THE Jodrell Bank Observatory is taking its first major steps to resume operations after lockdown as part of what is probably the biggest ‘reboot’ in the history of astrophysics.

After the longest shutdown in their history, the first set of telescopes are being switched on so they can again contribute new data to the international science community.

Major projects that Jodrell is planning to rejoin this summer include a programme to determine the mystery of how planets are formed – and testing the theory that dust and gases create pebble-sized matter that bond together to create a single planetary rock.

Also up and running is the 42-foot dish which sits atop Jodrell’s main building and is busy monitoring the activities of pulsars.

“Getting Jodrell back into operation after such a long shutdown is a really positive signal to our team at Jodrell, the rest of the university and the international science community,” said Professor Mike Garrett, director of the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics.

“It’s a very reassuring message to our students and prospective students who look to Manchester, because it’s all about discovering new knowledge. That is beginning to happen again.”

Professor Garett said getting Jodrell back to pre-lockdown status would be a complex and phased process, ensuring staff and students were fully safeguarded.

During the height of lockdown a community of 60 staff was reduced to a skeleton crew.

He added: “Safety is our number one consideration, so nothing can be rushed. We must be sure that research, technical staff and students are all safe – thankfully, much of our work can be done remotely.”

He said Jodrell scientists had continued much of their research at home accessing and analysing a swathe of legacy data.

The next phase in Jodrell’s post-lockdown strategy is restarting the e-MERLIN programme, seven radio telescopes spanning 217 km across the UK connected by a superfast optical fibre network with its headquarters at Jodrell.

Telescopes in the e-MERLIN array will be activated one by one, with the nearest dishes to Jodrell switched on first.

As the summer progresses work to complete the final stage of resurfacing on the giant Lovell telescope will resume.