Winchester Science Centre takes one million people on a journey into space

Winchester Science Centre and Planetarium is celebrating the milestone of welcoming one million visitors into the planetarium, which opened as a new addition to the Science Centre in 2008, and taking them on a virtual journey through space.

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Staff at the Science Centre were poised to welcome visitor number – 1,000,000 into the planetarium and they gave free entry to the lucky recipients, who amazedly had their own connection to space.

“We love space, my daughter Despina shares her name with one of Neptune’s moons,” said Dina Pitsillides. “Despina and Penny were really looking forward to visiting the planetarium and to be the millionth visitor is so exciting!”

Despina was discovered in July 1989 by the Voyager 2 Science team and designated S/1989 N3. Despina is a tiny irregular-shaped moon that orbits Neptune every eight hours, circling in the same direction as Neptune’s own rotation.

Whilst staff at the Science Centre were welcoming its millionth visitor, the team were busy inspiring shoppers at Westquay with lots of hands-on activities and a live show as part of a pop-up science exhibition for British Science Week. 

“To have taken one million people on a journey into space is a great milestone for us,” said Ben Ward, CEO of Winchester Science Centre and Planetarium. “Our educational charity was set up in 1985 to inspire future generations to follow a career in science, technology, engineering and maths, and the planetarium has contributed hugely to that.

“The charity has undergone significant changes over the past 18 months and this has been reflected in the launch of a new strategic plan, and a clear emphasis on sparking curiosity in STEM. We don’t want to teach children about science, we want to enable children to experience it for themselves, to be excited by science and to want to find out more. First and foremost we want a visit to Winchester Science Centre to be a great day out for children and their grown-ups, whether they visit as a school, a family or a group.

“Parents and grandparents play and huge role in influencing children’s education and career choices and if they’re not confident in STEM then this can be a real barrier for children. We want children’s grown-ups to know that it’s ok not to know, we can help. I believe our greatest asset is our people. We have a great team of professional science communicators delivering engaging workshops, live shows and activities. We have introduced lots of new events this past year, including themed weekends and holiday clubs and live shows every school holiday, we have welcomed guest presenters and run an evening events programme embracing comedy and arts. As a result we have welcomed a 10% growth in visitor numbers over the past year and are on track to welcome 180,000 people this financial year, the highest ever achieved.

“The changes we have made over the past year are just the start, we have ambitious plans for the charity. To support our development we are recruiting some really exciting new positions, such as Head of Widening Participation to grow our community engagement and schools outreach programme, and Head of Ingenuity, to lead and deliver the creative development of the Science Centre,” added Ben.

All current vacancies are published online at www.winchestersciencecentre.org/join-us and Winchester Science Centre is a Disability Confident employer.

The Planetarium opened as a new addition to the Science Centre in 2008, six years after Hampshire Technology opened INTECH. In 2013, the charity changed its name to Winchester Science Centre, and it is one of Hampshire’s top attractions for families and schools.