Mr Os­borne chats with Pro­fes­sor Tim O’Brien in the tele­scope con­trol room

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