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The Moon and beyond – National Maritime Museum

Last updated on August 17th, 2020

Old blue eyes Frank Sinatra and Tintin wanted to go there, whilst Constable, Turner and Kubrick were all infatuated with it. The moon has always held us in spellbinding fascination, as far back as the Ancient Mesopotamians. And over at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, you can go to the moon and beyond with two exhibitions which are out of this world. The Moon Exhibition celebrates 50 years since the Apollo 11 Moon Landing and the Insight Investment Astronomy Photographer of the Year is a stellar display of images from the world’s best astrophotography which will leave you totally star-struck.

The Moon Exhibition at the National Maritime Museum

My first ever memory was as a 10-month old baby. It’s 1969 and I’m watching the Apollo 11 landing. I’m propped up on the kitchen table with my family gathered around our black and white TV set (I’m suddenly feeling rather old!) There must have been so much excitement over Neil Armstrong’s landing in my house, for this monochromatic image has stayed indelibly etched in my memory.

The Moon Exhibition at the National Maritime Museum

So, it’s with a sense of nostalgia and excitement that I head over to the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich to see the Moon Exhibition. Debussy’s ‘Clair de Lune’ tinkles away as I enter the subterranean lunar exhibition. I am ready to do some space exploration.

The Moon Exhibition

The Moon is the UK’s largest exhibition dedicated to the subject, with over 180 objects celebrating our relationship with our celestial neighbour from ancient times to the present and to the future.

Moon Exhibition Greenwich

The oldest exhibit on display is this lunar eclipse ritual from Uruk (modern-day Iraq) and dating from 172BCE. To Ancient Mesopotamians, the moon represented evil forces.

The exhibition is divided into four sections, opening with an analysis of the moon as an art form and how we have been observing its waxes and wanes for thousands of years. You’ll learn about the lunar effect, its cycles and eclipses and how this affects us medically and mentally.

The Moon Exhibition Greenwich

The Moon has its own goddess, Selene, who sends her lover Endymion into eternal sleep (during which time he somehow manages to father 50 daughters!)

Section two delves into how the moon has been viewed through the lens, starting with the telescope in the 17th century, the artist’s eye in the 18th and photography in the 19th. In the 20th century, the far side of the moon is photographed for the first time.

first drawing of moon

To my surprise, I learn that Galileo was not the first to carve out a telescopic drawing of the Moon. We have a Brit to thank for that: Thomas Harriott beat the Italian by two months. He used a telescope which was less powerful than most binoculars today.

Moon Exhibition, National Maritime Museum

These early daguerrotypes of the moon were taken in the 1850s. They were on show at the 1851 Great Exhibition which was visited by 6 million people.

Onto Section three and Destination Moon, where we journey into nineteenth century science fiction with Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, and into science fact with the space race and the Apollo 11 landing.

Moon Exhibition National Maritime MuseumOne of my favourite displays in the Moon exhibition is this fax machine owned by the Daily Express. Scientists discovered they could intercept the transmissions from the Soviet-led Lunar 9 soft landing using the machine borrowed from the newspaper. The findings were published in the press, pushing the Cold War rivalry buttons to the extreme.

The exhibition ends with an interesting question: who owns the moon? It also examines when we will return to the Moon and how this can be used as a springboard to travel to other planets.

Who owns the Moon

An Outer Space Treaty from 1967 between the Soviet Union, the USA and the UK, outlining how countries should use the Moon and outer space. It banned any nation from claiming ownership.

The final item on display is Earthrise from Christmas Eve of 1968 and photographed by the astronaut Bill Anders. It is one of the most famous photos in history, an ode to Earth’s beauty and fragility.


Insight Investment Astronomy Photographer of the Year

Next up is the galactic exhibition on the ground floor which showcases some of the most spectacular space photography of its kind. It’s one of the world’s most prestigious photography prizes and I can see why: I stand and gape in awe at some of the entries, and I am a tad embarrassed to be snapping away on my puny Samsung in front of a some of the shortlisted photographers who are in attendance tonight.

Ben Bush, Floyd, Astronomy Photographer of the Year

Ben Bush’s photo with his dog Floyd is a favourite in the People’s Choice Award for the Astronomy Photographer of the Year which will be announced in February 2020.

This year’s entries for the Insight Investment Astronomy Photographer of the Year totalled a whopping 4,612 from 90 countries. These were whittled down to a 140 shortlist across eight categories. Judges were selected from the fields of photography, art and journalism.

The competition, which is now in its eleventh year, is run by the Royal Observatory Greenwich. Astrophotography is one of the most difficult forms of photography, challenging the patience of the artist to the limit. The development process is also very different, as images are often combined from multiple photos.

Insight Investment Astronomy Photographer of the Year

Cosmic Plughole by James Stone (Australia) This atmospheric image is a stacked star trail which captures an hour and a half of the Earth’s rotattion in relation to the stars.

Sean Goebel, Insight Investment Astronomy Photographer of the Year

Mars rises above the Keck telescopes on Hawaii’s Mauna Kea volcano in this image by American Sean Goebel.

Insight Investment Astronomy Photographer of the Year

Meet the winner, Hungarian Lászó Francsics with his Into the Shadow. This “love letter to the Moon” shows 35 phases of the lunar eclipse from the 21 January. It was taken using three-minute gaps.

In a Nutshell

Insight Investment Astronomy Photographer of the Year is on until 26 April 2020

See the universe in a whole new light with the world’s greatest space photography.

Perfect for: everyone – the photography is out of this world.

Cost: £9 for adults £4.50 child


The Moon Exhibition is on until 5 January 2020

Celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing with a exhibition which will leave you moonstruck.

Perfect for: budding astronomers, science aficionados and anyone wondering what’s out there. It’s the next best thing to bagging yourself a seat on Elon Musk’s Starship flight.

Make sure you see: the fax

Cost: £9 for adults £4.50 child


SPACE DAY OUT EXHIBITION SAVER: book both exhibitions for £13.50 (£6.75 child)

National Maritime Museum, Greenwich. Book here.

This is a sponsored post. All views are my opinionated own.






A London arts and culture blog featuring articles about art, theatre, opera, dance, music and design.

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