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2004 Robinson Lectures, 25-26 November 2004

The recent past President of the Royal Astronomical Society and the discoverer of pulsars, Professor Jocelyn Bell Burnell (University of Oxford), agreed to deliver the 2004 Robinson Lecture on the evening of Friday 26 November 2004. In addition, she kindly provided a Robinson Schools Lecture the previous afternoon, which was co-hosted by St. Patrick's Academy, Dungannon. Following the Schools lecture, Professor Bell Burnell also opened the school's Observatory.

The 2004 Robinson Lecture was delivered in the Studio Theatre, the Market Place, Armagh, to a full house of approximately 140 people. The subject, ``Tick, Tick, Tick Pulsating Star, How We Wonder What You Are!'', was well received, and a great many positive remarks were made concerning the clarity of the speaker's presentation and her ability to bring a complex scientific subject to life for the non-specialist.

Figure 13: Dr F.N. Byrne (Deputy Chair, Management Committee) presenting Professor Bell Burnell with the Robinson Medal on the occasion of her delivery of the 2004 Robinson Lecture in Armagh on 26 November 2004. Image courtesy of Miruna Popescu.

The Schools Lecture, on the afternoon of 25 November 2004, was similarly well attended. The lecture, ``You are Made of Star Stuff'', described one of the greatest advances of 20th century astronomy, namely the discovery that essentially all the elements heavier than hydrogen and helium which make up the molecules of our bodies and the contents of the Earth around us were originally made by a process of nuclear fusion in the centres of stars. It was attended by approximately 120 teachers, pupils and guests from schools all around Northern Ireland. The high level of concentration on the lecture by the pupils was indicated by the very high quality of questions received from all parts of the hall.

Following the lecture, Professor Bell Burnell formally opened the school's newly refurbished observatory, naming it ``An Réaltlann'', meaning `a collection of stars'. Among the schools attending were: The Royal Belfast Academical Institution; St. Patrick's Academy, Lisburn; The Royal School Dungannon; The Sacred Heart Grammar School, Newry; The Royal School Armagh; and St. Mary's Christian Brothers Grammar School, Belfast. In short, the two Robinson lectures were highly successful events, due in no small part to Professor Jocelyn Bell Burnell's careful preparation and her ability to put science into language that non-specialists can understand.


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