The Jodrell Bank Observatory has announced that a highly-anticipated £21.5 million interactive visitor attraction is opening this summer.
The First Light Pavilion – part of the wider First Light Project, which is all about telling the stories of its pioneering scientists and opening up the inspirational history of the important Cheshire site – will showcase archives and artefacts, together with animations and projections, when it officially opens to the public on 4 June 2022.
Visitors to the new attraction will be able to experience a meteor shower, crawl into a black hole, or even see like a snake.
The building itself was an original idea developed by Jodrell Bank professors Teresa Anderson and Tim O’Brien, was designed by the award-winning architect HASSELL Studio, and takes the form of a grass-topped 76m-diameter dome – which is said to “cleverly mirror the shape and scale of the landmark Lovell Telescope”.
Inside the pavilion, the First Light Exhibition will bring to life the Jodrell Bank story, which dates back to 1945, and is known as the birthplace of radio astronomy thanks to its exploration of the universe using radio waves instead of visible light.
Exhibition audiences will be able to see a range of fascinating archive materials brought together for the first time, including audio, film, diaries, letters, plans, notebooks, and photographs, with the highlight being the chance to see a number of personal items belonging to Jodrell Bank’s founder Sir Bernard Lovell.
There’ll also be the opportunity to experience vivid planetarium-style shows in a custom-built auditorium, complete with a curved projection screen and nine digital projectors.
A new temporary exhibition gallery will show the building’s construction processes, such as how the telescope panels were removed and restored to form the backdrop of the main exhibition, and a guided tour that takes visitors to previously-inaccessible parts of the Jodrell Bank site will also be launched later in the year.
A 130-cover café with a terrace overlooking the Jodrell Bank Arboretum and a menu using seasonal and sustainable produce is another part of the attraction.
Speaking ahead of the opening of the attraction, Professor Anderson – Director at the Jodrell Bank Centre for Engagement – said: “After years of planning, we are thrilled to finally be able to announce the opening of First Light – a moment [that] will mark a whole new chapter for Jodrell Bank.
“We’re looking forward to welcoming our first visitors through the doors and in to this beautiful new space.”
The project has been made possible with funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
The National Lottery Heritage Fund awarded £12.5 million to the project “so that the site’s powerful human stories of curiosity, exploration, and discovery could be shared with the public”, according to chief executive Eilish McGuinness.
She added: “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.”
You can find more information about the First Light Pavilion here.
Featured Image – Jodrell Bank