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19 April 2006 - A visit to Chilbolton Observatory
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.
The 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 The hard hat boys
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 recover soon!