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Photos: Landmark satellite site to explore the cosmos

Goonhilly to join radio telescope network
By Nick Heath, Contributor
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Goonhilly to join radio telescope network

The satellite dish site that received the first live transatlantic television broadcast is to be given a new lease of life helping man to explore the cosmos.

The Goonhilly Satellite Earth Station on Cornwall's Lizard Peninsula was at one time the largest satellite earth station in the world, with about 60 dishes - one of the biggest of which is seen here - handling about 10 million telephone calls each week. In 1962, the Arthur dish - one of the largest on the site weighing in at 1,118 tonnes - was used to receive the first live television broadcast to be sent from the US.

Satellite operations on the site ceased in 2007 but, following a new business deal, dishes at Goonhilly could now be used as part of a radio telescope or to communicate with spacecraft.

On Wednesday it was announced that site owners BT will lease most of the antennas on the site, including its four largest dishes, to a consortium known as Goonhilly Earth Station (GES), as part of a three-year agreement, which includes the option for GES to purchase the site.

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GES plans to link the Goonhilly dishes to the e-MERLIN radio telescope, an array of seven radio telescopes situated 217km apart across the UK that are connected by a fibre optic network.

Researchers use e-MERLIN to collect data to shed light on subjects such as star formation and how black holes grow as galaxies evolve.

Another use for the antenna may be to relay communications to spacecraft in deep space.

The plans will regenerate the site, seen here in its heyday with technical staff controlling satellite broadcast traffic.

The GES consortium is made up of satellite internet company Orbit Research Ltd and Oxford University.

In a statement, professor Steve Rawlings, Oxford University professor of astrophysics, said: "The opportunity to include Goonhilly in a number of leading radio astronomy projects and related research and development work is truly exciting.

"Once upgraded, the dishes at Goonhilly can quickly be connected to the e-MERLIN network operated out of Jodrell Bank and revolutionise its ability to study the universe."

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The GES is planing to upgrade the Goonhilly antennas, pictured here as the sun sets over the Cornish peninsula, ready to put them to new use.

Once the upgrade work is complete, Oxford University plans to carry out scientific research and teaching at the Goonhilly site.

As well as renovating the antenna, the consortium intends to transform Goonhilly's visitor centre into an outreach centre promoting space and space science.

To see more pictures of Goonhilly, check out Photos: The legendary satellite dishes of Goonhilly.

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