Universe Awareness at Beaghmore

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Astronomers at Armagh Observatory and archaeologists from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) are hosting a day of free BBC Stargazing LIVE Universe Awareness (UNAWE) activities at An Creagán and the nearby Beaghmore Stone Circles, Co. Tyrone, on Wednesday 18th January 2012. Beaghmore is a unique megalithic site in Europe and the best Dark-Sky site in Northern Ireland. If you’ve ever been inspired by astronomy or archaeology come along to this event, which is part of the BBC's series of "Stargazing LIVE" activities focused on events taking place during January 2012.

The event is also part of the Armagh Observatory’s programme of Science in the Community supported by the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL) through its Learning Strategy and by the Observatory's participation in EU-UNAWE. This is an international astronomy outreach programme funded by the European Community's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement No. 263325. You don’t need any experience or equipment to give astronomy a go!

Other partners in the event are Cookstown and Omagh District Councils and the NIEA, the agency that aims to protect, conserve and promote Northern Ireland’s natural environment and built heritage for the benefit of present and future generations. Universe Awareness aims to use the beauty and grandeur of the universe to inspire young children and encourage them to develop an interest in science and technology.

Claire Foley, Senior Inspector of Built Heritage at the NIEA, said "It is great to be part of this joint approach to our shared heritage; there is so much to learn from these fascinating Bronze Age monuments in our countryside dating back thousands of years, not just from studies on the ground but from the sky as well!"

Mark Bailey, Director of the Observatory, added: "Astronomy captures the imagination of children, young and old, as well as others young at heart. A view of the stars and of our Milky Way on a clear night from a Dark-Sky site such as Beaghmore can be an awe-inspiring, sometimes life-changing experience. Bringing the Heavens down to Earth in this way as part of EU-UNAWE encourages global awareness amongst all age groups and highlights an influence that has affected all societies and cultures throughout human history: that is, Earth’s place in space and our shared experience of living under the same sky.”

Stargazing LIVE at An Creagán and Beaghmore has three components. In the morning, primary schoolchildren will undertake a series of astronomy and science-based activities at An Creagán, including those that illustrate the lives of the people that built the stone circles at Beaghmore, in those early times. There will also be hands-on activities to illustrate the scale of our Solar System, and a fascinating shadow theatre provided by EU-UNAWE presenters from the world-famous Arcetri Observatory in Florence, Italy. The play will introduce Virginia, Galileo's daughter, and her imagined responses to the new world-view being discovered and promoted by her father following his first use of the telescope in 1609 to look at the stars. It has been produced thanks to the practical contributions and ideas of the famous puppet-maker and shadow-theatre expert Mariano Dolci.

Later, children, their parents and everyone else are invited to a free Stargazing LIVE event at Beaghmore. This will take place from approximately 3.30pm to 5.00pm., weather permitting. Participants can travel from An Creagán by FREE bus or make their own way to the Beaghmore Stone Circles to watch the Sun going down. Living History enactors will greet them and demonstrate Bronze Age weapons and artefacts technology, including food and agriculture, highlighting possible reasons for the need to use astronomy and the science behind the circles’ original purpose. There will also be opportunities to view the stones at sunset and observe the bright planets Venus and Jupiter, both visible as evening "stars" after sunset, and other stars.

Don’t worry if the weather’s bad, as we will have an alternative Living History programme, a slide show illustrating the night sky from this special Dark-Sky site, and the EU-UNAWE presentation "Virginia and Galileo Galilei: A Sky Full of Discoveries".

The last part of the event, from 8.00pm to 9.30pm, comprises two public lectures, the first by Claire Foley (NIEA) entitled "Stone Circles and the Bronze Age Perception of the Skies", and the second by Mark Bailey (Armagh Observatory) entitled "Comets and Cometary Concepts in History: Identifying the Celestial Connection". Following these illustrated talks will be observing from the grounds of An Creagán if clear.

Those wishing to attend these events should obtain FREE tickets by contacting Mrs Aileen McKee at the Armagh Observatory, College Hill, Armagh; Tel: 028-3752-2928; e-mail: ambn@arm.ac.uk.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT: Libby McKearney or Mark Bailey at the Armagh Observatory, College Hill, Armagh, BT61 9DG. Tel.: 028-3752-2928; FAX: 028-3752-7174; lmkat signarm.ac.uk; or mebat signarm.ac.uk; URL: http://star.arm.ac.uk/.

Last Revised: 2012 April 19th