HMS Revenge served at the water boiling inferno that was the Battle of Jutland in 1916 and went on to serve in World War II. HMS Royal Sovereign missed Jutland but served in World War II and even saw time on the mind-numbingly cold Arctic convoys under the Soviet flag as Arkhangelsk. Today in 2005 it was announced that they made the first discovery of a ‘dark galaxy’.
No I’m not mad.
Early 20th century Naval engineering, forged in the blast furnaces of Great War Britain helped further human knowledge and push the frontiers of 21st Century Astronomy.
In Cheshire sits an icon of British Science and the third largest steerable radio telescope in the world. Built in the late 50s and as ever with a British project, the 250ft Telescope (as it was called then) was built on a tight budget, though inevitably it cost more than planned. Ingenuity and resourcefulness saw the team behind its construction use the parts of two battleships that were being broken up. Where once gears and pinions turned guns on the nations enemies now they would turn the white heat of Britain’s technology on the universe.
The list of the Mark 1 telescope’s achievements is a impressive, starting with tracking the first satellites, being involved in the moon landings and Mars missions, through the early observations of quasars, gravitational lensing and the discovery of Maser and not forgetting radar measurements of the Moon and Venus.
And in 2005 the now Lovell telescope looked into the most mysterious of ideas and saw galaxy VIRGOHI21 composed of dark matter. There is debate about the interpretation of the observation as a galaxy, but none-the-less it is a testament to the original conception and design of the telescope that it would be instrumental in furthering our understanding of the universe 48 years after it was constructed and almost a century after two battleships slid down their slipways into the war blighted seas of the early 20th Century.