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Education and Public Outreach

In addition to its primary research role, the Armagh Observatory has an important secondary responsibility (a) 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 two hundred years of continuous astronomical activity in Armagh, and (b) to advance public understanding of science, and of astronomy in particular.

Not only is the scientific, cultural and built heritage provided by astronomy at Armagh a highly significant asset for the region, but the Observatory's collection of scientific artefacts, instruments and historic telescopes spans virtually every aspect of modern astronomy. In many cases, the underlying motivation and reasons for the developments of astronomy at a particular time can be explained with reference to discoveries at Armagh, or to material held within the Library and Archives. This gives astronomers at Armagh a unique opportunity to explain the development of their subject over more than two hundred years and the context in which modern scientific research is supported and carried out.

For these reasons, the Observatory has an important secondary objective to contribute to lifelong learning and to promote amongst the general public a deeper understanding of astronomy and related sciences. This is achieved in a variety of ways, for example by:

As part of this programme of education and public outreach the Observatory issues press information sheets on recent developments in astronomy and on research carried out at Armagh. The list for 2004 numbers 37 separate press releases on various meteorological or astronomical topics, slightly fewer than the previous year. However, it is noteworthy that a remarkably high fraction (35/37) of these were published in one form or another, underlining the very high level of public and media interest in astronomy and demonstrating an exceptionally high `hit' rate for stories about astronomy and related sciences. There were 282 identified media citations referring to the Observatory, its staff or its work, well above the target of 200 set at the beginning of the year.

The Librarian, together with other staff, frequently answers queries from members of the public on different aspects of astronomy and what is visible or has been seen in the night sky. He also writes a monthly column for the Belfast Telegraph. The recorded list of public enquiries for 2004, which is undoubtedly incomplete, covers more than 130 separate responses. Many such requests (especially those that are answered by students or other research staff) are received during weekends or outside normal working hours.



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Next: Widening Access Up: annrep2004 Previous: Stellar Outflows and Shocks   Contents