New Targeting Social Need (New TSN) Action Plan 2013

The Vision of the Armagh Observatory is:

"To build on its position as a thriving astronomical research institute, and to continue to expand our understanding of the Universe and of humanity's place in it."

The Mission is:

"To advance the knowledge and understanding of astronomy and related sciences through the execution, promotion and dissemination of astronomical research nationally and internationally in order to enrich the intellectual, economic, social and cultural life of the community."

Who We Are

The Armagh Observatory is a modern astronomical research institute, the oldest scientific institution in Northern Ireland. Founded by Archbishop Richard Robinson in 1789 as part of his dream to see the creation of a university in the City of Armagh, the Observatory stands close to the centre of the City of Armagh together with the Armagh Planetarium in approximately 14 acres of attractive, landscaped grounds known as the Armagh Astropark. The Observatory Grounds and Astropark include scale models of the Solar System and the Universe, two sundials and two historic telescopes, as well as telescope domes and other outdoor exhibits. A new public outreach facility, the Armagh Human Orrery, is located close to the historic main building of the modern Observatory. The Observatory’s Library and Archives, and its specialist collection of scientific instruments and artefacts associated with the development of modern astronomy over more than two hundred years, rank amongst the leading collections of their kind in the UK and Ireland.

The principal function of the Armagh Observatory, which is funded by the Northern Ireland Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL), is to undertake original research of a world-class academic standard that broadens and expands our understanding of astronomy and related sciences. Key programmes focus on Stellar and Galactic Astrophysics, the Sun, Solar—System astronomy, and Solar System — Earth relationships including the Sun’s influence on climate and the impact of interplanetary dust, comets and asteroids on the Earth. The Observatory also maintains a unique, more than 215-year long meteorological record and data-bank, the longest daily climate series in the UK and Ireland from a single site, and it plays a key role together with the Armagh Planetarium in promoting the public understanding of astronomy and related sciences.

In addition to the institution’s primary research role, the Observatory has an important responsibility to maintain and preserve the fabric of the historic buildings, the library, historic books and archives, and the collection of scientific instruments and other artefacts built up over more than 215 years of continuous astronomical activity in Armagh. The main historic buildings of the Observatory have unique architectural features and house one of the most valuable collections of scientific books, instruments and archives in Northern Ireland.

What We Do

Astronomers provide a singular perspective on our place in the Universe, addressing fundamental questions such as the origin of the Earth, the origin of Life, and 'Are we Alone?'. Curiosity-driven research is important in its own right, attracting able and creative people into subjects such as physics and astronomy. Research in these areas provides foundations for the improvements in the quality of life and wealth creation associated with a modern, knowledge-based society. As society becomes increasingly complex and increasingly reliant on the fruits of modern technology, a vibrant physics base and a broad understanding of basic scientific concepts is an essential part of our culture. The dissemination of the accumulated knowledge from past research to other specialisms and to the community at large is a very important part of the role of a contemporary research scientist.

Research into astronomy at Armagh Observatory brings many other benefits, for example:

The astronomical research interests of Armagh Observatory staff currently focus on (1) Solar-System Science, including celestial mechanics, planetary science, the dynamics of meteors and other small bodies, the origin of comets and trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs), and the interrelationships between comets, asteroids, meteoroids and interplanetary dust, and near-Earth objects (NEOs); (2) Solar Physics, including the dynamic solar atmosphere, the chromosphere and corona, and Sun-Earth relationships including climate; (3) Stellar Astrophysics, including hot stars, massive stars, stellar winds, degenerate and helium stars, asteroiseismology, studies of binary stars including their origins, physical properties, population studies and the physical properties of ultra-compact binaries, and constraints on gamma-ray burst progenitors; and (4) Galactic and Extragalactic Astronomy, including brown dwarfs, star formation in our Galaxy and beyond, and globular and open star clusters. In addition, Observatory staff participate in an active programme of education and public outreach, via lectures, popular astronomy articles and interviews with the press, radio and television. Further details concerning recent and current research interests of Armagh Observatory staff may be obtained from the Observatory web-site.

Astronomy also makes major contributions to the creative industries. It has a high profile, particularly in the printed and electronic media and in books and film, for example the famous Hollywood classics such as 2001: a Space Odyssey and blockbusters such as Armageddon and Deep Impact. The fruits of astronomy inspire artists and musicians, poets and authors, as well as philosophers, scientists and engineers. Astronomy can provide the fundamental inspiration for works of art, musical compositions, and theatrical performances. In summary, research into astronomy often provides the raw material for spin-off into public education, entertainment and leisure; astronomy is frequently featured on film, and in television documentaries, books and magazines that are seen or read by millions worldwide.

How We Contribute to New TSN

Research astronomy is an involving, inspirational activity with the capacity to attract people, especially the young, towards science, engineering and information technology. The Armagh Observatory seeks to strengthen this interest by promoting access to scientific knowledge amongst all sections of the community, and disseminating the discoveries of its scientific research programmes through innovative and high-profile actions in education and public outreach. The principal elements of the Observatory’s New TSN policy include:

The Armagh Observatory is a charity and fully committed to the principles of New TSN. It seeks to encourage an ethos where resources in appropriate areas of its activities and engagements with the public are targeted so far as possible on individuals, groups, agencies, and geographical areas that have greatest social need. In this way, the Observatory contributes directly to Northern Ireland’s Programme for Government, especially the TSN and STEM agendas, by enhancing and widening access to science and providing people with different choices in education and lifelong learning.

Armagh Observatory New TSN Action Table 2013

Business Area: Astronomy and Related Sciences
Social Need to be Tackled: Access to Scientific Knowledge
Desired Outcome: Increased knowledge and understanding of key scientific concepts; promotion of lifelong learning opportunities for individuals and disadvantaged groups, improved science skills
New TSN Objectives: Targets or Actions and Time-Scales:
Objective 1
Improve opportunities for individuals and disadvantaged groups to experience scientific research and learning in a high-technology environment, by:
(a) facilitatiing ongoing work experience programmes for two people with disabilities; and
(b) monitoring participation on school and summer programme placements with reference to New TSN.
Objective 2
Improve access to Northern Ireland's scientific and cultural heritage, by:
(a) promoting e-access to astronomical and meteorological information; and
(b) encouraging visits to the Observatory, and to the Observatory Grounds, Astropark and Human Orrery, by people from socially disadvantaged areas or scientifically disadvantaged backgrounds.

Armagh Observatory
2013 January 2nd

Last Revised: 2013 January 2nd