The Moon at Sweden's Observatory Museum

Barry Davidoff and Michel Koivisto

Photos by
Thomas Johnson

The exploration of the moon throughout the ages is the theme the exhibit of an exciting new exhibit, Månen (Moon) in Stockholm, Sweden. Although the exhibit is not very large physically, it is very broad in scope and contains a superb collection of rare manuscripts. The items range from a medieval edition of Ptolemy's Almagest, to a moon rock from Apollo 17. The exhibit features rare books, antique astronomical instruments, art, and models of spacecraft.

The exhibit is under the auspices of the Kungliga Vetenskapsakademien (Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences), the same society that every year awards the Nobel Prizes in Chemistry and Physics. The exhibit is at the Observatoriemuseet (Observatory Museum), which is Sweden's equivalent of the Royal Observatory in Greenwich England. The Observatory itself opened in 1753 and is situated in a park atop a hill which offers lovely panoramic views of Stockholm. The Observatory has been converted into a museum with exhibits on the history of science and astronomy in Sweden and contains several telescopes used by amateur astronomers. More information on Observatoriemuseet is available at

One of the highlights of Månen is one of the first copies of Galileo's Sideral Messenger published in Venice in 1610. The book appropriately is opened to one of the first illustrations of the moon made by viewing through a telescope showing that it had an irregular surface and was cratered. Together with Galileo's discovery of the four moons of Jupiter, the old order of astronomy was replaced by the Copernican revolution. A 16th century portrait of Galileo peers over this edition along with replicas of two of Galileo's telescopes.

Although the focus of the exhibit is on rare manuscripts, since this site is devoted to more modern topics, the space age section of the exhibit will be covered first. The most important item is an actual piece of the moon that was returned by Apollo 17. The moon rock is shown with a Swedish flag that was carried aboard Apollo 17's command module, America. The moon rock and the Swedish flag were later presented to King Gustav XVI. The moon rock and flag were previously shown at the Mot Månen exhibit at Kulturhuset in Stockholm in 1998. (See

The exhibit is one of the few places in the world where models of the Saturn V and the N-1 can be seen next to each other. (The other places being the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington DC and the Musee de Space in Toulouse, France). Together the models emphasize the triumph and tragedy of the space race. The N-1 is built from the RealSpace kit and depicts the N-1 second flight on July 3, 1969, which spectacularly exploded just 67 seconds after launch destroying its launch pad and large sections of the Balkinour Cosmodrome. Less than three weeks later the goal of landing on the moon was realized with the flight of the Saturn V launching Apollo 11, which is made from the Airfix kit.

In the same display case there are three other models in 1/144 scale to demonstrate the comparative sizes of the space launchers. The mammoth Saturn V and N-1 dwarf the Mercury-Redstone, that launched Alan Shepard, made from the RealSpace kit. Next is the Gemini-Titan also from RealSpace. The Soviet Union used its R-7 launcher continuously from the Sputnik and Gagarin to the recent first mission to the International Space Station. The R-7 is shown in a typical Soyuz configuration in the early 1990's with the Apex R-7 booster and the RealSpace Soyuz stage.

The actual Lunakhod 1 was auctioned at Sotheby's in 1993 for $60,000, although it is still on the moon and may never be returned to earth. The exhibit includes a fascinating replica of Lunakhod 1 made by a Russian toy company in the 1970's. Although not as accurate as most models, it is one of the few replicas that were available for Soviet citizens to purchase and is very rare.

Another rare artifact is a moon globe signed by Pete Conrad and Alan Bean of Apollo 12 The globe shows the landing site of Apollo 11 and 12 and the intended sites of eight additional flights through Apollo 20, which at the time were still being planned. Above the showcase, is an autographed photo of Pete Conrad standing next to Surveyor 3 on the Ocean of Storms. There is another autograph of Alan Bean as well. Next to the moon globe is a beta cloth mission patch from Skylab II autographed by the entire crew of Alan Bean, Owen Garriott and Jack Lousma.

Everyone's favorite cartoon character, Snoopy, is the symbol at NASA for quality control. Snoopy also was chosen as the name of the Apollo 10 Lunar Module which was flown within 10 miles of the lunar surface by Tom Stafford and Gene Cernan. A popular attraction of the Månen exhibit is Snoopy dressed as an astronaut complete with a clear bubble helmet which was manufactured in 1969.

In the space age artifacts showcase are several more models showing various aspects of the Apollo program. There is a 1/48 Revell model of the Command and Service Modules with its panel opened to reveal the fuel and oxygen tanks. Next to it in the same scale is the Monogram Lunar Module with its lunar base. A lunar rover, built from the Marco Miniatures kit, is displayed on the same base. The triumphant recovery of Apollo 11 is depicted in the 1/72 scale diorama, The Last Step Home. This diorama won first place in the 1999 Swedish National IPMS contest in the small scale diorama category. The showcase also includes the first moon golfer, Alan Shepard, as depicted by EVA in 1/32 scale.

Most visitors will be delighted by the antique books and maps of the moon that forms the framework of the exhibit. A very unusual and colorful manuscript is Petrus Apianus' Astronicum Caereum published in Austria in 1540. The book contains a series of colorful paper revolving wheels that demonstrate and explain the movements of the heavenly bodies and eclipses of the sun and the moon. It was very complicated to produce all of the pages which have working features. Naturally, Apianus placed the earth in the center of the universe reflecting the prevailing cosmology.

The system for naming all the moons features was developed primarily by Giambattista Riccoli (1598-1671). He named the light and dark areas of the moon after human conditions and climates such as Mares Serenitatis (Sea of Serenity) and Oceanus Procellaram (Ocean of Storms). The pioneers of science from antiquity gave their names to features towards the top of the moon and then living scientists provided names for features towards the bottom of the moon. The exhibit contains a 1651 edition of his book, Almagestum novum and you can view on his maps, Mares Tranquilites (Sea of Tranquillity), which Ricccoli named and where man first landed.

The exhibits collection of other early books on astronomy and the moon is outstanding. Francesco Fontana's Novae Coelustrum Terrestrique Rerum Observationes, published in 1646 was one of the first major volumes that accurately recorded observations made through early telescopes. Johannes Hevelius worked for six years to produce his Selenographia, published in 1647 and it contains more than 100 illustrations of the moon and his observatory and instrument workshop. Although Robert Hooke was better known for his work on early microscopes, his book, Micrographia, published in London in 1667, features a section on Hooke's experiments on how lunar craters were formed. He dropped objects onto clay to demonstrate the impact of meteors and heated alabaster to simulate volcanoes.

The collection continues through the centuries with examples of the leading maps and manuscripts on the moon. Lunar cartography had improved so much so that in 1836 in Selenographia by Wilhem Beer and Johann Mädler the maps were so thoroughly detailed that some of the features could only be seen with a magnifying glass. Approximately forty years later, Johann Schmidt in his Charte der Gehringe des Mondes included over 33,000 craters and 7,800 features.On one wall of are four astonishingly detailed photos of the moon taken by the Paris Observatory taken almost 100 years ago. A copy of the last major moon atlas created not using photos taken by satellites written by Gerhard Kuiper also is on display.

In addition to the collection of books and manuscripts, the exhibit also includes a collection of astronomical instruments through the ages. Antique instruments include an astrolabe made in Persia in 1788, a sixteenth century quadrant, and an early reflecting telescope made in London in the mid-eighteenth century. Early cameras and photographic plates are also on view.

The permanent exhibits at the Observatory compliment the moon exhibit. Many of the rooms and astronomical instruments from the mid-eighteenth century have been preserved in their original state. One of the most fascinating artifacts is a model of the solar system that ends at Saturn, since Uranus, Neptune and Pluto hadn't yet been discovered. Another room is encircled by a weather chart showing the high and low average temperatures in Stockholm for over 250 years. Visitors can see all the fluctuations in temperatures and determine for themselves whether there is global warming.

The average visitor to the Observatory Museum will have a delightful time viewing the Månen exhibit and the rest of the museum. Space modelers will have an especially exciting time seeing many models and space age artifacts as part of the historical context of mankind's exploration of its nearest neighbor.

Observatoriemuseet is located in the center of Stockholm, but has limited viewing hours. It is open on Saturday and Sunday from 12 PM until 3 PM. and on Tuesday nights from 6 PM until 8 PM, when there frequently are guest lectures. The Månen exhibit opened on October 7, 2000 and will be running until March 11, 2001. Its addresses are:

Drottninggatan 120
113 60 Stockholm
email: Observatoriemuseet

Many thanks are owed to members of the Space Modelers E-Group for their assistance in providing information and materials. The Månen exhibit demonstrates the cooperation among members and how international the group has become. While I was living in Connecticut I had met Mike Koivisto through the Trading Post. After I moved to Sweden we have spent countless hours on space topics and then jointly provided many of the items for the space age portion of the Månen exhibit. Glenn Johnson's RealSpace kits were the basis for many of the models and he provided without charge several critical replacements parts just days before the exhibit opened. Karl Dodenhoff not only provided significant information on the N-1, but rescanned many of the photos on his own site to assist me in determining the proper colors. Tracy Kornfeld in Connecticut provided many very useful ideas and constant encouragement. Sven Almer in British Columbia created the brass plaques that identify some of the models. Julius de Roo of the Netherlands provided his very generous assistance. Andi Wuestner of Germany and Vincent Meens of France provided valuable information and diagrams on Soyuz.