The Chilbolton Observatory
25 Jul 2013



Chilbolton Observatory is home to a wide range of science facilities covering research in atmospheric science, radiocommunications, astronomy and space science and technology.


​​​​Chilbolton Observatory​​

The Chilbolton Observa​tory​ is a research station where experimental studies, primarily of the atmosphere, are conducted. The site is dominated by the fully steerable 25m antenna, which can host advanced powerful radars and also sophisticated sensitive receivers for satellite and astronomy work. In support of our ongoing research programmes in atmospheric science and radio propagation, the Chilbolton Observatory frequently hosts visiting experiments and research teams from universities and other research organisations, both from the UK and abroad.​

Along with Rutherford Appleton Laboratory and Daresbury Laboratory, Chilbolton Observatory is a site owned and operated by the Science and Technology Facilities Council. The CFARR facility at Chilbolton is funded largely by NERC (Natural Environment Research Council). The LOFAR facility is funded by LOFAR UK.

​​​Chilbolton Facility for Atmospheric and Radio Research (CFARR)

The Observatory hosts the Chilbolton Facility for Atmospheric and Radio Research CFARR which is one of the world's most advanced meteorological research facilities and home to the world's largest fully steerable meteorological radar, the Chilbolton Advanced Meteorological Radar (CAMRa). Data collected by the Facility's many instruments are archived and distributed through the British Atmospheric Data Centre BADC (link opens in a new window). Live data from Chilbolton is showcased on the Chilbolton Weather Web (link opens in a new window).

CFARR is equipped with a wide range of advanced meteorological radars, lidars and radiometeres for remote sensing of the atmosphere from the ground. ​The Facility makes measurements of clear air turbulence and refractivity, cloud characteristics, precipitation, water vapour and aerosol. Measurements of these key parameters make a major contribution to reducing current uncertainties in numerical weather and climate models. In addition to improving the prediction of climate change, the measurements are being used to study the atmospheric processes that lead to storms and flooding. 

Chilbolton Advanced Meteorological Radar (CAMRa)

One of the main research tools at Chilbolton is the 25m fully steerable antenna. The high-power 3 GHz CAMRa radar is installed on this antenna and can detect anything from aircraft to insects. CAMRa provides high resolution, long range measurements of all types of precipitation such as rain, snow and hail. Chilbolton's 25m CAMra antenna is also being used for the in-orbit testing of the Galileo satellites, Europe's first global navigation satellite system.​

The dish is able to record detailed information about the height and depth of clouds, whether they are clouds made of ice or water and determine the shape and size of raindrops out to a range of 90 kilometres. Looking at this information scientists are able to determine whether the clouds are likely to cause huge storms such as the recent floods in Queensland, Australia.

For more information on the work carried out by scientists and researchers at the Chilbolton facility and this NERC funded research, please visit the Planet Earth podcast.

​​Light Detection And Ranging (LiDAR)

Scientists use Chilbolton Observatory's sophisticated LiDAR radar and radiometer instruments to characterise the atmosphere by making detailed measurements of water vapour, cloud, aerosol particles and precipitation such as rainfall. These measurements are helping to improve the prediction of climate change and severe weather conditions. They also monitor how the atmosphere impacts upon radio communication systems.

Research helps scientists and meteorologists:

  • understand how clouds form and develop into rain or storm clouds
  • investigate the effects of cloud composition, such as ice particle shape and orientation, on the Earth's energy balance
  • understand the properties and impact of aerosols in the atmosphere

Other instruments include:

  • cloud, rain and clear air radar systems
  • doppler lidar for measuring the boundary layer turbulence in the atmosphere
  • high power UV lidar for measuring aerosol and water vapour profiles
  • radiometers for profiling water vapour
  • disdrometers for measuring the drop size distribution of rain
  • meterological sensors

Chilbolton's UHF/VHF antennae will be used to communicate with UKube-1 after it is launched in June 2014. Data from UKube-1 may also be downlinked using the faster S-band transmitter (one of the payload experiments). In addition to this the Observatory also hosts a Met Office measurement facility, LOFAR Radio Telescope and a satellite Groundstation.


Darcy Ladd - Station Manager at Chilbolton Observatory

Science and Technology Facilities Council
Chilbolton Observatory
Drove Road
Nr Stockbridge
Hampshire SO20 6BJ

For more information please contact: RAL Space Enquiries