Opening 4th June 2022, the First Light Pavilion presents the human story of Jodrell Bank, the world’s first radio astronomy site and home to the 76m diameter Lovell radio telescope that detected quasars, pulsars, black holes and the rocket path of Sputnik 1.

Exhibition designers Casson Mann conceived of making the exhibition fabric from the original skin of the Lovell Telescope, replaced in a recent refurbishmnent, bringing visitors into direct contact with the authentic metal dish that has ‘looked towards’ the heavens and been touched by radio & cosmic rays and space dust.

The circular array of dish panels, the placement of which then defined the way the entire building was designed, maps both the earthly histories of pioneering Jodrell scientists and the cosmic sphere which they revealed to humankind. Archival material and interactives bring to life the inspiring story of how this team in the Cheshire countryside discovered extraordinary phenomena outside of human vision.

The lighting scheme had to provide highly-localised lighting to the key objects and documents from Jodrell’s history, ranging from original plans to a bicycle used by staff to travel around the site and parts from the original dish mechanism: the light levels had to be controlled to avoid affecting the large scale projections, but still provide the consistent illumination on objects and spaces within conservation limits, to allow visitors to gain a sense of both the pavilion and individual artefacts; all lighting was heavily shielded to avoid glare and concealed within setworks wherever possible, creating a dark space that evokes the local night sky (even though a radio telescope can work equally well during the day as at night) – the aim being to present the Pavilion as one consistent space, rather than exhibits and projections within a room. At the edge of the pavilion, a recessed lighting position created a horizon glow that harks back to the site of the telescope in the Cheshire countryside. The entire lighting system is controlled via a DMX network to allow every light fixture to be remotely controlled in co-ordination with the audio-visual presentation, effectively creating a large-scale theatrical presentation across the entire pavilion.

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