Nearly a thousand litres of paint later, and after more than four months of hard effort by ten men, a bright and fresh 25m antenna, known locally to its home at STFC's Chilbolton Observatory in Hampshire as 'the dish', has been unveiled by Caroline Nokes MP. (5 January 2012). It is the first proper clean and paint the dish has had in 17 years.
The ten painters responsible for its refurbishment spent 17 weeks crawling over the antenna's steelwork, scraping, grinding and blasting away nearly two decades of grime, old paint and dust before giving the 'dish' a fresh lick of paint. The shiny new version of the radar dish was shown off during a visit by the Romsey and Southampton North MP to the Observatory.
The world's largest fully steerable meteorological radar dish allows scientists to detect space hazards, carry out climate work and analyse extreme weather conditions. The team who work at the Observatory are part of STFC's RAL Space and in addition to weather, are also involved in space monitoring including tracking and detecting spacecraft for the European Space Agency and characterising satellite missions.
Caroline Nokes MP was there to find out more about the work being carried out at the site and how the atmospheric observations made there can be used to improve our understanding of how clouds form, and develop into storms. The data is also used to improve models used to predict climate change. The radar is used to study how weather affects communication systems such as mobile phones and digital television.
Mrs Nokes was taken on a tour of the LOFAR-UK (LOw Frequency ARray) station at Chilbolton which was officially opened in September 2010. This is the UK component of LOFAR, a European network of radio telescopes designed to study the sky at the lowest radio frequencies accessible from the surface of the Earth with resolution never before achieved. As well as deep cosmology, LOFAR will be used to monitor the Sun's activity, study planets, and understand more about lightning and geomagnetic storms.
Following her visit, Mrs Nokes said: "The excellent research being carried out at the Chilbolton Observatory is already improving aspects of our lives that we often take for granted such as weather forecasting or mobile communication. Scientific discoveries bring huge economic and societal benefits and I am proud to have this world class research facility in my constituency."
Manager of the Chilbolton Observatory Darcy Ladd said: "We were delighted that Caroline was able to visit the facility and see some of the world class science that is carried out within her constituency. We feel very much part of the local community. We recently held an open day for people living in the Chilbolton and Wherwell area."
Images of the Chilbolton dish undergoing its refurbishment and of the dish after completion are available. Please contact the Press Office for more details.