The Science Museum today announced plans to open a new exhibition tracing the history of astronomy. The exhibition, Cosmos & Culture: how astronomy has shaped our world, will explore how people around the world have studied the universe over the centuries and examine the role astronomy has played in people’s lives.
Opening on 23 July 2009, the exhibition celebrates the International Year of Astronomy. July also marks 400 years of telescopic astronomy, since Thomas Harriot made the first ever drawing of the moon through a telescope. A facsimile of this drawing, along with Harriot’s original moon map of 1610, will be on display in the exhibition.
Spanning many centuries and cultures - from the 10th to the 21st centuries, the exhibition will look at the various ways humans have studied the stars. Featuring rare and beautiful objects from the Science Museum’s world-leading astronomy collection, the exhibition is divided into three sections – astronomical technology, evolving cosmological theories and astronomy and everyday life.
The exhibition explores the history of the telescope - from the early models developed by Galileo and Newton to modern space-based technologies such as the Hubble Space Telescope. The exhibition also provides a rare opportunity to see an actual space telescope: the Jet-X telescope, which had been due to fly on the cancelled Spectrum-Roentgen-Gamma international mission.
Visitors can see the telescope invented by William Herschel, the musician who discovered Uranus and became the most celebrated astronomer of his day. People can also learn about Jocelyn Bell, the student who discovered a new kind of star (pulsars) and whose radio telescope will be on display for the first time. Other highlights include Phil Shepherdson’s 1970’s amateur telescope made from baked bean cans and coat hangers and the DRIFT-1 dark matter detector used by scientists who work down Britain’s deepest mine seeking the mysterious ‘dark matter’ which makes up most of our universe.
The exhibition also explores how different cultures have studied the cosmos over the centuries. Intricate and beautiful astrolabes from the Middle East, India and Europe show how people have tracked and predicted the motion of the stars and how knowledge of these techniques spread across the world. Visitors can see a model of part of the Jaipur Observatory – a giant stone observatory designed to create a more accurate calendar system for Hindu and Muslim cultures in the 1720’s.
Alison Boyle, Curator, Astronomy and Modern Physics said, “Astronomy is a consistently popular subject with visitors and the Science Museum’s astronomy collection is one of the best in the world, with many objects not having been seen by the public before. Illustrated through object rich displays and multimedia resources, this exhibition explores our endless fascination with astronomy throughout history, how it has shaped our world and changed our perception of our place in that world today.”
Cosmos & Culture opens on 23 July and runs until the end of 2010. The exhibition forms part of the Science Museum’s centenary celebrations and coincides with a summer ‘space season’ running throughout July 2009 which will commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Moon landings. The space season will include family events, a mini sci-fi film festival, a space-themed Lates and highlights in the Exploring Space gallery.
The exhibition is supported by the Patrons of the Science Museum with additional support from the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC).
Entry is FREE to the Science Museum.
For further information visit www.sciencemuseum.org.uk or call 0870 870 4868.
Science Museum is open daily from 10am – 6pm. Nearest tube: South Kensington.
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