"Portraits of Astronomers" Exhibition Launched in Armagh County Museum

A portrait exhibition of distinguished astronomers in the United Kingdom was launched at the Armagh County Museum at 8.00pm on Thursday 19th November and will remain on display until 9th January 2010. The exhibition is titled "Portraits of Astronomers" and comprises photographs taken by Lucinda Douglas-Menzies, a London-based portrait photographer.

The exhibition was opened at the Royal Astronomical Society, London, in December 2008 and has subsequently been displayed at the Royal Society of London, the Cambridge and Edinburgh Festivals, the University of Durham, the National Portrait Gallery, London, and a number of other venues. The Armagh County Museum will be the last location for the exhibition during the International Year of Astronomy 2009. The exhibition contains 38 black-and-white photographic portraits spanning the era of early discoveries in radio astronomy to the latest developments in astrophysics and cosmology. Local astronomers featured in the exhibition include Sir Patrick Moore, the first Director of the Armagh Planetarium, Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, and Mark Bailey, Director of the Armagh Observatory.

An interesting aspect of the exhibition is that each of the astronomers describes what first drew them into a study of astronomy. These autobiographical sketches have been combined with the photographs to make a book of the exhibition entitled "Portraits of Astronomers" and published in 2009 by the Science Museum, London, to mark the International Year of Astronomy.

The exhibition's creator, Lucinda Douglas-Menzies, began her photographic career by assisting Jeremy Whitaker in architectural photography. She later worked for Sotheby's as a catalogue photographer in the Chinese porcelain and jewellery departments, and in 1986 set up her own studio specialising in fine art photography and portraiture. Lucinda has produced many exhibition catalogues for London galleries and museums in addition to undertaking commissions, and has exhibited portraits at the Stephen Bartley Gallery in London and the Minories Art Gallery in Colchester. The National Portrait Gallery has acquired over seventy of her photographs, and anyone with an interest in photography will be sure to enjoy the collection.

Accompanying the exhibition from November 30th will also be the famous "From Earth To The Universe'" (FETTU) exhibition, another important part of the Observatory's International Year of Astronomy activities during 2009 in partnership with other bodies, notably the Belfast-based Irish Astronomical Association. FETTU provides examples of some of the best astronomical images ever taken, and it too has been on tour at various locations during 2009, with funds provided by the Republic of Ireland's 'Discover Science and Engineering' science-promotion agency and also, through core funding to the Armagh Observatory, by the Northern Ireland Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure. During 2009 the Observatory has installed a number of new interpretation panels based on the FETTU images in the Observatory's Astropark, a unique scale model of the solar system and wider Universe in the Observatory Grounds that is free and open to all visitors.

The UN-backed International Year of Astronomy 2009 represents a global celebration of astronomy and its contributions to society and culture. It marks the 400th anniversary of Galileo's first use of the telescope for astronomical purposes and the birth of modern astronomy, and gives people the world over the chance to get involved in this fascinating science and experience the wonders of the day and night time sky. Over 140 countries are participating by holding regional, national, and global events throughout 2009. IYA2009 is not only allowing people to observe first-hand some of the amazing celestial bodies that make up our Universe, but is also providing a wide variety of other activities, from touring astronomy exhibitions to virtual blogs and interactions with practicing astronomers. Full details of the all-Ireland IYA2009 activities can be viewed at astronomy2009.ie.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT: John McFarland at the Armagh Observatory, College Hill, Armagh, BT61 9DG. Tel.: 028-3752-2928; FAX: 028-3752-7174; jmfat signarm.ac.uk.

Last Revised: 2009 November 20th