Among the exhibition panels telling the story of The Royal Observatory, the Domes of Discovery exhibition includes interactive exhibits which show various techniques that are used in astronomy, a video and interactive exhibits about time. For more information about the story of The Royal Observatory visit the History pages in the About Us section.
The astronomy related exhibits include: laser beams to show the path light takes through different types of telescopes; refraction; reflection. Important techniques used in astronomy are also demonstrated including parallax and spectroscopy. Please note that during the current pandemic not all of the interactive exhibits are available.
Spectroscopy is one of the most important discoveries in astronomy and is a fundamental tool allowing astronomers to investigate for example, what stars are made of, their temperatures, how fast they are moving and whether they are moving away from us or coming towards us (to name just a few). The spectroscopy exhibit shows the difference between the spectrum produced by an incandescent bulb (like an old fashioned light bulb) and a fluorescent tube. This exhibit forms part of an exhibition about the Electromagnetic Spectrum which incorporates panels explaining the different types of energy and what they are used for. This exhibition was funded by the Science and Technologies Facilities Council (STFC) for the International Year of Light 2015. The display boards are accompanied by an interactive exhibit showing Sir Isaac Newton's prism experiment when he split white light into the visible spectrum and then recombined it.
Other interactive exhibits demonstrate how an equatorial mount works. By turning the handle to rotate the globe you can see that the telescope still points to the same spot. The telescopes at Herstmonceux were called the equatorial group because of the way they are mounted. This meant that they could track the stars perfectly as the Earth spun on its axis. This was very important for taking long exposure photographs which were analysed in positional astronomy in order to map out the sky and give stars celestial coordinates.
Alongside the interactive astronomy exhibits there are a few exhibits relating to Time, to link in with the importance of The Royal Greenwich Observatory to ‘Greenwich Mean Time' including Radio Controlled Clocks. Other exhibits relating to time can be found in the small room adjacent to the Forces gallery. These include pendulums of varying lengths plus the maths behind their swing time.