The National Maritime Museum holds a large and varied collection of astronomical and navigational instruments from astrolabes and armillary spheres to quadrants, nocturnals and sundials.

The collection includes around 1500 objects most of which date from within the last 200-300 years. Some of the instruments, such as the oldest astrolabes are up to 800 years old.  

There are 361 sundials and 53 astrolabes dated between the thirteenth and the twentieth century from both Islamic and Western traditions. There are also thirty armillary spheres, several of which are particularly attractive and important examples.  

Many of these objects are housed at the Royal Observatory Greenwich in the same location as they were formally used. The Airy Transit Circle telescope, for example, defined the Greenwich meridian from 1851 and still defines the international Prime Meridian today. 

Researchers are welcome to study items by advance appointment only. Please contact us for any further information:


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