Based in Cheshire, UK, Jodrell Bank Observatory has played a key role in astronomical research since its launch in 1945.

This month it joins 1,120 other areas that have been deemed either culturally, historically, scientifically or otherwise significant for humankind as it is added to the list of World Heritage Sites – a catalog that includes the likes of the Acropolis in Greece, Angkor in Cambodia, and the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. 

This result is the culmination of a 10-year process, starting with an application in 2010. 

“Today’s announcement will make sure that this remarkable site will continue to inspire young scientists and astronomers all over the world,” said Heritage Minister Rebecca Pow, BBC News reported on Sunday.

Work began at Jodrell Bank when Sir Bernard Lovell, physicist and radio astronomer, moved to the University of Manchester in 1945. Since then, it has earned a reputation as one of the world’s top radio astronomy observatories, using radio waves (and not visible light) to analyze the goings-on of the universe.

During its lifetime, the observatory has taken its turn on the silver (and television) screen, making cameos in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Doctor Who, and the BBC’s Stargazing Live series.

It is also home to the Lovell Telescope – which was the largest steerable dish radio telescope in the world when it was built (1957) and still remains impressive as the third biggest in the world today. In 1966, it tracked the first spacecraft to soft land on the Moon. 

Heritage Minister
Jodrell Bank was the UK’s early warning system during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. Garry Basnett/Shutterstock

The UN World Heritage Committee is meeting this week in Azerbaijan to discuss Jodrell Bank and other recently added sites. The inclusion of Jodrell Bank will increase the total number of Britain’s World Heritage Sites to 32. (Others include Stonehenge, Maritime Greenwich, and the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew.)

These 32 sites put the UK eighth on the list of countries with the most World Heritage Sites, with Italy coming up top (53 sites) and China (52) and Spain (46) occupying the runner-up spots. The US comes in at number 10 with 23 sites, including Yellowstone National Park, the Statue of Liberty, and Everglades National Park

In addition to Jodrell Bank, there are 28 sites that will be added to the list this year. These include the Ancient Iraqi city of Babylon (which was once one of the oldest – and largest – settlements in Mesopotamia), the Migratory Bird Sanctuaries along China’s coast of the Yellow Sea, Vatnajökull National Park (covering 14 percent of Iceland and holding an array of tectonic, volcanic, and glaciovolcanic features), and the Plain of Jars in Laos – “a testimony to Iron Age funerary practices”. Also on the list are Italy’s Prosecco Hills, which (as the name suggests) is where prosecco is made.

“This is wonderful news and a great day in the history of Jodrell Bank,” said Professor Teresa Anderson, director of the Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre, BBC News reports.

“It honors the pioneering work of Sir Bernard Lovell and the early scientists here, together with the world-leading research that continues to this day.”

[H/T: BBC News]

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