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From: TerryMoselaol.com
Date: Tue, 7 Dec 2004 16:15:30 EST
Subject: Save Dunsink Observatory!

Hi all,

I received the following from Prof Brian McBreen, who has asked me to pass it 
on to as many colleagues as possible. Please indicate your support by 
replying, by email if possible, to Brian McBreen brian.mcbreenucd.ie , giving your 
'electronic signature' of support. If (and only if) Brian's mailbox fills up &
 you get a 'bounce', you could also send a copy to 
redfernphysics.nuigalway.ie or mike.redfernnuigalway.ie or anthony.murphyMAY.IE or 
paulcucc.ie - but only send one copy!

(Apologies if you get two copies of this - there is some overlap in my 
various 'address books')

If you can't reply to Brian McBreen within the deadline (Thursday 9 Dec), 
please send a copy of the letter directly to the Minister asap.


Terry Moseley

"Dear Colleagues,

Please find enclosed a copy of a letter to the Minister for Education and 
Science concerning serious developments regarding the future of Dunsink 
Observatory. We ask all of you to send an email back (with your name and affiliation or 
address) indicating your willingness to sign this letter. We consider 
important that a large number of people signs for support. Feel free to forward this 
mail to other collegues that might be interested to sign.

Please note that already four people from different Universities
signed by way of endorsement. Please let us have your reply as soon as 
possible, e.g. by return mail, preferably by Thursday (9 December). The letter will 
go on Friday (10 December).

To Ms Mary Hanafin TD
Minister for Education and Science
Department of Education
Marlborough Street
Dublin 1

Dear Minister,

    We would like to express our disappointment and alarm at the recent 
decision made by the Board of the School of Cosmic Physics of the Dublin Institute 
of Advanced Studies to discontinue research at Dunsink Observatory, and remove 
its staff to Dublin city.
    Whilst we recognise that any such decision - to essentially close the 
Observatory - is fundamentally one to be made by the Institute, such a move has 
very serious implications for astronomy in Ireland, from both a research and 
outreach/educational point of view. We outline these below.

    The Observatory in Dunsink is the oldest scientific institution in 
Ireland and is still, after more than 200 years, in full working order. From a 
historical viewpoint alone, the Observatory is an outstanding example of Irelands 
technological heritage, containing as it does many instruments of significant 
importance in the technological development of astronomy. The Observatory 
fulfills the role of National Observatory,    having for example provided the time 
service for Dublin up to 1939 (which is even mentioned in Joyce's Ulysses).
    Dunsink's long tradition of interaction with the public (Open Nights, 
group visits, provision of lighting-up times for legal purposes etc) makes it the 
natural reference point for the general public on astronomical issues, as is 
attested by the numerous daily enquiries.
    In the past, the Observatory has made significant contributions to 
various important astronomical issues, ranging from Asteroids to Cosmology. 
Recently, it has been involved with the construction of the Optical Monitoring Camera 
currenly flying on ESA's INTEGRAL satellite, and is also involved with a 
unique (ground-based) monitoring telescope: both of these put Dunsink at the 
forefront of astronomical 
    development in Ireland, and open the door to studies of, for example, 
"gamma-ray bursters" arguably the most enigmatic, and certainly the most 
luminous, objects in the Universe. This continues a tradition of work in this field in 
Dunsink (by previous researchers) that stretches back to the mid-1970s. 
Additionally, the Observatory plans to coordinate a prestigious (250-300 delegate) 
meeting in Dublin next year under the auspices of the International 
Astronomical Union.
    Dunsink has been synonymous with Irish astronomy for the last 200 years, 
and we believe that aborting its research now sends the wrong message to the 
Irish public and the international community about the current state of Irish 
astronomy. There has never been a time when astronomy in Ireland has been more 
vibrant, and contributing more to Irish society - witness, for example, the 
proliferation of astronomy related degrees in almost every Irish university over 
the last few years. 
  Indeed, Dunsink itself is contributing significantly to the astronomy 
degree currently being offered by Dublin City University.
    Next year we celebrate the bicentenary of arguably one of Ireland's 
greatest scientists, Sir William Rowan Hamilton, who was director of the 
Observatory from 1827 to 1865. Dunsink would be the natural focus for this celebration 
and terminating its current successful functioning at this juncture would be 
particularly unfortunate.
    Since its foundation in 1940, the (publically funded) Dublin Institute 
for Advanced Studies has always provided vital support to Irish astronomy, 
especially in those times when such support was otherwise non-existent. 
    We ask you as Minister to call upon the Institute to consider very 
carefully the implications of this decision to close Dunsink, for the future of 
Irish astronomy. Closure in the short term leaves the Observatory very much at 
direct physical risk, as recent developments in Dunsink Lane have clearly 
demonstrated. In the longer term, Irish astronomy would be well served by expansion 
of both the outreach and research functions of the Observatory, modelled for 
example on the great success of Armagh Observatory and Planetarium.
    In any case, we strongly believe that, until definite plans have been 
made and implemented, any premature withdrawal of manpower from the Observatory 
could well prove disastrous. The Irish astronomical community, both 
professional and amateur, appeals to you to use your offices to secure the future of the 
unique and hugely popular institution that is Dunsink Observatory.

    Sincerely Yours

    This letter has been signed electronically by the following:

    Name                     Affiliation/Address

    Dr Paul Callanan         University College Cork
    Prof Brian Mc Breen      University College Dublin
    Prof Anthony Murphy      NUI Maynooth
    Prof Mike Redfern        NUI Galway


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