THE stars of astronomy backed the fight to save Goostrey’s historic Jodrell Bank Observatory.
The iconic landmark faces the axe under the Government’s Science and Technology Funding Council’s (STFC) plans to cut £80m from space science and astronomy spending. The tourist centre could be shut to save £2.7m a year.
The threat of closure has drawn huge criticism from astronomers and experts.
The Sky at Night presenter Sir Patrick Moore attacked the proposals saying: “It would be a devastating blow to astronomy.”
President of the Royal Astronomical Society, professor Michael Rowan-Robinson, said: “Closing down UK involvement in a swathe of projects will harm our ability to carry out cutting-edge research, our international reputation and our ability to attract young people into science and physics.”
The deadline for astronomers and scientists to object to the STFC’s proposals is on Friday.
So far, more than 5,000 people have joined an online petition to save Jodrell Bank on the Facebook social networking website.
An £8m upgrade to the Merlin network – which links the centre with satellite dishes in Darnhall and Pickmere – is just months from completion.
Phil Diamond, director of the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics, said it would make it “30 times more powerful and be one of the world’s leading radio telescopes.”
The centre has played a role in space exploration since Sir Bernard Lovell installed army radar equipment at the site in 1945, with the 250ft-wide Grade I listed Lovell Telescope opening in 1957.
The Liberal Democrats pledged to lobby the Government to provide proper funding to save both Jodrell Bank and the Daresbury Laboratory near Runcorn along with the jobs that go with them.
Spokeswoman Jo Crotty said: “Both of these centres are very important to the whole North West. At Jodrell Bank there is already a waiting list of scientists wanting to use the Merlin project’s facilities.
“In addition to being a world-leading research facility, Jodrell Bank has also played a big role in nurturing an interest in science among generations of young people.
“Every year, 70,000 people visit the site, half of them schoolchildren. The Government must step in and ensure the North West does not lose these crucial sites.”