Highlights of The Sun: Living With Our Star exhibition at the Science Museum London

The Sun: Living With Our Star is the biggest exhibition about the Sun ever staged and now open at the Science Museum until 6 May 2019. It’s the perfect place to get the kids to during half term holidays. Children and parents alike have the chance to learn more about the nine most surprising moments in the history of sunglasses, the art inspired by the year without summer, and how the Sun has helped shape fashion trends over the years. There are spectacular interactive experiences and unique artefacts to enable us to explore our relationship with the Sun. This exhibition coincides with the 150th anniversary of the discovery of helium in the Sun. 

As soon as you get into the exhibition, you find out how from the centre of our solar system, the Sun’s brilliant light shapes our sense of time, our health and our environment. People have tried to harness its power and uncover its secrets since the dawn of civilisation.  I loved exploring original  beautiful early Nordic Bronze Age artefacts that reveal ancient beliefs of how the Sun was transported across the sky, to details of upcoming NASA and ESA solar missions. It showcases humankind’s dependence upon and everchanging understanding of our star. 

At the press launch I enjoyed the presentation by Dr Harry Cliff, Lead Curator of the exhibition, who said that the Sun is also a subject that is increasingly relevant for the way we live now, from the threat of solar storms to the upcoming space missions that will allow humankind to touch the Sun for the first time. 

Animations, archive recordings and film bring to life a unique collection of scientific instruments, technological innovations and historic artefacts. 

Galileo Galilei’s telescope and drawings

Highlights from the Science Museum collection include an astronomical spectroscope made for Norman Lockyer – who campaigned for the founding of the Science Museum – who used it to identify the element helium in the Sun’s atmosphere in 1868. This exhibition coincides with the 150th anniversary of Lockyer’s discovery, the first of an “extra-terrestrial” element, as helium had not yet been found on Earth. Also on display is the original orrery, a mechanical model of the Solar System, made for the Earl of Orrery in 1712 to demonstrate the motions of the Earth and Moon around the Sun. 

The exhibition looks at the ongoing work to recreate the nuclear reactions that power the Sun here on Earth. Children have the chance to get up close to a Tokamak ST25-HTS, a prototype nuclear fusion reactor which successfully created and sustained plasma for a record-breaking 29 hours in 2015.

There’s a corner of the exhibition dedicated to beach life so kids can play with the exhibits while parents can chill sitting in deck chairs under palm trees. This is one of several unique interactive experiences designed for visitors to experience and explore the power of the Sun, including a huge illuminated wall display that allows them to see the Sun rise in different seasons and different locations around the world, and a digital mirror that lets visitors virtually try on a range of sunglasses from the Science Museum collection.

Over many centuries people have worked to unlock the secrets of the Sun, and this exhibition explores the great advances made since the invention of the telescope in the early 1600s.  Detailed and beautiful sketches, prints, paintings and photographs of the Sun reveal the important observations recorded by artists and astronomers between the mid-1800s and mid-1900s, including the sunspot paintings of James Nasmyth and photographs by Elizabeth Beckley, one of the first female employees of an astronomical observatory. 

During the press preview, I flipped through the pages of the catalogue The Sun: One Thousand Years of Scientific Imagery, by Lead Curator Dr Harry Cliff and Curator of Art Collections Dr Katy Barrett is available to accompany the exhibition. Published by Scala, this lavishly illustrated volume explores our fascination with the Sun through a rich selection of scientific imagery.

While browsing the exhibition I was offered a range of products created by catering Benugo to provide a boost in vitamin D and serotonin levels that can deplete due to lack of sunlight. The range includes The Sun cupcakes, solar power balls, beetroot latte, a turmeric, yuzu and black pepper boost, and sunblush tomato and red pesto pasta.

My geeky 12 year old son Diego would love to see this. This is the perfect event for children of his age! 

6 October 2018 – 6 May 2019

The Sun: Living With Our Star is open now.

Tickets from £15, concessions available
Tickets available from www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/see-and-do/the-sun-living-with-our-star

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