The National Maritime Museum is one of the largest institutions of its kind in the world, celebrating Britain's estimable seafaring legacy with a truly staggering collection of historical objects and documents. Now, though, a unique new exhibition sees the museum turning its attention from the high seas to the stars.
Visions of the Universe, which opens next month, claims to "tell the story of astronomical imaging" – incorporating a vast and eclectic array of drawings and photographs of the cosmos. Starting with the earliest surviving hand-drawn charts, the exhibition will bring us all the way up to images captured by the Mars Curiosity rover in 2012.
Attendees will be able to see stunning reproductions of some of the best pictures of stars, planets, galaxies and nebulae ever captured – including, for instance, photographs taken in astounding detail by the Hubble Space Telescope.
Some of these images come from NASA and some from the Russian space programme, but there are also examples of the very best in amateur astronomical photography. A carefully curated selection of highlights from the Royal Observatory's Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition will be on display, with the most talented entrants since 2009 all represented.
The National Maritime Museum will also host a series of related events, including talks, workshops and planetarium shows. 'The Universe Through an Astronomer's Eyes' is a special guided tour of the exhibition by astronomer and curator Marek Kukula, giving attendees the opportunity to hear an expert's perspective on the images on show.
For those interested in matters of extraterrestrial life, 'To Mars and Beyond: The Search for Life in the Universe' should prove unmissable. This planetarium show is hosted by Dr Louisa Preston, who will explain in layman's terms her groundbreaking research on the possible existence of aliens.
Visions of the Universe opens on June 7th and runs until mid-September, so those planning to stay in London hotels over the summer have plenty of time to visit. The National Maritime is a short trip from the city centre by Docklands Light Railway or London Underground.