Discovery Centre

Illuminate Events in 2007

As part of the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Lovell Telescope during 2007, several events took place in which the telescope itself took centre stage. This series of events was funded mainly by a grant from the Royal Academy of Engineering and sought to highlight the Telescope's rich engineering and scientific history.

The first event, on 3rd August 2007, was a specially-commissioned musical composition during which the Telescope was literally "playing the universe". The event celebrated the Lovell Telescope as a functional instrument for measuring space and time and as a striking sculptural object situated within a landscape. The music was composed by artists Jem Finer and Ansuman Biswas. Prerecorded musical sources formed the basis of an hour long semi-improvised composition, responding and interweaving with live audio signals. Choreographed to track a number of celestial objects, as the Telescope turned and tilted, it relayed a live stream of radio data while microphones attached to its structure, and buried beneath the Telescope, amplified the sounds of its motion. The Telescope was also illuminated from multiple angles, its movement creating a complex interplay of shadows and light, growing in intensity over the duration of the performance. A sell-out crowd were enthralled by the grandeur of the Telescope, which the artists cunningly evoked with eerie sounds and moody lighting.

The main event in this series, called "Space50", coincided (approximately) with the 50th anniversary of the launch of Sputnik 1 in October 1957. It celebrated not only a half-century of scientific discovery by the Lovell Telescope, but the first 50 years of the Space Age. During the show, the huge dish of the Telescope acted as a giant video screen, displaying images of early space exploration, astronomy, engineering, the history and future of radio astronomy and the construction of the Lovell Telescope itself. These spectacular moving images were combined with music and a specially-commissioned light and laser show. The projected images were about 150 foot tall, more than twice the biggest IMAX screen in the world! To achieve the spectacular effects during the show, three 20,000 lumen video projectors were used, as well as almost 30,000 watts of lighting in a combination of colour spotlights, moving pattern lights and strobes. Two 8 watt programmable neon lasers were also positioned to create patterns above the audience. Over the two nights of the Space50 performance, approximately 2500 people viewed the spectacle on-site, with many more stopping by the roadside for miles around! The event could be seen from almost 20 miles away!

In November and December, two smaller events were run in which the public were invited to submit artwork in a national competition to celebrate the Lovell Telecope's 50th anniversary. The winners and runners-up were invited to Jodrell Bank Observatory and the winning artworks were projected onto the dish of the Telescope. There were about 200 entries to the competition and several hundred people attended the two events.