Developers: today we destroy the Greenbelt, tomorrow ripples in space-time !


Jodrell Bank work threatened by housing plans, say scientists



One of Britain’s most ambitious astronomy projects is under threat due to a large housing development being planned nearby, scientists have warned.

Prof Simon Garrington, director of Jodrell Bank observatory, said proposals to build 119 houses just over a mile from the Lovell telescope in Cheshire would seriously compromise observations of deep space.

Among the projects at risk would be an attempt to make the first experimental observations of gravity waves, ripples in space-time predicted by Einstein’s general theory of relativity.

The astronomers estimate that, if approved, the development would increase background interference levels by about 10% to a level exceeding an internationally agreed threshold for “detrimental interference” to radio astronomy observations.

“Many housing proposals don’t cause problems,” said Garrington. “It’s the ones that are largest and closest that are the most dangerous.”

The electromagnetic signals astronomers are looking for are barely distinguishable from background noise coming from sources such as electricity lines and mobile phones.

The latest development site, in the village of Goostrey, is particularly problematic because it would fall in the line of sight of the telescope’s observations of distant pulsars – incredibly dense neutron stars that send out rotating beams of radio waves.


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