Only astronauts can really know the indescribable feeling of being able to see the Earth in its entirety, but in Rochdale until Christmas you can get something approaching the same experience.
Gaia, the stunning replica of planet Earth, is open in Rochdale and you can see it for free. Direct from the Congress Of Parties (COP) 26 in Glasgow, artist Luke Jerram's internationally renowned huge work of art depicting the Earth is being exhibited at Number One Riverside in the town centre. The exhibit is open 7 days a week, 9am to 5pm weekdays (extended until 6pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays) and 10am to 5pm on Saturdays, 1pm to 5pm on Sundays, until 24 December 2021.
The sculpture is designed as a talking point, a reason to bring people together to think about our home and should give a 'renewed sense of responsibility for taking care of the environment', say organisers. The name Gaia comes from Greek mythology, meaning the personification of the Earth.
7 metres in diameter and created from detailed NASA imagery of the Earth's surface, it provides an opportunity to see the planet on a huge scale, floating in 3 dimensions. A surround sound composition plays while Gaia rotates once every 4 minutes, 360 times faster than the real Earth.
'Wonderful and inspiring'
Gaia was beamed worldwide during its high profile recent visit to COP26 in Glasgow. It aims to create a sense of the 'Overview Effect', a common reaction by astronauts who have seen the real thing, 'a feeling of awe for the planet, a profound understanding of the interconnection of all life and a renewed sense of responsibility for taking care of the environment.'
Booking is not required, however as it is in an indoor space all visitors are encouraged to wear face coverings.
You can also minimise the environmental impact of your journey to Rochdale by using public transport. Gaia is located inside Number One Riverside, next to the Rochdale Town Centre Metrolink stop, the bus station and only a short walk from the train station.
As well as seeing the spectacular Gaia, there are special events themed around looking after our environment and its precious resources.
Councillor Sue Smith, cabinet member for communities and co-operation at Rochdale Borough Council said:
"That moment of seeing the world in front of you is wonderful and inspiring. We know we urgently need to look after our home and change our behaviour. I hope to see visitors of all ages coming to see it and getting a new perspective of our place on the planet."
In July 2019 Rochdale declared a climate emergency and Councillor Sara Rowbotham, deputy leader and cabinet member for climate change and sustainability said:
"Climate change will impact the lives of everybody who lives and works in the borough unless we take action. It's going to mean more frequent intense storms increasing the devastating flooding we have already experienced. The council has a responsibility to take meaningful action to reduce carbon emissions, alongside preparing the borough for the impacts of a changing climate and I hope Gaia will spark the imagination of those who visit in lots of ways and inspire us all to think about the changes we can make."
Gaia visitors can share their views on the borough's climate change priorities, you'll be invited to cast your vote by placing a token in one of 5 boxes.
The exhibition and supporting events are staged in partnership with Rochdale Borough Council and Your Trust, supported financially by the Garfield Weston Foundation.
Gaia is created in partnership the following partners: