There’s something mind-bogglingly awesome on your television.
It’s in between the channels – no picture, just sound.
And not just any noise. One hundredth of the fizz-crackle-hiss-buzz sound your blind grey screen’s emitting is something goose-bump-inducingly extraordinary.
The sound of creation.
Yes, your delicate, human, evolved-from-apes’ ears could – really could – be hearing the Big Bang’s audible aftermath. Reaching far-flung human beings on Earth more than 13 billion years after it happened.
Now that is cosmic. Awe inspiring. Mind-blowing.
I learn this on a great day out.
Sunday dawns fair-ish. Rain promises. Clouds hover in solitary white pufflets, then big grey bullies arrive, frightening them off.
We decide to skip the 11.30 ‘religious for a year’ appointment with Mass.
Today we’ll be investigating a different kind of mystery.
On an average day I try hard not to think about these things. My head reaches a certain point and knows, just knows, it cannot cope. It melts my cerebral hard drive.
‘But – where is everything?’ I wail. ‘Where?’
Oh little human, so bounded by the real, the here. The everywhere and nowhere. The now and then.
I cannot comprehend a universe that isn’t SOMEWHERE.
Which, I suppose, means I have to believe in a God. Because that’s the only way I can explain it. There’s more to life than what we know – or can ever know.
But I digress.
Back to Jodrell Bank. The name’s been in my consciousness since my family first had a television. A special late night treat for a little girl – The Sky at Night. Entranced by Patrick Moore and his eyebrows, enthused by the passion of a polymath for things beyond our ken.
A majestic, mysterious piece of music by Sibelius begins and ends the programme and has done for more than 50 years. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2lt4z2ntBVg
For me it’s the music of profound humility, acknowledging the immensity of the night sky, the stars, moons, planets – and the galaxies.
So it’s a pilgrimage, really, that we’re making, to this great, white, cathedral of a telescope.
You can’t see anything through it – it’s a radio telescope. You can’t climb onto its dish or up its ladders. It’s surrounded by fecund fields, sheep grazing, daisies blooming.
With a groan the motor starts, chugging like a passing slow train. The great wheels grind and turn, moving the massive structure round at a speed you can barely detect.
Rapt, I watch as the immense white dish tips, moving almost imperceptibly until it’s facing a different way – and you know, it’s listening.
Listening to the universe.
Listening to the past.
As it was in the beginning, is now and . . .
Ever shall be?
World without end?