Formed in a violent collision when Earth collided with another small planet, the Moon is our closest and most familiar cosmic neighbour. Last week I went to see ‘The Moon: Meet Our Nearest Neighbour’ a touring exhibition at Ipswich Art Gallery.
The Ancients Greeks made the link between the Moon and the tides here on Earth sometime during the 4th BC and then later the Roman Philosopher, Seneca writes in ‘De Providentia’ of the tides being controlled by the lunar sphere. And, when you enter this exhibition space a very, very large plastic version hangs from the double height ceiling. It is hard to get the scale from my photograph, but it does make you stop and consider how that small orb we are so used to seeing in the night sky could indeed influence the tides.
On display, apart from the modern plastic model, there are several maps and diagrams detailing the topography of the Moon including the oldest printed map made in 1707.
The Moon is Earth’s only natural satellite and, so far, the only off-world body visited and walked upon by man and included in the exhibition are two tiny pieces of actual Moon rock.
Throughout recorded history and no doubt before, humans have gazed at the Moon and found inspiration for beliefs, assigning meaning and portents. Various peoples have used the moon for calendars, timekeeping and as a navigational aid and a selection of examples are on display in the exhibition.
I was fascinated by the Moon rock, but there were two other very interesting items in the exhibition. One was a facsimile of a 3,500 year old bronze disc from Germany showing the earliest-known depiction of the cosmos. The Nebra Sky Disc shows a clear representation of the Sun and Moon surrounded by stars.
And, the other item that captivated me was a magnificent chart. As history records twelve astronauts have walked on the Moon with the first and most famous landing taking place on 20th July 1969. Below is a large wall chart of the GOSS-Mission Profile. I looked it up, GOSS means Ground Operations Support System. The schematic was an engaging and intriguing end to an an interesting exhibition.