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In pictures: Visions of the Universe

Images that blur the line between the Outer Space and ideas of Heaven

This summer Royal Museums Greenwich brings together over one hundred beautiful and awe-inspiring images of space for a major new exhibition looking at the development of telescopy, photography, and our understanding of our place in the cosmos.

Starting with Galileo, the first person to look at the stars through a telescope, Visions of the Universe charts the development of astronomical imaging, revealing the role that astronomers played in pushing forward the technology of cameras and telescopes so that in 2013 we can see the weather on distant planets and look beyond the Milky Way into galaxies beyond.

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Visitors to the exhibition will take a visual trip through our solar system encountering images of the Moon, Sun, the planets and deep space, before coming back to Earth to a selection of images that reflect our fascination with the night sky. The photographs on display include the latest cutting edge images captured by NASA, the Russian space programme and some of the greatest telescopes in the world, as well as highlights from the last four years of the Royal Observatory’s highly successful Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition.

With views of the dazzling aurora on the surface of Saturn, the spectacular clouds of colourful dust in which new stars are forming thousands of light years away, and the dizzying sight of Earth as seen from the International Space Station, Visions of the Universe celebrates the aesthetic beauty of space photography as well as the scientific discoveries that advances in technology have allowed. Photographs taken from the far side of Saturn, or using UV light, infrared and radar demonstrate that by combining cameras and telescopes astronomers have been able to see vistas that would be impossible from our home planet, and capture information that the human eye could never discern.

The centrepiece of the exhibition is the ‘Mars Window’ - a thirteen metre by four metre curved wall onto which the latest images beamed back by NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover are projected, creating the impression of looking through a giant window out onto the rocky Martian landscape – the first time a museum exhibition has used images from a current space mission in this way. 

Highlights from the photographs on display include: the first astronomical image ever taken; Edwin Hubble’s 1923 photograph which confirmed the existence of galaxies beyond our own; the 1969 image of the first human to walk on the moon; and the astronomical photograph which helped to prove the General Theory of Relativity.

7 June – 15 September 2013 at the National Maritime Museum