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Into the blue logo

Into the blue Manchester

25-29 October 2016
The Runway Visitor Park, Sunbank Lane, Altrincham, WA15 8XQ

Into the blue will bring alive the world of environmental science and research by immersing visitors in a hands-on science exhibition at the Runway Visitor Park - external link at Manchester Airport. Enter into a world of science, find out about the sea and the sky, and experience the best of the UK's environmental science research and the cutting-edge technology that is used to measure and monitor our environment.

The four themes of the event are - water, air, energy and health.

Some lucky visitors will be able to go on board and experience the UK's most advanced research aircraft, to ask questions of real scientists and interact with a range of exhibits from all of NERC's centres.

Visitors will be able to ask and get answers to questions like "why is the sky blue?", "why is the sea salty?", "how do clouds know when to rain?" and "what does it feel like to fly through a storm?"

NERC's research aircraft taxiing

Exhibits and live talks

We will have forty exhibits staffed by our scientists, who are some of the best in the world. They will show visitors how environmental science affects your life, from why you breathe out methane, what happens when it floods and what climate change means for our lives, to how to build a model volcano and what litter does to our rivers. We will also have a full mock-up of the research aircraft to explore for those not lucky enough to obtain a tour of the real thing.

Find out more about our exhibitors and details of exciting live talks for all ages.

Kids experimenting with a 3D sandbox
Kids learning with a giant Jenga game
Into the blue exhibits overshadowed by a Concorde
Scientist giving a talk on sharks


If you have any queries, please contact .

Manchester Science Festival logoInto the blue Manchester is part of the Manchester Science Festival - external link 2016. The Manchester Science Festival is a creative, playful and surprising science festival taking place across Greater Manchester.

Learn all about the Facility for Airborne Atmospheric Measurements research aircraft with this infographic. Click the image below to view it full-size (794KB).

Infographic - the text of which is available to screen readers below


  • Crew: 3
  • Science crew: Up to 18
  • Wingspan: 26m
  • Max Altitude: 10.67km
  • Min Altitude: 15m (over the sea)
  • Range: 3,700km (approx)

FAAM is bristling with scientific equipment. Below the wings are probes designed to measure the physical properties of clouds.

Radiometers study things like the temperature of the atmosphere and turbulence probes measure air currents. Lidar is like a radar that uses lasers to map the terrain on the ground. There are all sorts of antennae for receiving and transmitting information - from VHF radio antennae to satellite communications (Sitcom) antennae.

Overhead luggage storage and most of the passenger seats were taken out to make space for up to 100 scientific instruments weighing up to 4 tonnes - that's around the weight of an elephant! Added fuel tanks mean the plane can carry 12 tonnes of fuel which last up to six hours in the air.

Scientific equipment is fitted into racks within the cabin. These instruments are then connected to sensors or sampling inlets on the outside of the aircraft. This ddata is sent back to the aircraft where it is processed and forwarded to the Met Office supercomputers to help with weather forecasting - all while the flight is still happening.

Some of the aircraft's features/instruments:

  • Turbulence probe
  • Water content probes
  • Air sample inlet
  • Satcom antennas
  • Broad-band radiometers
  • Large instrument blister
  • Air sample exhaust
  • VHF antenna
  • Light sensor
  • GPS antenna
  • Lidar window
  • Microwave radiometer
  • Cloud physics probe
  • Forward, upward, rearward and downward facing cameras


A piece of kit known as a 'dropsonde' can be dropped from the aircraft to take measurements between the aircraft and the ground or sea below. A special parachute slows its fall to Earth as it records atmospheric pressure, temperatures, humidity and wind speed and direction.

  • Length: 40cm
  • Diameter: 7cm
  • Weight: 390g

FAAM in action

FAAM took its first research flight in 2004 and has since flown around 1.3 million miles. It's embarked on science missions from around 30 countries and spent approximately 5,000 hours in flight. The aircraft is owned by the Natural Environmental Research Council (NERC) and operated in partnership with the Met Office.


In summer 2016, the FAAM aircraft was sent to India to measure the onset of the Asian monsoon for the first time, and help scientists learn how to predict the heavy rains which are so important for the country's farmers. Indian research ships and underwater marine robots were also used as part of the campaign. The findings will help scientists better understand how the monsoon phenomena affect global weather systems in light of man-made climate change.

Polar regions

Clouds usually have a cooling effect on the surface of the Earth, but above the Arctic and Antarctic - where the white, icy surface reflects heat back into the atmosphere - the effect is reversed and clouds act like a blanket trapping heat beneath them. FAAM research aims to help understand how clouds affect the climate in the polar regions and what affect this has on global weather patterns.


FAAM science has been used to explain massive dust outbreaks in the Saharan desert - investigating how particles interact with the atmosphere above Africa in the grand scheme of the global climate. Dust particles lifted from the Saharan desert play a major role in cloud formation. Saharan dust is deposited all over the world and helps to fertilise the oceans and the Amazon rainforest.


The oceans have a huge effect on the Earth's climate. The FAAM aircraft helps climate scientists understand how the seas drive cloud and rain formation, impacting global weather systems. FAAM is also helping scientists to understand how global warming and ocean acidification are affecting the chemical make-up of the sea and its biodiversity.