|19 April 2006 - A visit to
|Paul very kindly
arranged for us to be invited to tour the Chilbolton observatory.
There were supposed to be nine of us, but sadly the others could not make
it for varying reasons. So we three set off. After stopping
off at Popham for coffee we arrived at Chilbolton.
Observatory is a research facility that conducts experimental studies
into radio science, and also weather and climate. The Observatory
was established on the site of the disbanded Chilbolton Airfield in the
mid 1960's. It was officially opened on April 1967. Here are
just a few facts:
|The dish is 82
feet in diameter (or for younger visitors 25m) and is made from 48
aluminium panels of honeycomb construction, each weighing 600 lbs (272
kg). It covers 5260 square feet (489 square metres) or about 1/8th
acre in area. It weighs with the support structure and the cabin
associated steelwork 420 tons.
|The tower was
made with 2300 tons of concrete and is 43 feet (13m) high. Its
diameter is 50 feet(15m) at ground level, 60 foot(18m) at foundation level
and 13 feet(4m) at the top.
|The aerial is
about 110 feet (34m) high at the top of the feed support apex, and can
turn 3 degrees per second in azimuth and at 1 degree per second at
altitude. It is driven by four 18hp DC motors in azimuth and by two
motors in altitude. Even in a 35 mph wind it will remain pointing
accurately to better than 2 minutes of arc, and can operate in winds up to
60mph. It is built to withstand winds in excess of 100mph and took
almost 5 years to design and build.
|After a short talk about how
the Observatory was built we were issued with hard hats and proceeded to
the base of the tower. The weather was rather dreary so the pictures
did not come out well
|We walked up to
the top of the tower having
everything explained to us as we went. It was rather like ascending
a lighthouse. We descended slower.
|Then we were
escorted over to where much of the weather research takes place and had
the experiments described by for us. I will not even attempt to say
more about what we were told as it is explained far better than I can on
the website or you could go on a visit yourself.
|The visit was
ended with a visit to the Abbots Mitre pub for an excellent lunch and
spent time looking at the many pictures of the old airfield adorning the
walls. Thank you Paul for a very informative visit, my knees will