This meeting, the first joint event between the Astronomical Science Group of Ireland (ASGI) and the Institute of Physics in Ireland (IoPI), was the largest astronomical conference ever held in Armagh, with nearly 140 registered participants. The formal scientific sessions, which took place in the Rotunda Lecture Theatre, St Patrick's Trian, included some 30 oral contributions and 50 poster papers, and were uniformly well attended, with the Rotunda Theatre full to capacity throughout the meeting.
The conference began on the evening of 1 April with an extremely well attended public lecture ``The ESA Mars Express Mission'', by Michael McKay (ESA Ground Segment Manager and Flight Operations Director, Mars Express). He held an audience of nearly 100 spellbound with the latest images from the Mars Express Orbiter, which -- on a single pass -- produces results that can be converted into three-dimensional images, which themselves can be manipulated, rotated and viewed from any perspective one chooses. Mars Express is one of the European Space Agency's greatest successes in planetary science to date, and it has already provided firm evidence for water ice and other compounds suggestive of possible former life on Mars, locked up mostly in the form of a rock-ice permafrost located near the Martian south pole.
The opening ceremony for the meeting took place on the morning of 2 April, when the DCAL Minister Ms Angela Smith MP welcomed participants to Armagh and highlighted in particular the strength of the department's support for astronomy in Armagh, both the Armagh Observatory and the Armagh Planetarium. Responses were provided by Professors Martin Henry (Dublin City University) and Tom Ray (Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies), the respective Chairs of the IoPI and the ASGI. Full details of the meeting are available at http://star.arm.ac.uk/publicevents/IOP/.
Following the formal ceremony, participants enjoyed a full programme of talks and other events. The principal sessions (organizers in brackets) were: (1) Solar and Stellar Astrophysics (Simon Jeffery, Armagh Observatory); (2) Astrophysical Jets (Denise Gabuzda, University College Cork); (3) High-Energy Astrophysics (Brian McBreen, University College Dublin); (4) Poster Competition (Martin Henry, Dublin City University); (5) Astronomy of the Solar System (Apostolos Christou, Armagh Observatory); (6) Optics and Astronomical Instrumentation (Michael Redfern, NUI Galway); and (7) Physics and Astronomy Education and Public Outreach (Ian Elliott, Dunsink Observatory, DIAS).
The Mayor of Armagh City and District Council, Mrs Pat O'Rawe, hosted an evening reception for participants on the evening of Friday 2 April, and a very full social programme was also arranged for delegates and their families. The social events included guided tours of the Armagh Observatory Grounds and Astropark, arranged by John McFarland and several PhD students, and also of the Armagh Planetarium (arranged by Julie Thompson and Robert Hill), and a field trip to the Knockmany Chambered Cairn, Co. Tyrone (see http://star.arm.ac.uk/Knockmany/ and Figure 10), organized by Mark Bailey. Overall, the meeting succeeded in its main aim to attract physicists and astronomers from all corners of Ireland to Armagh, and to generate a high level of exchange between the two overlapping scientific communities. A report of the meeting was published in the IoPI Newsletter (Series 5, #9, June 2004; see http://ireland.iop.org/newsletters/IOPI June 2004.pdf).