Armagh Observatory will open its doors to visitors on Saturday 12th September as part of the annual European Heritage Open Days events organized by the Environment and Heritage Service of the Northern Ireland Environment Agency. These Open Days are a Europe-wide celebration of our heritage, culture and architecture. Many countries throughout Europe will be taking part by opening, free of charge, properties not usually accessible to the general public.
Archbishop Richard Robinson (1708-1794) founded the Armagh Observatory in 1789, following the design of Francis Johnston, one of Ireland's most famous architects. The well-maintained Grade A listed main building is constructed mainly of a rare and unusual type of sandstone known as Armagh "marble", together with limestone dressings and superior interior joinery. Armagh marble, otherwise known as "Drumarg" after the townland in which it is found, is a tough reddish conglomerate that takes a fine polish. The stone was originally deposited around 255 million years ago among low-lying hills at the bottom of an east-west mountain range on the then newly-formed supercontinent Pangaea.
On the south wall of the modern observatory is a high telescope tower with a dome that is believed to be the oldest dome in the world still with its original telescope, the 1795 Troughton equatorial. There is an eastern extension with another telescope tower, dating to 1827, containing an historic 15-inch reflecting telescope due to Thomas Grubb.
The grounds and gardens include a unique Human Orrery, the Armagh Observatory Astropark, and two sundials, the most recent of which - located to the north of the 1827 dome - is a rare analemmatic "human" sundial. The Astropark, which is a scale model of the solar system and the wider Universe, has recently been refurbished with Government support through the installation of new interpretation panels as part of International Year of Astronomy 2009. The Human Orrery is an accurate scale model of the solar system located close to the modern research centre in which people can play the role of the moving planets around the Sun. The Observatory grounds are open all year round, while the main Observatory building is normally open to small groups for guided tours by appointment only.
The Observatory contains a specialist Library and Archive and an important collection of scientific instruments that reflect the development of the whole of modern astronomy. A daily meteorological register has been maintained since 1795, and is believed to be the longest continuous meteorological series from a single site in the UK and Ireland (see star.arm.ac.uk and climate.arm.ac.uk).
Access to the Observatory is from College Hill by the main driveway leading off the northeast corner of the Mall, close to the Courthouse and opposite the Royal Irish Fusiliers Museum. Guided tours will be available on Saturday 12th September commencing at 11:00, 12:00, 14:00, 15:00 and 16:00. Astronomical research at Armagh Observatory is supported largely by the Northern Ireland Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT: John McFarland at the Armagh Observatory, College Hill, Armagh, BT61 9DG. Tel.: 028-3752-2928; FAX: 028-3752-7174; jmfarm.ac.uk
Last Revised: 2010 February 23rd