THERE can hardly be a person walking around on the planet who doesn’t know the name of the first man on the moon.

Many will even know the names of Neil Armstrong’s fellow astronauts on Apollo 11 - Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins of course.

But here’s a moon fact a bit closer to home that may not be on your radar. The first scientist to make detailed sketches of the moon without a telescope was a Renaissance astronomer from right here in Essex.

Although Galileo would later be among the first to make basic maps of the moon using telescopes, William Gilbert made the earliest sketches of the moon just from using the naked eye. Gilbert, who was born in Colchester, attempted to map the surface markings on the moon in the 1590s. Contrary to most of his contemporaries, he believed that the light spots on the moon were water and the dark spots land. He called the moon ‘companion of the Earth’ and believed it possessed continents.

The family lived in Tymperleys, the historic building which still stands in Colchester today and upon his death in 1603 Gilbert left unpublished works which were later printed by his family- including his moon observations and sketches - De Mundo Nostro Sublunari Philosophia Nova (“A New Philosophy of Our Sublunar World”).

Inquisitive Southend visitors can find out more about Gilbert and indeed all about our closest celestial neighbour when Southend Planetarium hosts a special event to mark the historic 1969 moon landing next month.

The event, from 10am-4pm will be held on Saturday July 20 and will feature talks, a film screening and even the chance to handle an actual piece of the moon which is kept at the planetarium.

Historian Christopher Langdon, of Southend museums, said: “On the day of the anniversary we will be holding our special ‘Exploring the Moon’ talks which cover all things involving the moon.

There will be three shows in the course of the day (11am, 2pm, and 3pm). At 2pm in the Beecroft Art Gallery there will be a free screening of the 1989 documentary about the Apollo mission, For All Mankind.”

Christopher added: “I think that this anniversary is important to recognise. The natural curiosity of humanity and our empirical nature to explore our surroundings is nothing new, however, in the modern era this has led to extraordinary discoveries and events.

“Although set within a deeply hostile geopolitical and ideological conflict, the moon landing on 20th July 1969 illustrates that with the will and the energy, we can accomplish incredible things for the development of our understanding and knowledge.”

The planetarium- located within Southend Central Museum- is home to a tiny ‘Lunar Breccia’.

“It’s a 1cm by 0.5cm fragment of the moon, weighing 0.2g, “explained Christopher. “Many Lunar Breccia’s were collected during the Apollo missions, and as such, form a fascinating part of the history of space exploration.

“For us at Southend museum we remember and recognise this anniversary of the moon landing, particularly as our building on Victoria Avenue is an Andrew Carnegie building- the same person who patronised Edwin Hubble who discovered that the universe is expanding and that there are multiple galaxies.”

Southend also has its own special connection with the Apollo programme.

When it came to naming a bunch of new roads on the White House’ estate in Eastwood in the autumn of 1969, there was only one contender.

Nine roads were eventually named after the astronauts involved in the Apollo space programme. The idea came from Keith Munnion, group engineer at the Westcliff construction firm involved in building the new homes on the estate.

Mr Munnion had to write to NASA to ask for special permission to use the names of the astronauts. A personal letter arrived back to Mr Munnion from Colonel Thomas Patten Stafford (the Commander of Apollo 10 which was the second manned mission to orbit the moon)- exclaiming delight at the idea. “We are honoured you should use our names,” read the reply.

Neil Armstrong may have been the first person on the moon but he wasn’t the first to get his name on the new ‘moon estate’. That honour went to Buzz Aldrin with the naming of Aldrin’s Way, followed by Collins Way (Michael Collins) and Anders Hall (William Anders).

For details about the Moon landing anniversary event at Southend museum visit