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See the first light !

Updated: Aug 4, 2022

The First Light Pavilion, Jodrell Bank’s highly-anticipated new attraction, is set to open to the public on 4th June 2022.

The stunning new building is at the heart of the £21.5m First Light Project, supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, which aims to open up the inspirational history of Jodrell Bank by engaging visitors with the fantastic stories of its pioneering scientists and their ground-breaking feats of science and engineering.

Image credit: Beccy Lane

The First Light Pavilion was designed by the award-winning architect HASSELL Studio to respond sympathetically to its unique surroundings. The striking building takes the form of a grass-topped 76m diameter dome which cleverly mirrors the shape and scale of the landmark Lovell Telescope. By maintaining an age-old tradition of building structures that express our relationship to the skies above us, the building also makes reference to ancient sites such as Stonehenge and Newgrange, by aligning with the sun via a meridian line cut through the dome’s entranceway. Facing due South, a slim vertical window right in the centre of the building invites the sun to shine through a finger of light that moves across the entrance foyer as the day goes on, acting as a giant sundial.

Image credit: Keir Construction

The launch of the new Pavilion will firmly establish the Jodrell Bank site, which is part of The University of Manchester, as a major UK cultural destination, fitting for its uniquely multi-dimensional status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, national visitor attraction, a cultural icon, and globally significant scientific research facility. Eilish McGuinness, CEO of The National Lottery Heritage Fund said: “Jodrell Bank is truly a unique heritage site, of national and international importance, with an inspirational story of Britain’s role as a leader in the science of the exploration of the universe, set in a landscape of great beauty and with iconic heritage at every turn. The National Lottery Heritage Fund awarded £12.5 million to the First Light Project so that the site’s powerful human stories of curiosity, exploration, and discovery could be shared with the public. The stunning new building, its exciting exhibition, and an incredibly diverse and inclusive engagement programme, will all have a fantastic impact, delighting and inspiring every visitor, including the next generation of scientists following in the footsteps of Sir Bernard Lovell.” David Rutley, MP for Macclesfield, added: “The opening of the First Light Pavilion will be a remarkable moment not just for Cheshire and the North West but for the whole of the UK. Visitors from across the nation will be able to come here and celebrate the pioneering spirit of endeavour that this much-loved site has come to represent.”

Image credit: Andrew Brooks

The concept for the new building was an original idea developed by Jodrell Bank’s Professors Teresa Anderson and Tim O’Brien who have passionately spearheaded the project since its inception. Professor Teresa Anderson, Director, Jodrell Bank Centre for Engagement said: “After years of planning, we are thrilled to finally be able to announce the opening date of our new First Light Pavilion. This moment will mark a whole new chapter for Jodrell Bank and we’re looking forward to welcoming our first visitors through the doors and into this beautiful new space.”

The scientists at Jodrell Bank proceeded to build the world’s largest radio telescopes in succession. The 66m Transit Telescope made the first-ever identification of a radio object outside our own galaxy -the great nebula in Andromeda. It was superseded by the famous Lovell Telescope in 1957, the first act of which was to track the carrier rocket of Sputnik 1 by radar, witnessing the dawn of the Space Age.

Image credit: Scot Salt

Far from traditional displays of words, pictures and static objects, this highly interactive exhibition will weave archives and artifacts together with animations, projections, and experiences. Visitors will be able to sit back in a deckchair to experience the thrill of a meteor shower, crawl into a black hole or see like a snake, and even try ‘driving’ a radio telescope. At the heart of the impressive space will sit a ‘control desk’ from where visitors will be empowered to take charge of the displays themselves and even set off a ‘digital Sputnik’ to traverse the length of the exhibition. The nature of this kind of high-level interactivity means that every single visitor will experience their own completely unique version of the exhibition. Meanwhile, visitors will also be able to experience vivid planetarium-style shows in a custom-built auditorium, complete with a curved projection screen and an impressive 9 digital projectors.

The state-of-the-art Space Dome will offer every visitor an immersive audio-visual experience with a specially commissioned film about the history of Jodrell Bank. Audiences looking for a more traditional planetarium show can add on the exhilarating ‘Journey through Space’ which takes in the beauty and wonder of the universe. The return of such shows, which were hugely popular at Jodrell Bank until the removal of its old planetarium in 2003, is expected to be a big attraction.

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