Space in the archives

A space-themed delve into the archives of the Royal Institution.

An illustration of the moon from Chart der Gebirge Des Mondes, 1878.

A few of the lantern slides include moving parts, designed to bring a presentation to life. Here, 'the Earth's annual motion round the sun, showing the parallelism of its axis, thereby producing the seasons':

And 'a diagram illustrating the cause of spring and neap tides, shewing the moon's phases during its revolution':

Charte der Gebirge Des Mondes

Charte der Gebirge Des Mondes is an 1878 publication in our collection. At about 1 metre wide and tall, it includes 25 hugely detailed illustrations of the moon, which combine to make one beautiful complete image.

Magic lantern slides

Long before the days of digital projectors, magic lanterns were a crucial part of astronomy presentations at the Ri. This collection of hand painted slides comes from around 1850, and were used by pioneer of astronomical photography Warren De la Rue and others. Scroll through the images below.

An ever-growing collection

Remember to watch this year's CHRISTMAS LECTURES with Kevin Fong on BBC Four on 28, 29 and 30 of December, or on the Ri Channel in early 2016 to witness cutting edge space science of today. And of course, the highlights from Kevin's lectures will be preserved and add another layer to our archive for future generations to enjoy.

This isn't the first time the Royal Institution has been caught up in a swell of excitement about space. For over 200 years we've been gazing at the stars, and some of the first lectures at the Ri in 1801 were on astronomy. As a result our archives are overflowing with space-related gems; here are a few of our favourites.

The stars: A gnomonic projection

This publication was produced by astronomer Richard A Proctor in 1866 and includes these foldable star charts. Download the Northern and Southern star charts and the Northern and Southern hemisphere constellations and try assembling them for yourself.